The Ken Lockwood Gorge is a gift for all seasons—rushing water and olfactory hues of spring, broad leaf cover and abundant life in summer, foliage in fall, and crisp air and frozen riverbanks in winter. No matter when you go, this secluded spot is an immersion in nature, with plenty of opportunities for runs, walks, fishing, bird-watching or riverside mindfulness.
Park in small but mighty High Bridge and make a day of it. The Columbia trailhead runs through town before banking alongside the south branch of the Raritan River. Turn back at any time, or take the full hike to Tewksbury, about six miles. Finish the day with a craft beer at Highrail Brewing Company, coffee at Scout’s, clean-eating at Solitude Station or full dinner at Circa.
Traveling east on the trail, you’ll hit the Ken Lockwood Gorge Fish and Wildlife Management Area about two miles in. Here, the river burbles over rocks and gently cascades down waterfalls. Look right, at the towering hemlock trees on the steep hillside and you’ll spot rocky waterways coming down the hill so pristine it’ll make those meditative replications you can buy at Target look even more like crap.
There are plenty of riverbank outcroppings for resting and watching the river, or to serve as entry points for catch-and-release trout fishermen.
Few people will disturb the serenity on the trail—though everyone we came across was abundantly friendly—especially if you go on weekdays.
To get right into the heart of Ken Lockwood Gorge, you can also drive (or bike) through High Bridge and take two rights onto Raritan River Road in Califon; you’ll hit a parking lot in about a quarter-mile that puts you in the heart of the gorge.