Sussex County, if you don’t know it, is visually beautiful all year round, but in autumn, it really shines.
Tucked into New Jersey’s northwestern corner, the county shares borders with New York and Pennsylvania (Delaware River). It will be included on most of the leaf-peeping lists for fall, but it has so much more to offer.
Here are five things to do this fall in Sussex County.
Foliage walks, hikes, drives
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the colors of the leaves. Filled with open spaces, mountains and valleys, Sussex County is just now starting to shed its green cloak for one of yellows, reds, oranges and browns. The colors are right on par with Picasso’s and Dali’s palettes.
During the first two weeks of October, the colors of the leaves will be at their best. Most foliage forecasters expect this autumn to have brighter hues because of a wetter than normal summer. Cool and clear sunny days are in the forecast, making it a perfect fall foliage storm.
Where to go for the best views? Sussex County is book-ended by the undeveloped Highlands on the east and Kittatinny Mountain on the west. The county’s western border is the Delaware River, part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which includes Old Mine Road, and many hiking trails, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which go through protected woodlands and riverside meadows.
The central part of the county is the Kittatinny Valley and includes the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is open to the public and contains five walking trails which offer views of the river and surrounding hills.
On Nov. 1, the Walpack Historic Society plans a guided hike along Old Mine Road from Van Campen’s Inn. Guides will be there to point out the existing and remains of historic properties along the road.
The recreation area includes Buttermilk Falls, New Jersey’s tallest waterfall tumbling down the face of Kittatinny Mountain. The park recently completed renovations of a trail which parallels the falls which can be seen from the parking lot.
Depending on conditions, the falls can be reached by automobile along Mountain Road. The road is planned to be re-opened to vehicles once a bridge at the falls is restored. Otherwise the road is open to pedestrians and bicycles.
There are major state highways, routes 206, 94, 23 and 15, which provide access to the county and intersect with county routes 521, 519, 517 and 515.
The Western Highlands Scenic Byway travels north through Hardyston and Vernon Townships from Route 23 to the New Jersey/New York border. It is a federally-recognized route and provides several vistas and passes several historic sites.
A daytrip along any of those highways will provide access to any number of farm stands, from simple self-serve wagons beside the highway to major stops with activities for youngsters.
Sussex Skylands offers an interactive internet page for listings of events at its site as well as places to stay and eat. At Skylands Visitor there are additional listings, as well as interactive maps for a variety of events, farms and activities.
Fall fun in Sussex County:Jack-o’-lantern display, fall fes
tival return to Skylands Stadium Oct. 1
For those interested in non-motorized transportation, Kittatinny Valley State Park oversees several miles of abandoned railroad lines which have been adapted for hiking, biking and horseback riding trails.
A new loop on that trail will officially open on Oct. 10 (during the Newton Fall Festival) when Newton formally dedicates a new bridge which will allow bikers following the Sussex Branch trail to continue on an old railbed from Trinity Street to the Paulinskill Wildlife Management Area in Andover Township. That look replaces the temporary link along Hicks Avenue.
A map of federal, state and local trails in Sussex County is available at: https://www.sussex.nj.us/documents/tourism/sussexcountytrailmap.pdf
Crystal Springs Music Fest
This is a new festival for the area. It will debut on Oct. 10 at the Crystal Springs Resort. It will feature live music, displays, shows, events and of course food trucks, including local favorite Emily’s Hearth Handcrafted Pizza.
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Tickets are $50 or $65 for admission and two drinks. It will be held at the resort, which includes a golf course, hotel, restaurants, brooks and lots of open space amenities. It’s located at 1 Wild Turkey Way in Hamburg.
For more information visit the https://shop.crystalgolfresort.com/products/crystal-springs-music-fest.
Jack O’Lantern Experience
The Jack O’Lantern Experience at Skylands Stadium in the Augusta area of Frankford Township will be open through Nov. 7. Details are available at: skylandsstadium.com.
The “Experience” will include more than 6,000 Jack-O-Lanterns and a 45-minute Halloween walk. It also includes a fall festival, beer garden and lots of carnival rides.
Tickets for one walk-thru admission are $19 for twilight or off-peak times, $24 for prime-time slots and $34 for VIP tickets that include an apple cider, beer, or wine. Tickets can can be purchased on its website http://skylandsstadium.com/jackolantern/. The fall festival begins at 5 p.m. (The stadium also holds a December holiday light show that runs Nov. 19 through Jan. 2.)
Wild West City
The Byram Township attraction will hold a Halloween-themed “Wild West” show daily through Oct. 30. There will be live-action dramatizations and demonstrations by period craftsmen.
After the sun goes down, the “city” becomes a “ghost town” with entry “at your own risk.” The evening includes a journey aboard the Wild West City Train Line, then a walk along Frontiersman Trail where the ghost of John West the Frontiersman lingers. For more information visit wildwestcity.com.
The Town of Newton will hold its annual fall festival, which features a classics car show on Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 133 Spring Street.
The event will be held rain or shine and will also feature a 1950s costume contest, live music, hay bale maze for children, crafts, artists and other local vendors. There is no admission fee.
The German Christmas Market of NJ will set up this year at the Sussex County Fair Grounds in Augusta, for its 20th annual event and be held from Dec. 3-5.
The event outgrew its previous setting on Lake Mohawk in Sparta to become the largest Christmas Market in the state and the only German Christmas Market in the country. The market is run by an all-volunteer corps of local residents and all money collected through sale of booth space and proceeds from the famous Cookie Hut is used to pay fees for services and the remainder is donated to Sussex County charities.
Read More:5 things to do in Sussex County this fall outdoors