gnome houses on a bike trail

I Spy Gnome Houses on a Bike Trail

Of all the gloriously random things in the world to discuss, today I want to talk about gnome houses on a bike trail.


Because it’s pretty much the most amazing thing ever.

Okay. Not EVER ever, but it is pretty fantastic.

Hear me out.

Imagine a beautiful summer day. The temperature is warm, but not too hot. It is the perfect day for going on a bike ride (or walk) on a path through a lush forest and being able to play an epic game of I Spy.

And, no. You’re not too old to play I Spy. Perish the thought!

gnome houses on a bike trail hunterdon county nj

Why are there gnome houses on a bike path in the middle of a forest?

Why not?

If you’re a nature purist, you might want to stop reading now.

There is a trail in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, called the Columbia Trail. I believe this trail was created on an old railroad grade. There is a 4-mile (or so) section of trail from High Bridge to Califon where someone placed a gnome house just for fun to encourage little kids to get out and exercise.

That first gnome house from 2006 was such a big hit that it inspired other people to add additional gnome houses along the trail.

The Parks Department was nice enough to leave the gnome houses, but now there are rules if you want to leave one for people to discover. These rules govern the type of materials that can be used, the size of the gnome house, the density of the gnome houses along the trail, etc. These building codes are probably a good idea so that things (litter, urban sprawl, etc.) don’t get out-of-hand. We all know how that goes!

gnome houses on a bike trail hunterdon county nj

Some of the gnome houses are really hard to spot. We rode the trail up and back and saw gnome houses each time that we didn’t see going the other way. There isn’t an official gnome house census, but it is estimated that up to 100 gnome houses are scattered along the trail.

Gnomes have had many cultural interpretations over the years in books and movies. Generally speaking, most of the folklore surrounding these creatures suggests that gnomes live underground and protect the earth’s precious stones and metals.

If you ascribe to that theory then finding gnome houses along a forest path is kind of logical.

If you’re a party pooper you don’t, it is still plain fun!

gnome houses on a bike trail hunterdon county nj

I really like the idea of people doing something that will bring others happiness even though they won’t get a reward or recognition for the act. They won’t know how many smiles they bring to the faces of trail users on any given day. Yet, they put the time and effort into creating these gnome houses.

I know being out in nature should be magical enough of an experience. Usually it is or can be.

But this time?

This time it was just pure joy to spot something a little bit hidden, a little bit quirky, a lot out-of-place on this trail.

Our entire family was absolutely charmed by this whole “I Spy Gnome Houses on a Bike Trail” experience.

P.S. If you have a wacky, charming or weird trail near you, please let me know! Maybe someday we will have the opportunity to check it out.

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  • Sandy Smith

    What a perfect idea. Looking for the gnomes takes the feeling of tiredness when one is riding a bike.

    If you ever come to Oregon again you might try starting on in the Valley of the Giants at Valzetz. It would be fun to find them in different places as you walk along the trail.

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