Multiple Land Acquisitions Could Net Massive NorCal Trail Network


Mountain bikers in Northern California — and anywhere for that matter — have serious cause for celebration. In a move to connect a number of existing public land swaths (and the trails that bisect them) the National Forest Service recently announced the purchase of 1,370 acres of formerly private land that’s north of Interstate 80 near Donner Summit.

The most immediate benefit of this $1.3 million acquisition will be the eventual completion of the popular Hole in the Ground trail near Truckee, California, which heretofore has included diversions onto dirt road and tarmac if you wanted to ride it as a loop. This purchase was made possible by funding from Land and Water Conservation Fund, a congressionally appropriated pot of money that’s funded in part by fees paid by companies drilling for offshore oil.

“As it is right now, the Hole in the Ground is a great trail that showcases Truckee’s high country, granite slick rock, meadows, and forest,” explained John Svahn, stewardship director for Truckee Donner Land Trust. “But it’s an 18-mile loop only if you link it with roads. Only about 9 miles are actually singletrack. This new purchase will allow for the completion of the trail as it was originally envisioned, one continuous loop of singletrack that will have alternate lines with varying technical nature, some flowy sections, some slickrock sections. It’s a really big prize for the mountain biking community.”

Perhaps an even bigger prize, according the Svahn, was the December acquisition of a nearby 3,000-acre parcel on Donner Summit known as Royal Gorge (see map). According to Svahn, this $11.25 million purchase combined with the Forest Service’s new parcel could provide the final puzzle pieces to a truly massive network of interconnected trails that link together existing systems in Tahoe, Truckee, Downieville, Nevada City and Cisco Grove.

“It’s sort of like both ends were intact and this is the middle portion,” said Svahn. “Already people are thinking big, thinking connections between Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Truckee and Nevada City, Truckee and Downieville. It could be huge. We are talking hundreds of miles.”

Of course nothing is going to happen overnight. Right now there is no exact timeline for when the final section of the Hole in the Ground trail will be ready to ride. But Tahoe National Forest spokesperson Ann Westling says field reconnaissance will commence this summer.

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

“Planning and construction for the new portion of trail will take us a few years,” said Westling. “After we recon the property this summer, it will get placed on our project list to start all the environmental reviews and design work for future years. So right now there’s no completion date in mind.”

Things could move a little quicker in Royal Gorge. Svahn says his organization plans to begin the public planning process this summer, and encouraged interested parties to keep their eyes on the TD Land Trust website for more information.

“We want mountain biker input in the public process,” Svahn said, adding that right now there is already talk of at least 10-20 new miles of singletrack within Royal Gorge. “Both new properties are right along the Sierra Crest, so there is potential to make huge rides with these new links. Right now our Land Trust is about halfway done building a trail called the Donner Lake Rim trail, which will be a 23-mile loop around Donner Lake. Eventually I see a link into the Donner Lake Rim trail from Royal Gorge. Also Placer County is proposing and designing a non-motorized trail that is going from Donner Memorial State Park to Cisco Grove that’s about 20 miles over the summit, and it would go through the Royal Gorge property. From Cisco Grove you can link into the Grouse Ridge and Nevada City trail networks. So, yeah, we are talking huge riding possibilities.”

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympics, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the Mtbr staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • Doug Mann says:

    This is such good news! We’ll be up there in a few months. Please post up any trail work days that come up.

  • Bryan Thomas says:

    In the foreword to a trail guide I wrote about the trails of the Gila (forest and BLM) in southern NM, I fantasized that the future of public transportation could be massive, interlinked trail networks that connect up the urban centers. This news makes me feel like, “not in my lifetime, maybe,” but it could happen! Nice work all y’all that’s involved! I also dream about the improvement of the rail infrastructure to eventually make the infernal combustion machine ( a Joe Murray coinage, if my drunken memory serves) a thing of the past.

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