Linking 15 California Mountain Communities Through Trails

The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is developing a Trails Master Plan for Connected Communities. The Trails Master Plan (TMP) will create a vision for a recreation-focused lifestyle through community investment, shared stewardship, economic opportunity and important new local jobs, all benefiting economically disadvantaged communities in California’s Plumas, Sierra, Butte and Lassen Counties.

Trailworkers holding trail tool in celebration

A key component to the Connected Communities Trails Master Plan is the proposed “Lost Sierra Route”, which traverses over breathtaking topography, jagged peaks and high alpine meadows similar to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT). But unlike the PCT and JMT, this new trans-Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range route allows for all dirt trail travelers including hikers, mountain bikers, moto riders, equestrians, trail runners, hunters, fishermen, wildlife – creating A Trail for Everyone. The Lost Sierra Route will be a trail for all to use that will link mountain communities together for recreational adventure and economic sustainability.

About the Trails Master Plan

The Trails Master Plan is being developed through community input and will allow residents to collaborate with land managers and local government officials on a long-range vision for building and maintaining a world-class recreational resource on public land. The TMP will also provide a repeatable process/template for other rural communities wanting to collaborate with government agencies and stakeholders and for land managers to make informed decisions and prioritize projects based on the needs of the community. 

Specifically, the Connected Communities Trails Master Plan will:

  • Assess conditions and identify priorities in order to maintain existing trails, trailhead facilities and access roads located on Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe National Forests.
  • Plan for the construction and maintenance of a world-class multiple-use trail system, connecting the northern Sierra communities of: Truckee, Loyalton, Sierraville, Sierra City, Downieville, Quincy, Graeagle, Portola, Taylorsville, Greenville, Jonesville, Chester, Westwood, Susanville and Reno NV. The main proposed route is being referred to as “The Lost Sierra Route”, paying homage to the region and the historic Gold Rush-era mail delivery route. 
  • Identify areas within communities where trail access would create additional benefit.  Areas such as schools, neighborhoods, campgrounds, parks, retail centers and trailheads (new and existing). Having these trail systems connected to “Main Street” is ideal, as it brings visitors into town for restaurants, accommodations and services, and allows convenient access to public lands for residents.
  • Identify unclassified National Forest roads and trails which may be decommissioned and restored to a natural condition.
  • Create new recreational opportunities, in collaboration with fuels management and watershed protection projects, that will spread high intensity use into underutilized areas of the National Forest
  • Build strategic alignments for Shared Stewardship and create employment, training and apprenticeships for disadvantaged adults and youth.
  • Bring partnerships and investment in public lands through the Outdoor Industry 
  • Timing of the TMP is critical as each of the National Forests (Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe) are in the process of updating their Forest Land & Resource Management Plans. The TMP will provide timely, accurate and useful information for National Forests to plan land access, recreational trails and community needs long into the future. 

Connected Communities is being carried out in 4- Phases:

  • Phase 1 – Planning, Mapping and Development began 2020
    Paid for by Sierra Nevada Conservancy using California Proposition 68 funds
  • Phase 2 – NEPA/CEQA – environmental work 
  • Phase 3 – Construction
  • Phase 4 – Maintenance

Phase 1 Activities

From November 2020 to March 2021, we completed a survey process to gather public input into the project. Over 1,200 people completed the survey, including many Lost Sierra locals who made recommendations of trail routes and trailhead locations in their communities.  As of Spring 2021, we are in the process of sharing the results from our Connected Communities surveys with land managers, local government and project partners. We are asking for National Forest Specialists (i.e., Heritage, Botany, Wildlife, Hydrology, Recreation) to take an initial look at concept trails and to let us know if there are any constraints for the potential trail corridors. 

Concept Planning Teams (CPTs) have been created for each region to work on planning activities local to their areas. These regions are: Indian Valley (Taylorsville, Greenville, Genesee, Crescent Mills), Almanor (Chester, Westwood, Canyon Dam, Prattville), Susanville (Janesville), Yuba River (Sierra City, Downieville, Goodyears Bar), Sierra Valley (Loyalton, Sierraville, Calpine, Chilcoot), Graeagle (Blairsden, Clio, Johnsville, Cromberg), Portola (Delleker, Beckwourth), American Valley (Quincy, East Quincy, Meadow Valley, Butterfly Valley). Through our surveys, we were able to identify CPT members in each region that are a mix of local leaders and trail enthusiasts including community members, land managers, county supervisors, local organization representatives, local business owners and Chamber of Commerce representatives. These leaders will continue meeting to plan over the next year to:

  • Analyze survey and mapping results for region (region indicated through zip code).
  • Establish priority areas and document existing conditions- Work together to conceptually plan recreational access and trail opportunities on surrounding public lands. 
  • Data collection, inventory and trail condition surveys- Capture consistent trail condition surveys (assessment, coordination, prioritization, annual maintenance, reconstruction, planning, adoption, construction, restoration) to meet agency needs for inventory and reporting.
  • Begin concept planning for:
    • Trail corridors (motorized and non-motorized)
    • Contouring alignments, average grade 8% and maximum short pitch 18%
    • “Main Street” trailheads and visitor parking areas
    • Identify existing non-motorized recreation areas located near communities on surrounding public lands

Connected Communities Partners

To date, project funding has been provided by Sierra Nevada Conservancy, California Off-Highway Vehicle Division grants, California State Parks & Recreation grants, California State proposition funds, National Forest Foundation grants, Secure Rural Schools, Outdoor Industry partners, Adopt a Trail sponsors and SBTS matching funds.

The list of Connected Communities partners is extensive and varied, spanning from local elected officials to government agencies and municipalities including:

Economic Benefits

Recreation on public lands currently represents the greatest economic and cultural opportunity for our rural communities. In the United States, Outdoor Recreation is an $887 billion industry with Trail Sports accounting for $201 billion. Trails on public lands are proven to create local employment, attract visitors and new businesses, and improve the health and economy of mountain communities.

Annual Consumer Spending graph
Recreation is an Economic Powerhouse! Click to Enlarge
Direct Impact of the Outdoor Recreation Economy graph
Click to Enlarge

Learn More

About Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS)

SBTS is a Quincy, California-based 501c3 focused on building what the organization calls #dirtmagic – multiple-use motorized and non-motorized trails for public use – in the Lost Sierra region of the Northern Sierra Nevada range. Since its founding in 2003, SBTS has built over 100 miles of new trail and maintained 1,200 miles of existing trail while employing a full-time Professional Trail Crew and contributing over 100,000 hours of volunteer labor.

Trail Crew building trail

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Mt. Hough Trail to Quincy
The Mt. Hough Trail, built by Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, in partnership with Plumas National Forest, navigates to the town of Quincy in the valley below