2023 Trails Report: 18 miles new trails built, 256 miles of trail maintained, 150 miles of future trail ground truthed

The 2023 SBTS Trails Report: 20 Years, 200 Miles of Trail Built and More Progress On the Way!

The 2023 season was a long and busy one for the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Pro Trail Crews, with work completed on 44 trails across eight project sites throughout the Lost Sierra, resulting in 17.56 miles of new trail construction, 255.68 miles maintained and 150 miles flagged for future construction.

In 2023, SBTS staffed three Pro Trail crews—one based in Downieville, one in Quincy and one in Portola/Greagle—employing 24 crew members, as well as a 20-person youth crew, which worked for eight weeks during the summer. In total, SBTS employed 67 people in 2023, with a payroll of $1.27 million.

In addition to paid staff, SBTS volunteers had a banner year! In total, 1,144 volunteers helped on the trails or at an event in 2023, equating to 8,339 hours and $258,470 in match value, doubling last year’s numbers.

Here is what we have done in the 20 years since 2003


Miles of new trail construction


Miles of trails maintained




Volunteer hours


Dollars Match Value from Volunteer Hours

This brings SBTS’ 20-year (!) statistics to: 194.6 miles of trail built, 2,558.24 miles maintained, 8,806 volunteers engaged for 131,052 hours of work with $3.9 million in match value.

Shovels in the Dirt

The 2023 trail building season got off to an early start in Foresthill near Auburn, where mild mid-February weather allowed our small four-person crew to begin repair and maintenance on 9 miles of the Western States Trail that was damaged in the 2022 Mosquito Fire, and subsequently closed. The project, a partnership between SBTS, the Western States Endurance Run Foundation and the American River Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, finished up in time for the 50th anniversary of the 100-mile foot race in June.

Trail builders widening trail over cliff

By early April, the entire seasonal Pro Trail Crew staff was back onboard and work started in earnest on a host of projects, including low-elevation maintenance projects on Mount Hough (record snowpack kept crews off high-elevation trails well into the summer months). In late April, we held our first Mountain Epic volunteer weekend of the year in Quincy, when 60 volunteers joined us for a day on the Chandler and #10 trails on Mount Hough, chopping out root balls, smoothing out ruts, cutting back brush and building an armored water crossing.

Large group of people

In early May, the snow had melted below 5,000 feet in Downieville, allowing that crew to do a significant amount of log-out from winter storms on Second Divide and Big Boulder, as well as tread repair on Third Divide. In total, the Downieville crew maintained 113 miles of trail in Downieville this season, which helped prepare for the highly anticipated return of the Downieville Classic. Aside from getting the trails in tip-top shape for 900 Classic racers, the Downieville crew plays a critical rider safety role on race weekend. The Downieville crew also built .56 miles of new trail last season on the Big Boulder realignment project, a 2-mile reroute of part of the doubletrack approach to Big Boulder onto new singletrack.

In Portola, the crew built 2.25 miles of the non-motorized Beckwourth Peak trail, which included machine work through a natural rock tunnel, making for one of the more visually interesting trail features around. The crew has now nearly completed the 13.5 mile loop, with just over a mile to finish next year. Once done, the trail, which starts at Portola City Park, will wrap around the base of Beckwourth Peak at 6,000 feet, completing a project that dates back to 2009, when the route was first identified, and paid for through a combination of government grants and SBTS fundraisers.

Newly built trail with trail builders

Significant progress was also made on the Mount Hough Phase II Development Project this season in Quincy, with crews completing 9.75 miles of new trail, both by tractor and hand. That includes the completion of the upper section of Trail #3 (a placeholder name until the Forest Service announces permanent trail names) to Grizzly Ridge. Work will continue next year to continue that trail down the backside of Hough to link into Taylorsville, marking the first official town-to-town connection in the Connected Communities project. The crew also built new trail on Tollgate, Chandler and the still unnamed #10 and #8 trails. Once completed in 2025, Mount Hough will offer a total of 70 miles of multi-use trail.

In July, shovels hit the dirt for the first time on the East Zone Connectivity and Restoration project in July near Boca Reservoir in the Truckee area. A volunteer work day supported by Truckee Dirt Union and their Volunteer Trail Force kicked things off by rallying 35 folks who cut in a half-mile of new trail. SBTS also had a lot of volunteer help from the Truckee Dirt Riders moto club and our partners at Patagonia, which scheduled two different company work days at the site, along with support from the Tahoe National Forest – Truckee Ranger District trail crew. One of the volunteer days featured Chris Orr from the International Mountain Bicycling Association teaching volunteers the finer points of trail design and proper drainage. Contractors Erik “Mongo” Johnson and Steve Wentz used their mini-excavators to cut 5 miles of trail before snow shut them down for the season. The 20-mile Boca project is part of a larger proposed 71-mile project that will eventually link Sierraville, Loyalton, Truckee, Verdi and Reno, as part of Connected Communities. The network is proposed to be open to all users: hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and motorcycles.

As always, maintenance of existing trail networks throughout the SBTS footprint was a big area of focus for our crews, with various maintenance projects completed on 10 different trail networks, including 113 miles in Downieville, another 100-plus miles in the Plumas National Forest (primarily on Mount Hough), and additional miles in the Lakes Basin, Thousand Lakes Wilderness, Lake Davis and Forest Hill.

Youth Crew Recap

The SBTS Youth Crew had another stellar season in 2023, with 20 local teens participating in two paid four-week hitches. Together, they built over 3,300 feet of new trail on Mount Hough, making progress on critical future Connected Communities links. Along with Hough, the Youth Crew also worked on Mill Creek, Chapman Creek, Bear Lakes Loop, Round Lake Trail, the South Park trail system, Mount Elwell and the Thousand Lakes Wilderness trails. During their hitches, the kids work and live together in their Lost Sierra backyard, under the guidance of adult crew leaders, maintaining and building new trails, cultivating backcountry skills and awareness, practicing Leave No Trace principles and learning lessons on how to be good stewards of public lands.

Kids celebrating on the trail

Flagging For the Future

Crews made significant headway on trail planning and groundtruthing in 2023, flagging some 150 miles of future trail between five projects, a substantial increase from the 45 miles we groundtruthed in 2022. When groundtruthing, crews are verifying that a trail alignment as laid out on a map by our GIS specialist actually works in the field. They use clinometers to ensure grades of less than 10 percent and mark the alignment with flagging. Groundtruthing is an essential piece of trails development and allows for environmental surveys to be conducted before final approval. In 2023, staff and volunteer crews groundtruthed 63 miles of the proposed Sierra Valley Recreation Loop, from Loyalton to Henness Pass, over to Sardine Peak and Little Truckee Summit and north to Sierraville. The Sierra Valley Recreation Loop is a key part of the Connected Communities project, and the planning process will pick-up this year with environmental surveys and studies, with construction slated to begin within the next five years.

Crews also groundtruthed another 57.3 miles of the proposed 70-mile Indian Valley Loop north of Truckee in the Plumas National Forest. The project, proposed as multi-use singletrack, aims to connect Greenville, Taylorsville and Crescent Mills in an area with only one existing recreational trail and no trailhead facilities. The long-term goal is to link Indian Valley Loop into the Mount Hough trail system in Quincy as a key component of the Connected Communities project.

Flag on the side of a mountain.

An additional 4 miles of groundtruthing took place on the Claremont project, which proposes 63 miles of new trail in Quincy that’s already entered the environmental review process, and 22.5 miles of the Jonesville Connected Communities project on the Butte and Plumas County line, which could eventually provide access to Butte County’s Colby Mountain Trail Project. Crews also started groundtruthing at the Peavine project, where they flagged just over 3 miles of future trail. The proposed project features 20 miles of new motorized singletrack and the adoption of 25 more miles of existing social trail off the west side of Peavine Mountain near Verdi, Nevada, known as The Maze. That project, which SBTS is working on in partnership with the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest – Carson Ranger District, is supported by a $224,419 grant from the Nevada Off-Highway Vehicles Program.

The Funding Picture

SBTS’ operating budget was $2.8 million in 2023, up from $2.4 million the year before, which came from a combination of government and non-government grants (55 percent), donations (19.3 percent), Events and Campaigns (15.7 percent) and Yuba Expeditions (9.7 percent). SBTS received $2,469,605 in grant awards in 2023 from 13 different funders, including the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the National Forest Foundation, California and Nevada Off-Highway Vehicle Funds, Santa Cruz Bicycles Pay Dirt Fund, REI Cooperative Action Fund and the Fox Trail Trust Fund.

For more on Connected Communities, SBTS’ ongoing project to connect 15 rural mountain towns via multi-use singletrack as an economic booster, read the latest Connected Communities newsletter here.