On any given weekend, the parking lot at Hidden Falls Regional Park in Auburn, CA, which offers access to 30 miles of trails, is often completely full by mid-morning, overflowing with hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers. People are getting turned away from using the trails due to overcrowding.
But soon a new trail system, built by Placer Land Trust (PLT) in conjunction with Placer County, will offer additional trailheads and another 20 miles of trail. Stretching from Coon Creek to the Bear River and connecting the popular Hidden Falls Regional Park to over 3,600 acres of land protected by Placer Land Trust, the new 50-mile trail network will be the largest in the county and unparalleled in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
“We’re hoping to ease congestion on the trails and also alleviate the parking issue by adding an additional trailhead in the north, so there’s more access for outdoor recreation,” says Jeff Darlington, the Executive Director for Placer Land Trust. “While you see this type of trail network higher in the Sierra or on the coast, it’s unheard of in the foothills where private land ownership and parcel fragmentation makes large recreation areas almost impossible.”
In 2013 PLT kicked off its Trails and Recreation Capital Campaign with a goal of raising $750,000. PLT has nearly reached its goal, including two grants from REI totaling $55,000 that have already led to the completion of a 3-mile loop trail used for docent-led tours. PLT hopes to complete trail planning and permitting in 2016 with actual completion of the new trail system planned for 2017.
Auburn, located between Sacramento and Tahoe, has been called the “Endurance Capital of the World” for its high population of endurance athletes and for the number of long-distance events that take place in the former gold mining town. The 100-mile Western States Endurance Run and the 100-mile Tevis Cup equestrian ride, for example, end in Auburn. With the completion of the new trail system, Auburn could host even more events that utilize the rugged 50-mile trail system.
The trails, which will be multi-use and open to all, will traverse several major PLT preserves and oak woodlands that are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife such as woodpeckers, owls, river otters, ring-tailed cats, deer, bobcats and much more. Much of the land the trail system will cross is currently private property and hasn’t been opened to the public before.
“We’ve protected this landscape, over 3,600 acres, because it’s important to our quality of life, and we want people to get out and see some of the amazing natural wonders this land has to offer,” Darlington says. “Our mission is to permanently protect natural and agricultural lands, not only for the plants and animals, but also to provide a place for people to have adventures and make memories, now and forever..”
REI will donate $5.9 million in 2015 to help care for and increase access to more than 1,000 outdoor places in the U.S.