The trails of California are as diverse as the landscape
From the bustling urban pathways to the lost-in-the-wild tracks of the
backcountry, the vastly different settings and styles of trails in California
makes them almost incomparable. So we thought we'd compare them.
Certain to spark furious debate from jilted trail fans, we
present to you...
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Top 10 Trails in California!
1. Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail
Arguably the most scenic rail-trail in California, the
spectacular 25.4-mile Bizz Johnson (right) was named to RTC’s Rail Trail Hall of Fame
What makes it so great? The scenery. Just east of the Sierra
and Cascade mountain ranges, the craggy canyons and upland forests cycle
through four distinct seasons. Carving through the Susan River Canyon, the Bizz
Johnson also connects to the terrific trail community of Susanville, which has
put much effort into making trail visitors feel welcome. Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
2. Iron Horse Regional Trail
Connecting 12 cities in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties outside San Francisco, the Iron Horse Regional Trail is 24.5 miles of urban rail-trail at its very best. It’s utility and popularity are set to expand even further with plans to extend the trail to 33 miles.
What makes it so great? Connectivity. The 20-foot-wide trail connects residences, shopping districts and places of employment with schools, public transportation options, parks and other trails systems. TrailLink.com reviews sometimes note who crowded the trail can get. That’s because it takes people where they want to go, a sure sign of a terrific urban pathway and an unbeatable justification for more like it.
3. Ojai Valley Trail
A favorite among rail-trail enthusiasts, the Ojai Valley Trail (left) extends 9.5 miles through the scenic Ojai Valley. The trail also connects with the Ventura River Trail, which continues south to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
What makes it so great? The rural serenity. And the bridge. Completed in 2012, the 480-foot bridge over San Antonio Creek, built of rust-colored steel and Brazilian hardwood, looks terrific and saves the trail from the frequent washouts that used to plague it. Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
4. Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
Winding 18 miles around Monterey Bay and along the Pacific coast, the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail follows a Southern Pacific Railroad line that used to transfer goods between the historic fishing town of Monterey and the rest of northern California.
What makes it so great? The ocean. In addition to its constant blue, shimmering presence, the Pacific flavors almost every attraction along the trail, too. In an area made famous by a number of John Steinbeck novels, the rejuvenated Cannery Row, scenes of its fishing past and present, a number of great seafood restaurants and the Monterey Bay Aquarium all make for a submersing trail experience.
5. Bayshore Bikeway
A long, smooth, palm-tree-lined trail (right) with stunning views of the Pacific, San Diego Bay and the downtown skyline, the 17-mile Bayshore Bikeway also provides easy access to parks, tot play areas and chic cafes.
What makes it so great? The attractions. There's a lot going on around the Bayshore Bikeway. You've got the red-roofed Hotel del Coronado where they filmed Some Like it Hot, you've got the Ferry Landing Marketplace, the Navy SEALs workout spot, the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and, of course, the water, to name just a few. So close to a major metropolitan center, the bikeway sure has pulling power. Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
6. Truckee River Bike Trail
At one end is the smallest place in the world to ever host the Winter Olympics. At the other end is the peerless Lake Tahoe. Connecting them is the 6.8-mile Truckee River Bike Trail which follows the route of a tourist train that operated in the early 1900s.
What makes it so great? Access to the outdoors. Rail-trails are ideal outdoor equalizers because of their typically flat grade and smooth surface. In a mountainous, rugged area marked by the majestic snowcapped Sierra’s, the Truckee River Bike Trail makes this stunning wilderness accessible for young families or older folks over their mountain biking days.
7. Sacramento River Rail-Trail
The spine of a burgeoning trail system in the city of Redding, the 11-mile Sacramento River Rail-Trail follows the river north out of town to the recreational expanse of Shasta Lake.
What makes it so great? Riverfront revival. Locals say before the trail system the town was “built with its back to the river,” and little had been done to restore the waterway after years of mining and excavation. Now, the popular trails have brought renewed appreciation for the river and inspired a symbiotic movement of restoration. Photo courtesy Healthy Shasta
8. Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail
Though only a few years old already the impressively-named
Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail has become a transportation staple for the
booming neighborhoods in the San Bernadino Valley. Fast, flat and smooth, this
18-mile rail-trail connects residential neighborhoods with an array of parks,
schools, shopping areas and commercial centers.
What makes it so great? The utility. Another fine
demonstration of the great land efficiency of utilizing existing railroad
corridors, within its 10-foot width the Pacific Electric provides a critical
recreation and transportation avenue for the hundreds of thousands of
Californians that live within the trailshed.
9. Modoc Line
Stretching 86 miles through the way-out-there wild country
in the state’s north east, the Modoc Line is not one for those eager to
socialize and people watch. The rough surface and isolation of the Modoc Line
make it better suited to ATV’s than most bikes, however plans are in the works
to improve some sections.
What makes it so great? Big sky. Through remote ranch land
and high desert landscapes, the Modoc Line has the character of an ornery
outsider seeking refuge from the maddening crowds. You’ll find it out here,
along with wide open skies and spectacular star gazing, many miles from the
nearest city. Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
10. Richmond Greenway
Though only a short trail at three miles long, the Richmond
Greenway represents the positive transformation of a railroad corridor that sat
unused in the heart of the city of Richmond for more than 25 years. The
Richmond Greenway provides 32 new acres of active open space in a densely
populated, underserved community with few recreational opportunities and scarce
What makes it so great? The local community. A model of how
community organizations can work together to invest local residents in the
development of a public space, Richmond Greenway, Urban Tilth, Groundwork
Richmond, Rich City Rides and Pogo Park have used free community events,
working parties and other engagement strategies to make the Richmond Greenway a
genuine gathering place.
Definitely worth a mention: El Dorado Trail
Along two different railroad corridors and stretching 28
miles across El Dorado County, the 28-mile El Dorado Trail showcases the unique
natural surroundings and the history of the area.
What makes it so great? The views. Atop the breathtaking 100-foot-high
railroad trestle that crosses Weber Creek, trail users enjoy a spectacular view
of the surrounding California foothills countryside and the endless acres of
national forest surrounding Lake Tahoe to the east. Photo courtesy Friends of El Dorado Trail