California Welcomes 80-Mile Great Shasta Rail Trail

Posted 09/21/15 by Amy Kapp in America's Trails, Building Trails

Great Shasta Rail Trail | Photo Courtesy Great Shasta Rail Trail Association

In late September, California formally welcomed the in-progress, 80-miles-when-complete Great Shasta Rail Trail (GSRT) in a special two-day celebration. 

The trail, 10 years in the making, meanders on a “red cinder rail bed” during its journey between McCloud and Burney in Siskiyou and Shasta counties—the red cinder of course being an offshoot of the 10,457-foot, century-old Lassen Peak in the southeast. The trail is also “punctuated” by the 14,179-foot Mount Shasta in the North.

Three trail sections, totaling nearly 37 miles, opened during a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception on Saturday, Sept. 26, in McCloud (at McCloud Depot and McCloud Mercantile, respectively) and Sunday, Sept. 27, in Burney. Oh, and the McCloud dedication also happened to coincide with their Bike-toberfest!

"Stand by Me" Lake Britton bridge on the Great Shasta Rail Trail | Photo by Christina Schmidlin

Here’s more from the Sept. 18 press release posted by the Great Shasta Rail Trail Association (GSRTA):

Paralleling California Highway 89, [the] GSRT northern trail head, Esperanza, is approximately 90 minutes from the California/Oregon border. A 13-mile open section begins at Esperanza, 3 miles east of McCloud on Highway 89, to Bartle. The trail continues 13 miles east from Bartle to remote Hambone.

Burney Depot, site of Sunday’s dedication, is on the town’s eastern edge about 5 miles from the intersection of California Highways 89 and 299. The 11-mile section ends at Lake Britton’s “Stand by Me bridge” made famous in the classic [1986 coming of age movie].

You can read more about this bridge in the “A View From …” section of RTC’s 2015 Winter issue of Rails to Trails magazine.

RTC has had involvement in the development of the GSRT over the past half-decade, including serving on the planning team (led by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program) along with other key local advocates. RTC produced a technical report detailing recommendations regarding road crossings and safety, focusing specifically on two crossings on State Highway 89.

"We are so thrilled that this trail is opening; it’ll undoubtedly be one of the most scenic in California," said Laura Cohen, director of RTC's Western Regional Office. "Bravo to the dedicated group of community advocates led by April Gray [President of the GSRTA Board of Directors]; their tenacity and spirit of volunteerism really made this happen. We should also recognize the many partner agencies, including the National Park Service, that stepped up to turn this vision into reality."

Great Shasta Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Great Shasta Rail Trail Association

The recreational trail was built on former McCloud Railway Company rail bed and is suitable for hiking, walking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing.

The rail bed was purchased in June by Shasta Land Trust (SLT) located in Redding. A California Transportation Commission $350,000 grant funded trail acquisition. SLT will deed the property to the nonprofit [GSRTA] to own and manage the trail. Representatives from Siskiyou and Shasta counties serve on the GSTRA board of directors.

[The] GSRT joins the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy network encompassing [more than 22,000 miles] of former railroad beds converted to alternate transportation and recreational uses.

“Biking the trail is going to be a great opportunity for cyclists of all ages. I can’t wait for the challenge to bike from Burney to McCloud without the threat of traffic,” said Dr. Henry Patterson, Burney resident.

The trail winds through scenic areas of the Lassen and Shasta Trinity National Forests and large privately managed timber stands, and future plans include connections to McCloud River Falls recreation area and McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. 

RTC looks forward to seeing how the GSRT positively impacts the local communities, serving as a recreational amenity, active-transportation route, tourism draw and economic engine for the region.

Check out the press release for more details on the dedication ceremonies and the trail itself.

A five-year “Trail Concept Plan” guides trail development; learn all about it on the GSRTA website.

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