Trail could link Carson City with Sacramento

A proposed hiking trail through the Sierra has won new life with $1.5 million in state funding and support.

The "Capitol to Capitol" trail would provide a route for hikers and horseback riders between Sacramento and Carson City. The roughly 160-mile trail originally was proposed in the 1970s.

The project is expected to use the American River Parkway in Sacramento and trails around Folsom Lake. Hikers will reach Carson City after a trip around the west side of Lake Tahoe and down Kings Canyon.

Officials say the environmental review of the route could be finished by next year, with the $30 million project taking about 10 years to complete.

The Placer Legacy open-space program has contributed $400,000 to the project, and $1.5 million in state grant funds came after Mary Nichols, secretary of the state's Resources Agency, saw a report detailing the project.

Retied park ranger Greg Wells is scouting the north fork of the river outside Auburn for a route for the proposed Capitol to Capitol Trail between the California and Nevada capitols.

"You look at the terrain and try to find the best way through it," said Wells, who works for Placer County.

The trail will provide a route through some of Northern California's more spectacular spots, including Giant Gap -- an area about 12 miles northeast of Colfax described as "the Grand Canyon of the Sierra."

"It's a fantastic idea," said Glenn Hampton, who helped create the Tahoe Rim Trail that opened last year.

Hampton remembers talk of a trail between the California and Nevada capitols decades ago but said work on the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail may have diverted attention from the Capitol to Capitol Trail.

Treks into the Sierra wilderness will provide people with a kind of time machine, he said. "It's almost like going back 100 or 200 years," Hampton said.

The project is expected to use the American River Parkway in Sacramento and trails around Folsom Lake, but the Auburn area outside Lake Clementine will be new territory.

Named "Rio de los Americanos" when trappers such as Jedediah Smith reached it more than 150 years ago, the American River has its mild side next to Sacramento bike ways, but its also has wild, remote runs in the foothills and rugged mountains of the Sierra.

Wells, who started scouting the route in November, will work with a 10-member panel including trail advocates and environmental representatives to select the trail's path.

Capitol to Capitol will include sections not that different from what was encountered by newcomers during the Gold Rush in California. But when a specific pathway is identified, the trail will be carved with a tool 19th century explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson never enjoyed -- a Trail Cat, a 5-foot-wide, 9,000-pound machine.

Hikers will reach Carson City after a trip around the west side of Lake Tahoe and down Kings Canyon to King Street to the Nevada Capitol.

"You've got to do a little zigzag to get to the Capitol," said Mark Kimbrough, a retired manager for Nevada state parks. "There's one block in the way."

Tim Hauserman, author of "The Tahoe Rim Trail" guide, said the route between capitols will get a lot of use.

"There's something about having a destination going from point to point," he said.

The Pacific Crest Trail, running from Canada to Mexico, would not have nearly as much appeal if it ended "10 miles from Mexico," Hauserman said.

Supporters speak of a trail between Sacramento and Carson City as an attraction akin to the Appalachian Trail, a 2,160-mile route from Maine to Georgia. Capitol to Capitol will be about 2,000 miles shorter but still no walk in the park.

Placer County is in charge of the project and will coordinate with Sacramento County and Nevada.

Officials say they will try to stitch together a range of sources to pay for the project.


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