There are hikes, and then there are hikes. Most outdoorsmen will never tackle a hardcore long-distance hike like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail in their lifetime. They require intense planning, the best thru-hiking gear, superhuman training, and six months or more for the hike itself. But, what if there were a trail that split the difference between an average day hike and an epic, need-to-quit-my-day-job-first thru-hike? Enter the Lost Sierra Route.
The proposed 600-mile path follows the coastline and mountain ridges that connect more than a dozen communities. Starting from Truckee, California — a blip of a town just northwest of Lake Tahoe — the Lost Sierra Route will carve a single-track, multi-use trail dotted with some of the Northwest’s most breathtaking scenery all the way to Reno, Nevada. It’s an impossibly beautiful region full of lush valleys, jagged peaks, high alpine lakes, and historic ghost towns. Soon, it will all be open to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, trail runners, fishermen, hunters, and more.
California’s non-profit Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS) is spearheading the new route’s development as part of the Connected Communities Project. In its own words, the project is “a visionary effort led in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, SBTS, and community partners to connect 15 mountain towns for economic prosperity through outdoor recreation – an $887 billion industry.” It started primarily as a financial development initiative to revitalize the small towns in California hardest hit by decades of decline amid the loss of the logging and mining industries. In recent years, things have only been made worse by record-setting wildfires and COVID-related shutdowns.
But, it’s also about sharing a love for one of the country’s most amazing natural landscapes with every level of outdoorsmen. Hiking long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest Trail and even the relatively “short” John Muir Trail is daunting physically and mentally, requiring significant planning for resupplying with food, water, and gear along the way. By contrast, SBTS’s project coordinator Trinity Stirling wants “to design a trail for everyone and allow them to refuel — get a bite to eat or stay in a hotel — right on the trail network, leaving a lot of flexibility for trip planning.” Along the planned route, visitors will pass dozens of historic inns, grocers, and local eateries, allowing them to quickly hop off and back on the trail on the fly.
The first portion of the Lost Sierra Route is slated to open in 2023, while the entire path should be completed around 2030. It’s a long way off, but it should be worth the wait for outdoorsmen who appreciate the stunning natural beauty of Northern California and Nevada. In the meantime, start planning your hike now with some of the best backpacking gear for hitting the trail.