Discover the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail – First in the Nation

Gabrielino Trail was the First National Recreation Trail in the nation
1970-05-20 – LA Times – Gabrielino Trail first National Recreation Trail

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act of 1968, we truly appreciate the vision of the legislators who understood the need to expand and coordinate a national system of outdoor recreational trail opportunities. The act was signed into law on October 2, 1968

Last week we finished the restoration of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail in the Angeles National Forest, with help from MWBA, REI and Edison.  But did you know the Gabrielino Trail we just restored was the very first National Recreation Trail in the Nation to be designated under the act?

These two Los Angeles Times stories are from May 20, 1970, announcing the designation, and from June 28, 1970, celebrating the designation “to attract hikers and horsemen.”

Those visionary legislators lacked the foresight to mention how many bicyclists it would also attract fifty years later!  It would have been especially nice if their vision of the trail connecting to the proposed Pacific Crest Trail became a reality.

1970-06-28 – LA Times reports Gabrielino National Recreation Trail designation

During our hike with the Forest Supervisor and other members of the Forest Leadership Team to inspect our work on the Gabrielino last Friday, we were in an especially celebratory mood. We all given National Trails Act 50th Anniversary patches to commemorate the restoration project and the trail. 

The National Trails Act created three trail designations: National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails, and National Connecting and Side Trails. National Historic Trail designation was added in a 1978 amendment. 

NRTs are designated to promote recreation near urban centers, and the Gabrielino was the perfect candidate, serving up to “7 million Southern California residents within easy travel distance.”  Today that number is now between 12 and 17 million, depending on your definition of “easy travel.” 

NSTs are longer and more remote, usually over 200 miles, and include the PCT, the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Arizona trail, among others.  Only a few of those are open to bicycles. 

There are only two designated National Side or Connecting trails, one between the Iditarod trail and Anvik, Alaska, and the Timms Hill Trail, connecting the Ice Age NST to Wisconsin’s highest peak. 

The Angeles National Forest is lucky to have five Nationally designated trails, some of which you may have ridden, and three of which CORBA and MWBA  help maintain: 

  • The Gabrielino NRT
  • The High Desert NRT
  • Silver Moccasin NRT
  • Pacific Crest NST
  • West Fork National Scenic Bikeway

In the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the 67 mile Backbone Trail was finally completed in May 2016 after a 40-year effort. CORBA also contributes to the maintenance of the Backbone NRT.  It was designated a National Recreation Trail on National Trails Day in 2016, during the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.  It was the newest NRT designation until the 2018 National Trails Day, when Secretary Zinke designated 19 new NRTs in 17 states. 

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