Completing the Trail

The idea of the California Coastal Trail (CCT) and the efforts to complete it are entwined with the coastal environmental movement. Creation of a continuous coastal trail was originally proposed as part of visionary legislation passed by California voters and the state legislature in the 1970s that additionally created State agencies to both nurture and protect the fragile and beautiful coastal environment and guarantee public access to the shoreline.

Where there is Coastal Trail-there is preservation of public access and coastal resources and once completed, the California Coastal Trail will provide a 1200 mile long “ribbon of protection” along the entire California Coast.

One can make their way along the entire California coast finding trails through state, national and local parks, walking the sand or cobbles on beaches, and traipsing sidewalks or going along gingerly at the edge of rural roads and urban highways.  In some instances, the way is blocked by private property or government facilities; in others it is blocked by water.  In some cases, one must go far inland.  But it can be done!

Coastwalk has mapped a route along the entire California Coast and described it in two volumes: “Hiking the California Coastal Trail” written by Bob Lorentzen & the first Executive Director of Coastwalk, Richard Nichols.  The  State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) in consultation with local constituencies, the California Coastal Commission (CCC), and State Parks has recently published a map of completed Coastal Trail segments which shows that the Coastal Trail is about 70% complete.

Finishing the CCT will be a big job.  Signage for such a long and complex trail itself is challenging. More challenging will be to get all of the different jurisdictions, cities, counties, parks, etc., working together on deciding on a specific continuous alignment, setting standards, and getting the trail completed.  Finding routes through or around the gaps will take time, negotiations, and money for acquisition. Trail alignments will also have to account for impacts to our coast such as Sea Level Rise and bluff erosion.  The CCT  will also have to accommodate when possible not only walkers, but others using all sorts of non-motorized transportation as well, will mean that it will take great commitment of many persons inside and outside of government before we can say the trail has been completed.

Fortunately, there is a plan and a mandate to complete the trail.  A resolution, ACR20, passed by the State legislature in 2000, declared that the CCT is an official state trail. It also required that each jurisdiction along the California coast determine an alignment for the Coastal Trail in their Local Coastal Plan.  The Trail received Federal recognition in 2000, too, when responding to Governor Davis’ nomination; the CCT was declared a Millennium Heritage Trail by President Clinton.  Most importantly, in 2001, the Senate passed legislation, SB908, that directed the SCC, aided by other State agencies  to determine what was needed to complete the CCT. The “Completing the California Coastal Trail” Report-two years in the making-is a 60-page report that set objectives, listed priorities, provided maps and estimated costs for the completion of the CCT.  Coastwalk/CCTA played an important role in the report’s generation with the Conservancy, Coastal Commission and California State Parks.  In this process, segments of the trail were graded as adequate (or better) or needs substantial improvement (or worse).  These maps were then further reviewed by the Working Group and regionally knowledgeable ad hoc volunteers, and finally field checked by Coastwalk/CCTA volunteers up and down the state.

Coastwalk/CCTA has also created a hiker friendly digital ArcGIS map of the California Coastal Trail (this website) based upon the maps in  “Hiking the California Coastal Trail”  in addition to routes taken by Coastwalk sponsored thru hikes in 2003 & 2016 as well as logistics provided by volunteers and Walk Leaders during years of Coastwalk’s along the California Coastal Trail.

The CCT is well underway to completion and its completion gains renewed impetus through supporting legislation and the efforts of local coastal trail advocates in partnership with local officials.