Though Los Angeles is a rare American city with a mountain range running through it, and though it’s home to the country’s largest urban national park, many residents still lack access to green space. A new trail, opening this Saturday through the Santa Monica National Recreation Area, could help change that, reports Gizmodo, particularly if the trail is further expanded in the future, as planned.
The 67-mile Backbone Trail connects many of the Santa Monica range’s peaks and opened this week after 40 years in the making. To make the route a reality, about 180 parcels of land worth more than $100 million had to be turned over to the public. Though the trail is technically a wilderness route, it’s never more than a few miles from the 101 Freeway and the eastern trailhead can be accessed by Los Angeles’ 2 bus. Right now camping options are limited, so people are encouraged to hike it in sections, but ultimately the National Park Service hopes to expand camping options.
The Backbone Trail takes urban greenway efforts — exemplified by high lines, Atlanta’s BeltLine and Houston’s Bayou Greenway — to the next level. The next major step for the trail would be to connect it with over 500 more miles of nearby trails to create a continuous network that would grant millions more Angelenos easy access to the mountain range in their backyards. Gizmodo reports that another vision would extend the Backbone Trail farther eastward, into an even more developed section of the city.
This also isn’t L.A.’s only recent push to expand trail access, and even to redefine what trails can be. The 51-mile Los Angeles River Trail is aiming for completion in 2020. The Emerald Necklace project would connect dozens of parks and trails, including the Santa Monica Mountains, into a comprehensive regional vision for green space. And the city has also worked to develop an interactive urban trail system that utilizes existing city infrastructure and directs people around the city via an app. One trail, the 180-mile Inman 300, utilizes 300 pedestrian staircases and has been called the “world’s first urban through-hike.”
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.