The Tahoe Rim Trail, which encircles jewel-like Lake Tahoe, will be honored Saturday as one of the West's great hiking routes.
Appropriately, the announcement of "National Recreation Trail" status for the loop through some of the nation's most dramatic, varied and scenic land comes on a day celebrated as National Trails Day.
Nationally sponsored by the American Hiking Society, the celebration on a stretch of the Rim Trail near Tahoe City has been put together by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the Pacific Crest Trail Association. It marks the first time that the hiking day has been officially celebrated jointly by the two associations.
The celebration will be equal parts enjoyment and work. Hikes will be taken and speeches delivered, and volunteer trail-maintenance crews will clear brush and fallen trees. They also will reroute part of the trail.
Shannon Raborn, associate director of the TRTA, said National Trails Day offers a fine forum to celebrate the National Recreation Trail designation as well as the recent purchase from Sierra Pacific Industries of 629 acres of land through which the trail runs.
The land, purchased for $875,000 with money approved by Congress and conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service, is at Barker Pass on a stretch of trail shared by the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. In total, the two trails share about 50 miles.
"The National Recreational Trail designation came from the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service and is the highest designation that a trail can receive," Raborn said. "It honors outstanding recreational values of the trail system and makes us part of the national trails system."
Angela Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, said the designation is "a big deal."
"We really wanted to celebrate," she said.
Ballard said that because the PCT shares such a significant stretch of trail with the TRT, it is appropriate to have a joint effort to bring attention to the 165-mile loop that rises from an elevation of 6,200 feet to a high of 10,333 feet.
"We definitely want to work together to protect and preserve both trails," said Ballard, who in 2000 hiked the 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada on the PCT, which is designated a National Scenic Trail. "Both are really important parts of the trail network in general."
Ken Miller from Carmichael is a member of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association board and a former vice president for trail use. He has been on trail-maintenance crews and knows the TRT well. He said the TRT, along with providing hikers tremendous views of California and Nevada wilderness, is a well-built and -maintained trail.
"I have a tremendous appreciation for a good trail," Miller said of the trail that was started in 1984 and completed in 2001. "I became aware of the (TRTA's) trail building, and that made an impression. The effort it takes to build a simple trail, using nothing but hand tools for the most part, is amazing."
He said he became accustomed to the relative comfort afforded by the Tahoe Rim Trail -- 24 inches wide and cut at a grade of no more than 7 to 10 percent on ascents and descents -- and considers the West Coast prime hiking territory.
"I was appalled by the condition of parts of the Appalachian Trail," Miller said of the famed path that runs about 2,160 miles from Maine to Georgia. "I got used to the comfort of the trails out West."
He said the scenery and opportunity to experience the mountains, streams, lakes and wildlife along the trail are rewarding. "Plus, it's free to use," he said.
Activities Saturday will begin at the Truckee River Recreation Access parking lot, one of several trailheads along the Tahoe Rim Trail. It is the lowest point on the trail, and the snowmelt has cleared enough of the path to allow the planned hiking and maintenance.
Participants must register in advance, Raborn said. About 100 people are expected to participate.
"There are so many reasons to draw attention to the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail," she said. "The one major benefit is that it allows people access to wild places and the wilderness. It helps people appreciate those places and increase a desire to preserve and enjoy them."
Other sponsors of Saturday's event are the U.S. Forest Service, the Trust for Public Land and the Tahoe City Public Utilities District.
More information is available at tahoerimtrail.org.