A key conservation easement in the Tehachapi Mountains could be the first step in a big realignment of the Pacific Crest Trail, the hiking route that spans 2,650 wild miles from Mexico to Canada and through the high points of California's Sierra Nevada.
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy reported Tuesday that it received a conservation easement this week in Tejon Ranch for 10,000 acres needed to move the trail 38 miles to the crest of the Tehachapis. The easement protects the area from new roads and buildings.
Hikers would trek through the high-elevation backcountry of the Tehachapis, more than 100 miles north of Los Angeles, rather than the current route through the Mojave Desert along the California Aqueduct.
"The trail will be more than 2,500 feet higher than where it currently runs," the conservancy's executive director Tom Maloney says.
The planned rerouting is in keeping with the original 1930s vision for the trail, which was completed in 1969.
The easement was given by Tejon Ranch Co., a working cattle ranch. It's part of a 2008 landmark agreement that prevents future development on much of the 270,000-acre ranch in Los Angeles and Kern counties.
But it's not a change that will happen any time soon. "It will be many more years before we are able to break ground on the first steps of the new trail," the Pacific Crest Trail Assn.'s website says. "The project will include off-trail campsites and access to critical water sources."
However, with the easement in place, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can begin the process of getting permits for the trail, Maloney said. And private lands would need to be considered to connect the current trail to the rerouted section.
Still the action moves the plan forward. "This is a really tangible step," Maloney said. "It really helps demonstrate that the commitments are real."