Escaping to the Dragoon Gulch Trail
There are lots of reasons why we’re lucky in the Sierra. One of my favorites is that, unlike our urban brethren, we don’t need to drive an hour or two in order to get to the trailhead of a spectacular hike.
If you live in or near the City of Sonora, a wonderful opportunity awaits your discovery - the Dragoon Gulch Trail. What’s even more exciting is the trail is about to expand!
The story of how the trail came about serves as a model other Foothill communities can emulate. Back in 2002 the city received a $500,000 state grant to purchase 35 acres of oak woodland and develop a trail system. The land, formerly slated for residential development, is blanketed with an eclectic of foothill vegetation - manzanita, bay and scrub oak interspersed with springtime wildflowers and streamside riparian greenery. Visitors are serenaded by a variety of avian inhabitants as the 2.5-mile loop trail meanders alongside the natural creek and gradually climbs to a vista overlooking Sonora and its surrounding mountain ranges. The trail varies in difficulty, making it perfect for both the casual walker and for those who want a strenuous hike or jog. The descent from the vista point takes you through an amazing manzanita ‘cathedral’ leading back down to the creek.
In 2005 the City used grant funds to purchase an adjacent 67 acres. Then, in 2012 the City partnered with Tuolumne County Transportation Council, the Department of Public Health, and local community residents to develop a trail master plan. The plan expands the existing trail system to 10 miles, providing additional outdoor recreational opportunities for mountain bikers, hikers and walkers alike. Auxiliary facilities such as picnic areas, comfort stations, training area for new bicyclists, etc. are also envisioned for the newly acquired parcel. The plan is currently undergoing environmental review and will then be construction ready. Amazingly funds have been identified for the actual construction (California Active Transportation Program – $360 million specifically earmarked for bicycle and pedestrian projects statewide)!
Photo credits: Tyler Summerset, Tuolumne County Transportation Council