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The Tahoe National Forest recently approved the East Zone Connectivity Project, a landmark decision that opens 35 miles of existing non-motorized trails to Class 1 E-bikes in and near Truckee, California. This is the first time E-bikes have achieved an official designation for use on non-motorized US Forest Service trails in the Pacific Southwest Region and marks a historic win for accessibility in the Truckee-Tahoe region.
“Opening non-motorized trails to Class 1 E-bikes provides more diverse recreation opportunities and this, according to Jonathan Cook-Fisher, District Ranger, is one of the key missions of the Truckee Ranger District.”
Not all E-bikes are allowed on the newly designated trails, which is why it’s important to know how each is classified in California. Class 1 E-bikes have no throttle and are pedal-assisted only, with a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. Class 2 E-bikes have a throttle and max assisted speed of 20 mph. Class 3 E-bikes are pedal-assisted only, with a max assisted speed of 28 mph. In their studies, the Tahoe National Forest found the on-trail advantages of a Class 1 E-bike over a standard mountain bike to be minimal, whereas permitting them on designated trails enhanced user accessibility.
“This first-ever official approval of E-bikes on designated Tahoe National Forest trails improves access for everyone of all abilities and ages, which at the same time requires user education on how to recreate responsibly, which we will be supporting the USFS with this summer,” said Colleen Dalton, CEO of Visit Truckee-Tahoe. “E-Bike rentals are also readily available at Truckee sports shops and have become very popular.”
Non-motorized trails that are now open to Class 1 E-bikes include the popular Emigrant Trail, Big Chief Trail, Sawtooth Trail, and the Jackass Ridge Trails (rename pending), 35 miles in total. While still early in the East Zone Connectivity Project, the Tahoe National Forest plans to release maps of all E-bike designated trails and provide detailed information on planned trail/trailhead improvements on their website soon.
In addition to the 35 miles of non-motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest, Town of Truckee allows all three classes of E-bikes on 22 miles of scenic paved paths*, bringing the total to 57 miles of paved and dirt trails open for riding. View an interactive map of Town of Truckee multi-use paved trails and bike paths.
Cook-Fisher hopes this decision will help move the conversation surrounding E-bikes forward in terms of clearly addressing recreation needs on a local, county, and regional level. Other organizations have begun discussions, as noted in the Tahoe Donner membership outreach initiative about a spectrum of possible outcomes for E-bikes on the trail system.
The scope of the East Zone Connectivity Project extends beyond E-bike access into trail construction, restoration, and improvement. Highlights include:
- The designation of 35 miles of existing (already completed) non-motorized trail to Class 1 E-bikes.
- The construction of 70 miles of new motorized single track.
- The restoration of 41 miles of user-created OHV trail through sensitive areas.
- The construction of new trailheads and staging areas.
Trail work will begin this summer with a completion date based on funding but anticipated to take several years. Following on the heels of the East Zone Connectivity Project, the Tahoe National Forest has submitted a variety of projects to the Great American Outdoors Act. These projects will address campground and facility needs, improve signage and wayfinding, and improve trailheads. Visitors can expect visible improvements around 2022.