Lonely Planet Writer

The Johnny Cash Trail is officially open in Folsom

A two-and-a-half-mile trail honouring Johnny Cash has opened in California that allows cyclists, runners and walkers to conveniently access Folsom’s Historic District and the extensive American River Parkway trail.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, where his iconic live album was recorded in 1968.
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, where his iconic live album was recorded in 1968. Image by Hulton Archive

Unveiled this week during a grand opening ceremony in the City of Folsom, the event marked the completion of phase two of the trail, which includes over one mile of paved track, an under-crossing that tunnels beneath Prison Road at Natoma Street and a beautiful 190-foot wooden arched bridge that provides views of the American River Canyon, Lake Natoma and beyond. The occasion included community runs and bike rides along the trail, and an outdoor festival in Folsom City Lions Park, as well as an open-air dining experience on the new bridge with a menu created by Michelin star chef Duncan Holmes.

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Created to celebrate the world-famous country music star’s impact on the area, the second part of the trail connects an existing route in Digger and Sharon Williams Rodeo Park, and was completed following an investment of $3.23 million provided by federal grants and local transportation funds. The first section of the trail was opened in 2014, along with the Johnny Cash Bridge that spans Folsom Lake Crossing Road. The design of the bridge was based on the look of Folsom Prison’s East Gate guard tower, where a famous photograph of Johnny Cash was taken before one of his concerts.

The Johnny Cash Trail is set to host a public art experience in the future, with eight large public pieces due to be installed along the route, while a three-acre park honouring the Man in Black is also planned. A Johnny Cash Trail Art Experience fundraising effort is underway, and the Folsom Arts Association is accepting contributions in order to complete the park and art installations. Members of the public also have the chance to purchase a plate on the donor wall, located near the bridge overlooking the future site of the Johnny Cash Legacy Park.

The first part of the trail was completed in 2014. Image by FolsomNatural

A range of limited edition framed licence plates that were made by inmates at Folsom State Prison are also available for purchase, with the proceeds of the sales set to fund two seven-foot tall bronze guitar plectrums that will anchor each end of the Johnny Cash Trail.

Cash has become synonymous with Folsom, having famously performed his hit, “Folsom Prison Blues” at the site in 1968 during a live concert recording. As a passionate advocate for prisoner’s rights, he gave numerous performances at prisons all around the country.

More information on the project is available at the official Johnny Cash Trail website.