The Trail

Why is it Called the Johnny Cash Trail?

10/5/2021 | By Johnny Cash Trail| Folsom Prison, Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash Trail

Why is it called the Johnny Cash Trail? This 2.5 mile stretch of beautiful California countryside is set apart from the area’s other biking and hiking trails by its unique place in music history.

The decision to name the trail after the great Man in Black was inspired by Johnny Cash’s legacy here in Folsom, which dates back more than 65 years to 1953, when Cash first decided to pen a song set in Folsom, California.

Discover the incredible story that led to the Johnny Cash Trail.

Why is it Called the Johnny Cash Trail? Cash's Legacy in Folsom, CA

The Johnny Cash Trail was named in honor of Cash's legacy in Folsom, CA.

Any Cash fan can recite all of the lyrics to Folsom Prison Blues. But you may be surprised to know the inspiration for this Folsom-centric song came from Cash's time overseas. Johnny Cash was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force in 1953 when he watched the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison. Cash was moved by the movie to pen the famous "Folsom Prison Blues." By 1955, the song had made it to #4 on the Billboard Country Western chart, and Cash's career took off.

After this, Cash began performing in prisons, appearing at Huntsville State Prison in Texas in 1957, and San Quentin in 1958. This would lead to two live albums recorded in prisons, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and Johnny Cash at San Quentin. But one of the defining moments in Cash's career arose from a performance at the Folsom penitentiary.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison was recorded in January of 1968 before an audience of 1,000 inmates, guards, and reporters. The album featured exclusively prison-related songs, including the famous "Folsom Prison Blues." When the album was released in May of 1968, it quickly went #1 on the Country Western charts, where it stayed for 90 weeks. The album went Gold in 1968 and Triple Platinum in 2003.

The Man in Black was a lifelong advocate for prison reform, and spoke passionately on the subject, calling for a focus on rehabilitation not punishment, counseling for convicts after release, and reclassification of offenses to keep minor offenders out of prison.

Image features the Johnny Cash Trail Overpass Bridge in Folsom, CA.

The Creation of the Johnny Cash Trail

Thanks to the incredible impact of "Folsom Prison Blues" and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, the city will forever be known for its connection with the legendary artist. The Johnny Cash Trail was conceptualized in 2012 as a way to honor the Man in Black's legacy in Folsom, CA.

The first phase of the trail was completed in 2014 when the City of Folsom unveiled the first 1.2-mile segment of the Class I bike trail. The trail was completed during phase two in 2017, when the remaining 1.25-miles was completed, connecting the Folsom Lake Trail to historic Folsom, CA.

Visitors today can enjoy 2.5 miles of trail that wind through the rolling green hills of Northern California, offering cyclists and hikers easy access to the museum at Folsom Prison, Historic Folsom, and Folsom Lake.

An artist’s rendering of the 50-foot Man in Black sculpture, one of eight public art pieces planned for the Johnny Cash Trail.

Creating a Public Art Experience on the Johnny Cash Trail

Fans of the Man in Black will be delighted to know that the best is yet to come on the Johnny Cash Trail. The City of Folsom is currently raising funds to bring eight incredible public art pieces to the trail. One of the pieces is already underway – fabrication on Cash's Pick began in May of 2021.

Once completed, the Johnny Cash Trail's Art Experience is expected to bring new life to Folsom's tourism and economy. Community members can help support the trail by making a donation, purchasing a collectible item, or joining the donor wall.

Support the trail today.