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Trans-Sierra Highways; California State Route 4 over Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass

Back in late October of 2016 I had a long weekend off and warm spell in the Sierras.  That being the case it gave me a chance to finish some additional Trans-Sierra Highways starting with California State Route 4 over Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass.






I started the morning by driving up to CA 4 via Signed County Routes J59 and E15.  I followed CA 4 east of CA 49 and Angels Camp where it begins to ascend into the High Sierras.  Eventually CA 4 enters Alpine County where it meets CA 207 near the Bear Valley Ski Area.





The junction of CA 4/CA 207 is located at approximately 7,100 feet above sea level and is the end of the two-lane portion of CA 4.  Ahead there is a warning sign indicating the 24% grades located to the east on Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass.  The eastern terminus of CA 4 is roughly 30 miles to the east at CA 89.





CA 4 quickly enters the community of Lake Alpine which is located at approximately 7,300 feet.






East of Lake Alpine CA 4 wides back out to two-lanes for about a mile.  I found this particularly odd and seems to indicate to me that at some point in the past there might have been a push to widen CA 4 to two-lanes much like Sonora Pass on CA 108 to the south..




Near Pacific Grade Summit CA 4 runs alongside Mosquito Lakes.





I actually had to back into the Mosquito Lakes Campground due to a cattle drive.  Apparently cattle were being driven from Hermit Valley to trucks waiting near Bear Valley for the oncoming winter.  Sitting in a campground surrounded by stray cattle wasn't exactly the most fun way to spend a solid half hour.  There was actually traffic following the cattle drive heading westbound, I'm sure that must have been an exercise in misery after ascending Ebbetts Pass.


Pacific Grade Summit is located at approximately 8,050 feet above sea level and is marked by a nice older button-copy BGS.





I should note that CA 4 despite being a single lane is plenty wide at 13-15 feet in width.  The road may be wide enough for two-cars but it does get pretty exciting east of Pacific Summit following the cliffs above Pacific Creek.







This is a vista of Pacific Creek meeting the North Fork Mokelumne River and Hermit Valley from this switchback.



I found myself using mostly 1st gear through the switchbacks descending from Pacific Grade Summit to Hermit Valley.  The road is too windy to carry much speed and 2nd gear had me riding my brakes, essentially it is a slow go unless you have vented brakes.



Hermit Valley is located at 7,060 feet above sea level.





CA 4 follows the North Fork Mokelumne River on a surprisingly gentle grade before splitting towards Ebbetts Pass.  Ebbetts Pass is located at 8,730 feet above sea level.





The Kinney Reservoir is located near Ebbetts Pass which has a nice view of Ebbetts Peak which is 9,160 feet above sea level.






CA 4 follows Kinney Creek where it meets Silver Creek.  From the confluence CA 4 follows the course of Silver Creek towards CA 89.  Before the eastern terminus of CA 4 the highway approaches a large series of switchbacks.  I found the descent through this section of CA 4 to be much more gentle than the descent from Pacific Grade Summit as I was able to use 2nd gear.













Near the eastern terminus of CA 4 Silver Creek empties into the East Fork Carson River.  CA 4 at this point widens back out to a normal two-lane mountain highway.





CA 4 ends at CA 89, from here I turned south to head over Monitor Pass.



Ebbetts Pass is a documented route the Miwok and Washoe tribes used to cross the Sierras.  The 1827 Jedediah Smith expedition likely used Ebbetts Pass to leave California.  John Ebbetts traversed Ebbetts Pass in 1851 and hoped to later survey it for a possible route of a Trans-Continental Railroad.  By 1862 Ebbetts Pass became a tolled wagon route from Markleeville to the mines in the western Sierras.  By 1893 Ebbetts Pass was officially recognized by it's current name.

CA 4 east of Angels Camp and CA 49 was part of Legislative Route 24.  By 1933 LRN 24 was extended over Ebbetts Pass to the Nevada State Line along what is now CA 88 and 89. 

CAhighways.org on LRN 24

Interestingly it appears that before CA 89 over Monitor Pass was built that CA 4 likely extended to the Carson Pass Highway and even the Nevada State Line for a time.  On the 1938 State Highway Map there is no evidence to suggest any other route than CA 4 continued through Markleeville to CA 8, although an implied proposed route over Monitor Pass is observable.

1938 State Highway Map

By 1948 CA 4 appears to have been extended to the Nevada State Line on a multiplex with CA 88.

1948 State Highway Map

By 1953 the extension of LRN 23 over Monitor Pass is shown complete but it is unclear if it was signed as CA 89.  CA 4 is still shown multiplexing CA 89 to the Nevada State Line.

1953 State Highway Map

The 1958 State Highway Map shows CA 89 being signed over Monitor Pass and CA 4 still multiplexing CA 88 to the Nevada State Line.

1958 State Highway Map

CA 4 was cut back to it's current eastern terminus at CA 89 during the 1964 Highway Renumbering.

1963 State Highway Map

1964 State Highway Map

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