Skip to main content

Lake Tahoe Circle Tour Part 3; US Route 50 and Cave Rock

Following completing California State Route 28 and Nevada State Route 28 I turned west on US 50 towards the California State line along the east shore of Lake Tahoe.


This blog post is the third in the Lake Tahoe Circle Tour Series.  The first two entries in this series can be found below.

Lake Tahoe Circle Tour Part 1; CA 89, former CA 188, Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay State Park, and the Truckee River

Lake Tahoe Circle Tour Part 2; CA 28 and NV 28

US Route 50 from Carson City west to California State Line largely follows the previous paths of the Walton Toll Road and Lake Tahoe Toll Road.  The Walton Toll Road was opened 1862 and followed Kings Canyon westward over Spooner Summit to the saw mills of Glenbrook on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.  In 1863 the Lake Bigler Toll Road Company bought out the Walton Toll Road and consolidated it with the Lake Tahoe Road to the south which at the time took the Kingsbury Grade to Carson City.  Connecting the Walton Toll Road with the Lake Tahoe Road required building a one-lane trestle bridge around the western edge of the Washoe Scared Site known as Cave Rock.  There had a previous primitive road around Cave Rock as early as the 1840s.

On a previous blog I wrote about the Cave Rock trestle bridge and it's tunnel replacement from 1931:

"The Cave Rock Tunnel is a dual-bore tunnel through a rock formation of the same name.  The Cave Rock Tunnel was intended as a replacement of the original alignment of US 50 which was routed on the South Branch of the Lincoln Highway.  Prior to the Cave Rock Tunnel being built traffic had to use a one-lane swing bridge located on the edge of Cave Rock which dated back to 1863.  Ruins of the bridge abutment are still present on the western section of Cave Rock overlooking Lake Tahoe.

The 1931 Cave Rock Tunnel bore is 157 feet in length and presently serves US 50 West traffic.  The eastbound Cave Rock Tunnel much longer at 410 feet in length and was completed in 1957.  When I arrived at Cave Rock in 2016 the 1931 bore was under going a seismic retrofit which included a concrete liner and a rock shed on the end of the tunnel.

The link below shows a photo of the original Cave Rock alignment of US 50 next to the 1931 bore.

http://www.cityconcierge.com/lake-tahoe/activities/cave-rock.asp

I was provided with a link by NE2 on AAroads for the book; Cave Rock: Climbers, Courts, and a Washoe Indian Scared Place which shows the Cave Rock Trestle Bridge.

Cave Rock, Climbers, Courts, and a Washoe Indian Scared Place"

Much of the Walton Toll Road still exists north of the current US Route 50 from Carson City west to Glenbrook on:

-  King Street in Carson City.
-  Kings Canyon Road to Spooner Summit.
-  Old Highway 50 to Glenbrook

The consolidated Walton Toll Road and Lake Tahoe Toll Road from Carson City west to the California State Line around Cave Rock can be viewed on this 1873 Topographical Map of the Lake Tahoe area.

1873 Lake Tahoe Topographical Map 

In 1913 the Walton Toll Road and Lake Tahoe Toll Road became part of the south route of the Lincoln Highway.  By 1926 US Route 50 was assigned to the south route of the Lincoln Highway which was over the Walton Toll Road and Tahoe Toll Road as seen on this 1927 Nevada State Highway Map.

1927 Nevada State Highway Map

By 1929 it appears that much of the Kings Canyon Road grade to Spooner Summit was replaced by a more modern routing to the south which US 50 was assigned.

1929 Nevada State Highway Map

From the terminus of NV 28 I turned west on US 50 towards the California State Line.



Glenbrook is signed as being only 3 miles west of NV 28 on US 50.  Glenbrook is the oldest settlement on Lake Tahoe having been settled in 1860.  The first sawmill in Glenbrook opened a year later which serviced the Comstock Lode towns to the east with a supply of lumber.


US 50 is the only highway circling Lake Tahoe which is entirely four lanes.  For the most part US 50 on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe is a high quality expressway.



Approaching Cave Rock US 50 crosses through the community of Galilee.


At the Logan Shoals Vista Point Cave Rock can be observed from the north and there is a small historical plaque detailing the history of Cave Rock.  Cave Rock is weathered volcanic core that has origins dating back 3 million years ago.





Cave Rock was recently renovated was concrete liners which can be seen driving the tunnel bores.



South of Cave Rock there is a turn off for Cave Rock Drive which serves as access to the Cave Rock Trail.



The Cave Rock trail is a short trail which heads to the top of Cave Rock.  The grades to the top Cave Rock are easy until the very end.  I thought the top of Cave Rock was passable by my significant other was a little nervous about me making an attempt in running shoes.  Nonetheless the views of US 50 below Cave Rock were worth the trip.











Descending Cave Rock Drive offers a nice northward view of US 50 through Cave Rock.


NV 207 is listed 3 miles west on US 50 near Cave Rock Drive and State Line is shown as 4 miles away.



NV 207 ascends over the Kingsbury Grade eastward to NV 206 in Mottsville.



Prior to the 1976 Nevada State Highway renumbering NV 207 was part of NV 19 which appears first on the 1929 State Highway Map.

1929 Nevada State Highway Map

US 50 in Nevada as signed as part of two historic trails; The Pony Express and California Trail.  Both shields below are evident upon entering State Line.


US 50 enters California at South Lake Tahoe of El Dorado County at State Line Avenue to very little fanfare.


US 50 along the south shore of Lake Tahoe to California State Route 89 is known as Lake Tahoe Boulevard.  Lake Tahoe Boulevard and US 50 west to Placerville follows the general path of a route surveyed in 1852 over Johnson Pass.  This route became the Lake Tahoe Road in 1858 and was a franchise toll facility.  The Lake Tahoe Road was the first State Highway authorized in California which was Chapter 128 of the Legislative Minutes in 1895.  The Lake Tahoe Road eventually became a part of Legislative Route Number 11.

CAhighways.org on Early State Highways

CAhighways.org on LRN 11

South Lake Tahoe is by far the largest community along Lake Tahoe with an approximate population of 21,000.  There are some fantastic views of Lake Tahoe from the south shore looking northward.


Modern US 50 generally takes 70-80 minutes to cross the Sierras to Placerville.  The original routing of US 50 and CA 89 would have continued on Lake Tahoe Boulevard ahead of the photos below.




I previously wrote about US 50 over Echo Summit and the previous alignment history over Johnson Pass which can be found here.

US Route 50 over Echo Summit

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thank you for the gorgeous article. Cave Rock was a Washoe SACRED site not a scared site as stated.

Popular posts from this blog

Onion Valley Road; former California State Route 180 to Kearsarge Pass

This summer I had an opportunity to drive one of the lesser known great roads of California; Onion Valley Road from Independence west to Onion Valley near Kearsarge Pass.  Aside from being massive climb into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains the path of Onion Valley Road was once signed as California State Route 180 and was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway.


Onion Valley Road is located west of Independence of Inyo County and is 12.9 miles in length.  According to pjammcycling.com Onion Valley Road begins at an elevation of 3,946 feet above sea level in Independence and terminates at 9,219 feet above sea level at Onion Valley.  Pjammcycling rates Onion Valley Road with an average gradient of 7.8% and lists it as the 6th most difficult cycling climb in the United States.  Onion Valley Road also includes ten switchbacks which largely follow the course of Independence Creek.  Anyway you look at it the route of Onion Valley Road is no joke and is definitely a test of driving…

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 which coincided with a warm weekend in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  That being the case the winder in the weather 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 would later return to Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass during the smoke filled summer of 2020. 

California State Route 4 ("CA 4") contains probably most infamous Trans-Sierra State Highway in Caltrans Inventory.  CA 4 from CA 207 in Bear Valley east over Pacific Grade Summit and Ebbetts Pass includes approximately 30 miles of one-lane highway which reaches gradients as steep as 24%. 
CA 4 is a 192 mile State Highway which originates at I-80 near Hercules of the San Francisco Bay Area and terminates at CA 89 in the remote Sierra Nevada Mountains of Alpine County.  CA 4 is probably the most diverse State Highway in California as it has; several freeway segme…

Horseshoe Meadows Road; former California State Route 190 and the legacy of the Lone Pine-Porterville HIgh Sierra Road

This summer I had an opportunity to drive one of the lesser known great roads of California; Horseshoe Meadows Road from Whitney Portal Road westward into Horseshoe Meadows of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Aside from being massive climb into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains the path of Horseshoe Meadows Road was once part of California State Route 190 and was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway known as the Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road.


Horseshoe Meadows Road is located west of Lone Pine of Inyo County and is 19.7 miles in length.  Horseshoe Meadows Road begins at an approximate elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal Road in the Alabama Hills and ends at an elevation of 10,072 feet above sea level in Horseshoe Meadows.  Horseshoe Meadows Road is the second highest paved road in California only behind Rock Creek Road near Tom's Place.  Pjammcycling rates Horseshoe Meadows Road with an average gradient of 6.2% and lists it as th…