Skip to main content

Trans-Sierra Highway Passes; Sherman Pass Road and Signed County Route J41




Probably the most unique Trans-Sierra Highway Pass I encountered in 2016 was the only one that isn't a State Maintained Roadway; Sherman Pass Road and Signed County Route J41.

Getting to Sherman Pass Road requires traveling deep in to Sequoia National Forest.  From the western Sierras the easiest routes are from California State Route 190 or from Signed County Route J22 east of CA 99.  When I was on my way to Sherman Pass I ended up taking J22 in Tulare County from CA 99 east on Sierra Avenue and Avenue 56 to Fountain Springs.  In Fountain Springs J22 has an eastern terminus but the road continues into Sequoia National Forest and through California Hot Springs as Mountain Route 56.


California Hot Springs essentially is a ghost town located at 3,081 feet above sea level.  California Hot Springs opened up 1882 as a health resort which grew into a small community with a shopping center.  The California Hot Springs Resort burned down in 1932 followed by the shopping center in 1968.  The last census I could find showed only 37 people living in California Hot Springs as of 2010.

Regarding CR J22 it is an approximately 32 mile Signed County Route running east from Alpaugh near the Tulare Lake Bed to Fountain Springs in the Sierra Foothills.  According to CAhighways.org CR J22 was designated in 1968.  CR J22 was part of the Legislative Route Number 135 near Alpaugh to Ducor until at least 1953.  Most of LRN 135 would later would be incorporated into CA 43.

CAhighways.org on Signed County Route J22

1953 State Highway Map

CAhighways.org on LRN 135

Just east of California Hot Springs Mountain Route 56 takes a southern jog towards Pine Flat whereas Mountain Route 50 heads towards northweast towards Johnsondale over Parker Pass.  From California Hot Springs it is approximately 20 miles northeast to Johnsondale.



Mountain Route 50 is a winding road that ascends to Parker Pass roughly at 6,000 feet above sea level.  There are several nice make-shift vistas just off to the shoulder.



Mountain Route 50 has a junction with Mountain Route 107.  Mountain Route 107 continues northward as the Great Western Divide Highway to the western segment of CA 190.  Mountain Route 50 continues east towards Johnsondale.



East of Mountain Route 107 Johnsondale and the Kern River Fault can be seen from Mountain Route 50.


Mountain Route 50 ends in Johnsondale and the road continues east towards Sherman Pass Road as Mountain Route 99.  Johnsondale is located at approximately 4,700 feet above sea level.


Johnsondale was opened up in 1935 by the Mount Whitney Lumber Company which is likely how Mountain Route 50 and Mountain Route 107 were constructed.  At the time what is now Mountain Route 99 existed east of the Kern River where it terminated in Road's End.  In 1937 a bridge was built over the Kern River to facilitate easier access to Johnsondale via the Kern River Fault.  Johnsondale's first sawmill burnt down in 1943 but lumber operations continued until 1979.   Johnsondale was abandoned until it was purchased in by Great Western Ranches in 1984.

East of Johnsondale Mountain Route 99 continues eastward and descends into the Kern River Fault and to the Kern River.





At the Kern River the above mentioned 1937 bridge over the Kern River sits as a walking path next to the replacement span which was built in 1983.  The Kern River is located at approximately 4,000 feet above sea level where it meets Mountain Route 99.







Immediately east of the Kern River Mountain Route 99 meets Sherman Pass Road.  US Route 395 is signed a lengthy 67 miles to the east in the Mojave Desert.


Sherman Pass Road is maintained by Sequoia National Forest and carries the designation of Forest Route 22S05.  Sherman Pass Road climbs a huge uphill grade consisting of numerous switchbacks out of the Kern River Fault.  Surprisingly Sherman Pass Road in the Kern River Fault is very well maintained as likely doesn't have any points where the grade exceeds 10%.  The views ascending out of the Kern River Canyon are breath taking and wide.





Near the top of the uphill grade there is a pull-off which has a snow plow presumably waiting on stand-by for wintery weather.  There is another vista looking southward towards the Kern River.



Sherman Pass Road ascends to the 9,200 foot Sherman Pass.  Sherman Pass is the third highest highway pass in California after CA 120 at the Tioga Pass Entrance Station and CA 108 at Sonora Pass.  Sherman Pass has an overlook of Mount Whitney the tallest mountain in the continental United States at 14,505 feet approximately 40 miles to the north.



From the Mount Whitney overlook Sherman Pass Road descends onto the Kern Plateau.  Sherman Pass Road on the Kern Plateau isn't very challenging aside from rockfall but has access to numerous hiking trails.  The older Sequoia National Forest road signage is nice to look at.


Sherman Pass Road descends the Kern Plateau to Kennedy Meadow roughly located at 6,214 feet above sea level.


Sherman Pass Road crosses the South Fork Kern River on a bridge that was constructed in 1960 where it exits Sequoia National Forest.





Kennedy Meadows has a small community by the same name which is the most eastern inhabited place in Tulare County.  Sherman Pass Road ends in Kennedy Meadow and continues as Signed County Route J41 on Nine Mile Canyon Road.


CR J41 much like the majority of Signed County Routes in Tulare County is no longer signed.  CR J41 ascends to approximately 7,300 feet where it crosses into Inyo County before plunging into Nine Mile Canyon.  CR J41 on Nine Mile Canyon Road has a massive 14-16% downhill grade which dumps into the Mojave Desert at approximately 3,500 feet.  CR J41 follows a Los Angeles Aqueduct Pipeline from the descending Nine Mile Canyon.  I found myself using a lot of 1st and 2nd gear descending through Nine Mile Canyon, the road is actually pretty intimidating when it bottlenecks to a single lane pushing against a guardrail. 








CR J41 ends at US 395 near Pearsonville.


Truth be told, I'm not 100% certain when Sherman Pass Road was built but I can confirm it is by far the newest Trans-Sierra Highway Pass in California.  Comparing topographical maps on historicaerials shows that Sherman Pass Road appears at some point between 1974 and 1987.  My suspicion is that Sherman Pass Road was likely completed in the 1970s given that CR J41 was designated on Nine Mile Canyon Road in 1974.

CAhighways.org on CR J41



Comments

Anonymous said…
You've done an excellent job of revealing some distant places that link to the somewhat long ago past.... Who knows what the people hiding out/living in the little hamlets that you portray are up to, far beyond our metropolitan madding crowds... It's interesting to discover that the Sherman Pass is paved, also.
Paul Fuller said…
Your estimate of the time of construction of the Sherman Pass road is pretty good. The first time I used that route, probably in the late 60's or early 70's, was on a motorcycle. There was only a choice of a very rough, rocky, jeep trail or a foot trail over the summit. I happily chose the foot trail. A few years later, the paved road was constructed. I really enjoy all of your posts on the highways and was pleased to see some of the side roads that are seldom mentioned elsewhere.

Popular posts from this blog

Yes, the color of your nearby fire hydrant matters...

...and here's why. You will find White, Red, Yellow and Violet colored fire hydrants pretty much everywhere.  But there's a reason for this - and it's because of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).  This association has issued guidelines for color coding standards for fire hydrants.  These color codes from the body of the hydrant, top of the hydrant, and in some municipalities the outlet caps are designed to allow fire fighters to know what type of system, water flow rate (Gallons Per Minute or GPM), and level of water pressure.  This guideline is known as NFPA 291 and is intended to be used universally throughout the United States. The NFPA guidelines are specific to the body and the top cap of the hydrant.  If a hydrant is WHITE or YELLOW - it means that it is connected to a public/municipal water system.  If a hydrant is RED - the hydrant is connected to a private system, typically a well.  These are most common in rural or unincorporated areas

Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway (in the making since 1947)

On September 15, 2022, the Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway opened in the city of Modesto from California State Route 99 west to North Dakota Avenue.  Phase 1 of the California State Route 132 West Expressway was built upon a corridor which was tentatively to designated to become the branching point for Interstate 5W in the 1947 concept of the Interstate Highway System.  The present California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor was adopted by the California Highway Commission on June 20, 1956.  Despite almost being rescinded during the 1970s the concept of the California State Route 132 West Expressway corridor lingered on for over half a century and became likely the oldest undeveloped right-of-way owned by California Transportation Commission.  Pictured above is the planned California State Route 132 freeway west of US Route 99 in Modesto as featured in the May/June 1962 California Highways & Public Works.   The history of the California State Route

Aptos Creek Road to the Loma Prieta ghost town site

Aptos Creek Road is a roadway in Santa Cruz County, California which connects the community of Aptos north to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parks.  Aptos Creek Road north of Aptos is largely unpaved and is where the town site of Loma Prieta can be located.  Loma Prieta was a sawmill community which operated from 1883-1923 and reached a peak population of approximately three hundred.  Loma Prieta included a railroad which is now occupied by Aptos Creek Road along with a spur to Bridge Creek which now the Loma Prieta Grade Trail.  The site of the Loma Prieta Mill and company town burned in 1942.   Part 1; the history of Aptos Creek Road and the Loma Prieta town site Modern Aptos traces its origin to Mexican Rancho Aptos.  Rancho Aptos was granted by the Mexican Government in 1833 Rafael Castro.  Rancho Aptos took its name from Aptos Creek which coursed through from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Monterey Bay.  Castro initially used Rancho Aptos to raise cattle for their hides.  Following