Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
- Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
- Length61 miles
Welcome to one of the most intimate and untamed trans-Sierra routes — the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway. Jutting up from the heart of the Sierra Nevada with Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park as its neighbors, the byway is a 61-mile stretch of Highways 4 and 89, in between the towns of Arnold in Calaveras County and Markleeville in Alpine County, California.
Story of the Byway
Unlike any other Sierra pass, it is silver that built Ebbetts Pass. With the discovery of gold on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, Native American trails were transformed into dirt roads by fortune seekers heading west. In 1861 the route reversed direction and became a booming toll road transporting silver miners to the east side Comstock Lode. Calaveras Big Trees was also a main attraction early on and continues to be one of California’s most sought out destinations. Ebbetts Pass, first surveyed in the 1850s as a possible railroad crossing for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company, is one of the oldest trans-Sierra routes with many rich stories. The national conservation movement gained strength when John Muir visited Big Trees, and became outraged after witnessing the stump of a behemoth Giant Sequoia that had been felled and its bark stripped and taken on a tour as a traveling exhibit.
Ebbetts Pass was designated as a California State Scenic Highway in 1971 and was honored with National Scenic Byway status September 22, 2005.
We invite you to Slow down and savor the Sierra!
The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway, a 61 mile stretch of California State Highways 4 and 89, is one of the last remaining wild trans-Sierra passes. The route winds through breathtaking mountain, valley, and forest scenery provides access to outdoor recreation areas as it crosses the Sierra. Anchored by a State Park at either end, it traverses two national forests and two Wilderness areas. A two lane paved highway at either end, the road becomes a steep, curvy, single lane ribbon of asphalt at the higher elevations, a portion of which is closed to traffic during winter months.
Points of Interest
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
The Park is home to groves of Giant Sequoias and spectacular Dogwoods and provides access to the Stanislaus River.
Sourgrass Recreation Area
The recreation area provides camping, picnic facilities and access to offroading trails right on the banks of a particularly wild & scenic piece of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River.
The meadow contains a large Forest Service campground and a large grove of mature aspens.
The reservoir provides water access to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and is a favorite of experienced kayakers.
Bear Valley Village & Ski Resort
Located above 7000', the village is a great base camp for year round outdoor activities.
The Stanislaus Meadow trail winds through the meadow, forest, and over granite providing a spectacular wildflower show.
Home of the much photographed cabins on the granite boulders and a popular fishing location.
Ebbetts Pass, the Pacific Crest Trailhead, & Kinney Reservoir
Ebbetts Pass, the Pacific Crest Trailhead, & Kinney Reservoir are all located near one another at about 8,700' with parking at the trailhead.
Silver Mountain City
Founded in the 1860s after a silver strike, it became the county seat for a time and is now an historic site.
Another silver mining boom area that is now known for the spectacular fall color of the aspen trees.
Markleeville & Grover Hot Springs State Park
A unique town on the East Fork of the Carson River with a museum and State Park featuring natural hot springs.
Hell's Kitchen Vista
This pull out area provides an opportunity for photographs and a chance to stretch your legs or do a little bouldering.
This is the first west to east viewpoint of the glaciated canyon of the North Fork of the Stanislaus River with granite outcroppings, a conifer forest and views of the mountains.
Cape Horn Vista
Enjoy expansive views of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, Union, Utica and Spicer Reservoirs and the Dardanelles beyond.
East Fork of the Carson River
Named for Kit Carson, the Wildlife Pullout is a scenic stop where you are likely to see bald eagles, river otters, and is a popular catch & release fishing location.
The Road That Silver Built
Begin at Highway 4 in Arnold, California. Allow 2 hours to drive the byway and 5 hours to explore. Pack a lunch and snacks. This byway will take you past rugged granite boulders and forests with groves of pine, cedar, oak, and Giant Sequoias. The route travels northeasterly through the Stanislaus National Forest. Stop in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park to see the Giant Sequoias up close. Stop in Sourgrass Recreation Area to hike the river shore trails or try fly fishing. Hope you brought a camera for the scenic views from Hell’s Kitchen Vista. Big Meadow offers wildlife viewing, picnicking, and has a campground. Spicer Reservoir offers fishing, hiking, camping, and horseback riding. Check out the resorts, like Bear Valley Village and Ski resort, along the way. The trail at Stanislaus Meadow will lead you to Mosquito Lake for more camping and horseback riding opportunities.
There are many vista pull-offs to choose from to admire the views and watch wildlife, including bald eagles. After going through Ebbetts Pass and traveling past a few more campgrounds, turn onto Highway 89 and continue to Markleeville where the byway ends. While in the Markleeville area, check out the Grover Hot Springs Park to the west on Hot Springs Road. Take a dip in the swimming pool fed by the area’s natural hot springs. Note that parts of this byway are closed in winter and there are limited take-out restaurants and lodging options in Markleeville.
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