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Ebbetts Pass

This pass through the Sierra Nevada Mtns is nothing like its neighbor to the north, Carson Pass - and that is a good thing. Ebbetts Pass is pretty much perfect for cycling, even though it doesn't even have a shoulder. And that can only mean one thing. Traffic is so light that it doesn't need a shoulder. All these curves, dips, switchbacks, humps and swerves would slow any traffic down to bicycling speed anyway. It's hard to believe that this route was once suggested as a railroad pass. Today there is a wide selection of gentle wide routes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that seem perfect for a railroad, but this is definitely not one of them

01.(5530ft,mile00.0)START-END EAST ALTERNATE: creek crossing, immediately east of Markleyville
02(5720ft,mile04.7)START-END EAST: jct Ca89 to Monitor Pass and Ca4 to Ebbetts Pass
03.(8730ft,mile17.9) TOP: Ebbetts Pass
04.(8240ft,mile19.2) jct with Higland Lakes Rd on left
05.(7110ft,mile23.6)low point of Ca4 at crossing over North Fork Mokulumne River
06.(8050ft,mile25.7) TOP: Pacific Grade Summit
07.(7450ft,mile32.7)jct with West Lake Alpine Rd (FR7N17)on left
08.(7110ft,mile35.9)western turnoff to Bear Valley resort
09.(6570ft,mile40.5)jct with Camp Wolfeboro Rd to North Fork Stanislaus River on left
10.(4820ft,mile55.2)START-END WEST: profile turns left onto FR5N02, Boards Crossing Rd in Dorrington
11.(4000ft,mile60.2)START-END WEST ALTERNATE: Stanislaus River North Fork crossing on FR5N02


From West. Ca89 reaches a low point point, where it crosses Markleeville Creek, immediately south of town. Following the east fork of the Carson river, one can see the fishermen at work at the numerous turnouts, while climbing gently. At one point a glimpse of a high peak actually shows the area, where this road is heading. At the jct with the road up Monitor Pass a sign warns of a 24 percent grade ahead. Actually the steepest parts of the road are on the next summit after Ebbetts Pass: Pacific Grade Summit

The dense forest provides relief from the intense summer heat. Then several switchbacks open up views on the drainage below and its varied rock layers, including some soft shales, that also give this landscape also a dry look, in spite of the lush vegetation.

A few steep squiggles in the road squeeze the pavement next to a rock wall. A dome shaped mountain comes into view straight ahead, lined with turrets along the ridge line to the north, much like roof gables on medieval buildings. The road climbs for a while in this rocky landscape, but the summit is in the trees. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses a short distance before the summit of Ebbetts Pass. Here the trailhead parking lot is a small dirt lot, very different than the shopping center style parking lot at the trailhead on Carson Pass.


From East. (described downwards) A short descent leads into Hermit Valley. The road traverses along the forested ridge. The view ahead shows more bread loaf shaped mountains. There is a free campground without water in Hermit Valley and one or two signs that state in a sentence or two, that somebody live here once before.




( < Carson Pass | Pacfic Grade Summit > )
Ebbetts Pass x2 , Pacific Grade Summit x2 :
jct Ca4 - Ca89 <> Ca4 <> Ebbetts Pass <> Hermit's Valley <> Pacific Grade Summit <> turnnaround point at Lake Alpine Camgground: 56.7miles with 6490ft of climbing in 5:21hrs (VDO MC1.0 r2:13.7.1)
Notes: a hot and slow ride, but not as hot as in "Saekruh-Mennow". There it was 104 degrees, 129 in Death Valley on this day



The Fur Trade: In the 1820s fur trappers were the first anglo Americans to explore the northern Rocky Mountains. Today many of their names can be found on historical roadside markers, probably none more often than Jedidiah Smith. But his explorations reached further west than the Rocky Mountains.

Apparently, in an effort to find new hunting grounds, Smiths party followed the Colorado River up its source, and eventually crossed the Mojave dessert into what was Mexican territory at the time. Over the next months Smith's party traveled to the San Gabriel Mission, and then was detained by the governor of Mexico. But after finally being able to leave, they explored the San Joaqium Valley and accumulated 1500 pounds of beaver fur.

The easiest route back east to Salt Lake and the next Rendez-Vous would have been further north, which would also become a route of the Oregon Trail. But Smith did not know about this, and so they ended up crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Ebbetts Pass.

Jedediah Smith would make another arduous journey to California. During that trip he managed to also travel north to the Columbia River and return further north.

Railroads: The head of an exploration Company with the curious name "Knickerbocker Exploration Company" also thought for a short time that this would make a good crossing for the planned transcontinental railroad. Only a year passed, when he returned to the pass and found the territory to be unsuitable. Still, maybe because his name was attached to the pass by the Geological Survey in 1893, this is fact that is on all the roadside markers.

the Goldrush: After California had become the center of the Goldrush starting in 1849, silver was found on the east side of Ebbetts Pass. A local road was built over the pass to connect with the town of Murphys, west of the range.

Modern Roads: It was not until later, that Ebbetts Pass would become an option while travelling across the continent. But the main source of traffic always came and returned to more westerly parts of California. It was the main supply route between mines in Nevada and supplies in California. In 1926 Ebbetts Pass became part of the State Highway System and the first pavement appeared in the 1930s. Portions of today's roadbed are the result of realignment in the 1960s. Luckily there are still plenty of interesting curves and slopes left.

Cycling: Today Ebbetts Pass is on many organized rides, amongst them the Ebbetts Pass Century and the Death Ride.