Sierra Nevada Highways
Move your mouse over the highway names to see them highlighted on the map. Click on the highway names to learn more about each route.
Interstate 80 begins in San Francisco and passes through Sacramento. It enters the Sierra foothills near Auburn. Interstate 80 crests at Donner Summit (7,259). Interstate 80 roughly follows the main emigrant trail to California. Donner Lake, near Donner Summit was the site of the Donner Party tragedy of 1846. Interstate 80 is the main east-west interstate artery in northern California, though it is occasionally briefly closed in winter due to heavy snow.
Highway 50 begins in Sacramento and enters the Sierra foothills near Eldorado Hills. It passes through Placerville and follows the South Fork of the American River. Highway 50 crests at Echo Summit (7,377 ft.). This route was constructed between 1855 and 1858 and was designated the first official state road in 1895. Though technically open year round, Highway 50 is subject to landslides and washouts during extremely heavy rains. A detailed history of US 50 can be found here.
Highway 395 begins near the Cajon Pass and travels north up the east flank of the Sierra Nevada, never actually entering the range.
Highway 4 begins near Pinole at the north end of the San Francisco Bay. It enters the Sierra foothills near Copperopolis and passes through Angels Camp. Calaveras Big Trees State Park is located on Highway 4. Highway 4 crests at Ebbetts Pass (8,730 ft.) and terminates at its intersection with Highway 89 near Markleville. Added to the state highway system in 1909 and has had the official designation as Highway 4 since 1934. The route over Ebbetts Pass is closed in the winter.
Highway 41 begins at Morro Bay on the Pacific coast. It enters the Sierra foothills north of Fresno and is the southern gateway to Yosemite. It passes through Oakhurst and terminates in Yosemite Valley. Added to the state highway system in 1933.
Highway 49 begins in Oakhurst at its junction with Highway 41 and continues north through the Sierra Nevada foothills for 295 miles, terminating at its junction with Highway 70 east of Portola. Highway 49 crests at Yuba Pass (6,701 ft.). Sections of this highway were added to the state highway system in 1909; other sections were not added until 1964.
Highway 58 begins at US Highway 101 in Santa Margarita and passes through Bakersfield. It enters the Sierra foothills near Caliente and crests at Tehachapi Pass (4,065 ft.). Highway 58 terminates at its junction with Interstate 15 at Barstow.
Highway 70 begins in Sacramento and travels north to Oroville, where it turns northeast and enters the Sierra foothills. It follows the North Fork of the Feather River until its junction with Highway 89. It is contiguous with 89 until Blairsden where it turns east. Highway 70 terminates at US Highway 395 at Hallalujah Junction. It crests at Beckworth Pass (5,212 ft.). Constructed in 1934-37.
Highway 88 begins in Stockton and enters the Sierra foothills near Ione. It passes through the town of Jackson and crests at Carson Pass (8,573 ft.) Highway 88 terminates at the Nevada state line. Portions of this road (near Carson Pass) date back to the first wagons over the Sierra in the 840's. But the current route was begun in 1863 as a toll road, sections were added to the state highway system in 1915.
Highway 89 begins near the town of Mt. Shasta and travels southeast for 122 miles. It passes through Lassen Volcanic National Park and runs along the west shore of Lake Tahoe. It terminates at its junction with US Highway 395 near Topaz Lake. Highway 89 crests at Lassen Loop Summit (8,512 ft.) and Monitor Pass (8,314 ft.). Sections of this route were defined in 1909, others in 1933. The Mt. Lassen and Monitor Pass sections are closed in winter.
Highway 108 begins in Modesto. From Oakdale to Yosemite it is contiguous with Highway 120. Highway 108 enters the Sierra foothills near Knights Ferry and passes through the town of Sonora. It crests at Sonora Pass (9,624 ft.), the second highest highway pass in California, and terminates at its junction with US Highway 395 north of Bridgeport. Parts of the original emigrants trail follow current Highway 108. The section over Sonora Pass is closed in the winter.
Highway 120 begins at Interstate 5, west of Manteca and enters the Sierra foothills near Knights Ferry. From Oakdale to Yosemite it is contiguous with Highway 108. Highway is one of the Major routes to Yosemite Valley, but does enter the valley itself. It passes through Tuolumne Meadows and crests at Tioga Pass (9,945 ft.), the highest highway pass in California. Highway 120 terminates at its junction with US Highway 395 at Lee Vining. Sections of this route were part of the old Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite. Sections were added to the state highway system in 1899.
Highway 140 begins at Interstate 5 near Gustine and passes through Merced. It enters the Sierra foothills near Cathey's Valley and passes through the town of Mariposa. Highway 140 terminates in Yosemite Valley.
Highway 178 begins in Bakersfield and follows the route of the Kern River to Lake Isabella. It crests at Walker Pass (5,250 ft.) and terminates in China Lake. A discontiguous section runs through Death Valley.
Highway 180 begins in the middle of nowhere at Interstate 5 and passes through Fresno. It enters the Sierra foothills near Centerville and climbs to the General Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park. It terminates at Road's End in Kings Canyon.
Highway 198 begins at San Lucas at its junction with US Highway 101 and passes through Visalia. It enters the Sierra Foothills near Lemon Cove and climbs rapidly to the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park. It terminates at its junction with State Highway 180. Parts of the route were defined in 1919.
Source information: Some historical information obtained from the California State Highways page