The Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway is one of the most scenic drives across California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Anchored at either end by two State Parks – Calaveras Big Trees and Grover Hot Springs – and passing through the Stanislaus and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests, visitors have the opportunity to witness and explore this rugged landscape that was home to the native peoples of the area and to pioneer emigrants alike.
The byway ranges in elevation from approximately 3000' to 8500.' Expansive views of granite outcrops, basalt columns, ancient volcanic peaks, deep river canyons, glacially carved valleys, majestic stands of conifers including giant sequoias, open meadows, clear mountain lakes, and swiftly flowing streams and rivers can all be experienced along the route. One can find historic relics of people who lived here before as well as present day resorts and recreation facilities.
Whether you're choosing an alternate route over the Sierra, planning to hike or camp in the high country, or searching out a great new fishing spot, the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway offers plenty of adventure and solitude.
Ebbetts Pass, named after Major John Ebbetts, (el. 8,730 ft/2,660 m) is a high mountain pass through the Sierra Nevada range in Alpine County, California. Ebbetts is the eastern of two passes in the area traversed by State Route 4. The western pass is the Pacific Grade Summit (el 8,050 ft/2,450 m). The pass is registered as California Historical Landmark #318. The Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile (4,260 km) long National Scenic Trail crosses State Route 4 at Ebbetts Pass.
The high-country segment of Highway 4 between Lake Alpine and Silver Creek is closed during the winter months (approximately mid-November to May). Several Sno-Parks (seasonal parking areas with access to groomed snowmobiling trails, snow play areas and winter recreation trailheads), two State Parks with year roundrecreational opportunities, two ski resorts – one alpine, one Nordic - and an extensive trail system encourage continued winter season use along much of the route. The highway reopens in the spring after snowmelt, normally by Memorial Day, but sometimes as early as April or as late as July depending on snow conditions.
Today, Ebbetts Pass is one of the least traveled passes in the Sierra Nevada. An extensive section of highway over the pass is less than two lanes with no dividing line. It has very steep sections with hairpin corners. The eastern slope is particularly difficult, as many of the hairpin corners are blind, and steepen suddenly at the apex, making it necessary to shift to first gear in most vehicles. It is rarely used by commercial traffic and is not recommended for vehicles towing long trailers.
Compared to the high-speed trans-Sierra routes such as Highways 50 and 80, driving the Ebbetts Pass is a truly unique and unparalleled experience. At both ends of the byway (between Arnold and Lake Alpine to the west and between Markleeville and Silver Creek to the east), the road is a modern, full-width, two-lane State Highway that is maintained for year-round travel, with a double yellow center line, shoulders and passing lanes. Visitors travel through seemingly endless miles of pristine scenery, interjected only occasionally by welcoming communities. However, in the middle portion between Lake Alpine and Silver Creek, the road and the travel experience changes dramatically, becoming a narrow two-lane road with no center line and no shoulders as it slowly winds its way up and over the Sierra crest. This part of the byway contains some steep, narrow and curvy portions with a few precipitous drop-offs. The route is recommended for cars and motorcycles, but is not accessible to tractor-trailers, buses or large recreational
• Keep your eyes on the road at all times.
• Do not pull off the road or park except at designated pullouts.
• Do not attempt to pass other vehicles except in designated passing lanes.
• No services (gas, food, and lodging) are available between Lake Alpine.
• Your cell phones will likely not have service over much of the pass.
• Pay attention to weather reports and carry chains, blankets, warm clothes, water and snacks in case of a winter snowstorm, which can happen as early as September and as late as June.
• Please respect the road, the wildlife, the wilderness, and the people sharing the Ebbetts Pass experience with you.
• Tread lightly and pack out everything you pack in.
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