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Legend of the Ridge Route; a history of crossing the mountains between the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley from wagon trails to Interstates

Over the past two decades I've crossed the Interstate 5 corridor from Los Angeles north over the Sierra Pelona Mountains and Tehachapi Range to San Joaquin Valley what seems to be an immeasurable number of times.  While Interstate 5 from Castaic Junction to Grapevine via Tejon Pass today is known to most as "The Grapevine" it occupies a corridor traditionally traversed by the Ridge Route.  This article is dedicated to one of the most legendary American Roadways that was ever built.

The Ridge Route is a 44 mile section of highway which was completed in 1915.  The Ridge Route originally stretched from Castaic Junction north over Liebre Summit and Tejon Pass to the tiny community of Grapevine.  In spite of a roadway that once utilized nearly 700 curves the Ridge Route is generally considered far ahead of it's time and one of the first modern highways constructed for automotive use.  The following is a history of transportation along the Ridge Route corridor dating back Spanish Las Californias.

Before I begin, the vintage photos I'm using in this blog aren't my own and mostly were borrowed from  Below are a list of websites that were incredibly helpful in putting this log together.  All of them are as dedicated to preservation of the Ridge Route or other historic highways.

-  A site dedicated to preserving the history of the Ridge Route and the actual roadway itself.

-  California Highways preserves the legislative history of California State Highway system.  The website includes actual legislative references for each State Highway and various other important information as it pertains to highway transportation in California.

-  USends is dedicated to the purpose of documenting the historical endpoints of all the US Routes.  US Ends includes actual map illustrations showing the historical alignments of the US Route system.

Chapter 1; the era of foot trails and wagon roads before the Ridge Route

Before the Ridge Route and American California the landscape of Spanish Las Californias was far different than today.  Europeans living in Las Californias largely occupied communities along the coastline which were for the most part were attached to one of the twenty-one Catholic Missions.  The Missions were stringed together by a road know as the El Camino Real ("The Royal Road") which stretched from Mission San Diego de Alcala in present day San Diego north to Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma in modern day Sonoma.   Los Angeles was no different having been founded in September of 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles in close vicinity to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.  Mission San Gabriel Arcangel itself was founded in 1771.

Given that the Spanish Missions were located along the coast the majority of travel in Las Californias was along the El Camino Real.  Travel into the interior of Las Californias through San Joaquin Valley was a difficult prospect given the lack of civilization and more so the Tule Marshes of; Kern Lake, Buena Vista Lake, Tulare Lake and the San Joaquin River.  That said, travel inland to the San Francisco Bay Area from Los Angeles was desired by some which led to the creation El Camino Viejo ("The Old Road") which was use as early as 1780.

The El Camino Viejo was the first European route from Los Angeles to San Joaquin Valley.  From Los Angeles the El Camino Viejo continued northward into San Fernando Valley and to Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana.  From San Fernando Valley the El Camino Viejo ascended into the Sierra Pelona Mountains.  The El Camino Viejo entered San Francisquito Canyon to San Francisquito Pass where it emptied into Antelope Valley in the western flank of the Mojave Desert near Elizabeth Lake.  Upon entering Antelope Valley the El Camino Viejo turned west along the San Andreas Fault to what is modern day Gorman where it intersected part of what would become the Ridge Route.  Unlike the Ridge Route which turned north into Tejon Pass to reach San Joaquin Valley via Grapevine Canyon the El Camino Viejo continued west into Cuddy Canyon of the San Emigdio Mountains.  The El Camino Viejo continued to follow the San Andreas Fault through Cuddy Canyon before descending into San Joaquin Valley via San Emigdio Creek near the shores of Kern Lake.  The El Camino Viejo continued northward along the western shore of the Tulare Lake watershed following the general path of modern California State Route 33.

The El Camino Viejo continued to serve Las Californias until the Mexican War of Independence.  Las Californias became a Mexican Territory in 1821 and was renamed to Alta California in 1824.  Mexican governance brought further civilization to San Joaquin Valley but it largely remained a remote landscape with few changes to the El Camino Viejo.  Everything would change following the discovery of Gold in Sutter's Mill along the South Fork American River in the Sierra Nevada Range in January of 1848.

In February of 1848 the Treaty of Guadaluple Hidalgo was ratified which ceded Alta California to the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War.  By March news of the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill was published by newspapers in San Francisco.  The New York Herald published their article on the gold discovery in August of 1848 bringing widespread attention to the newly acquired Californian territory.  Later, U.S. President James Polk spoke of the gold discovery in California in December 1848.  By 1849 the California Gold Rush had begun which spurred growth throughout California but specifically the Sierra Nevada Range.  California itself would become a State in 1850.

Although the California Gold Rush was mainly centered around the northern extent of the Sierra Nevada Range it was wasn't long before additional claims were made further south.  By 1853 gold claims were struck along the Kern River which led to the Kern River Gold Rush.  At this point the entirety of the Sierra Nevada Range had become attractive for prospectors looking to make money on the new mining claims.  The El Camino Viejo being routed west of the Tulare Lake watershed was suddenly no longer a viable route for the majority of travelers through San Joaquin Valley.  A new route from Stockton to Los Angeles following the Sierra Nevada Foothills along the eastern edge of San Joaquin Valley which was created known as the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.

Previously I wrote of the entirety of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road which generally followed the California State Route 65 corridor north of the Kern River.  Said blog entry can be found here:

Ghost Town Tuesday; Millerton and the Stockton-Los Angeles Road

Originally the Stockton-Los Angeles Road utilized an established path from San Joaquin Valley south over the 5,285 Old Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains to Antelope Valley.  At the time Old Tejon Pass was simply known as "Tejon Pass" and was an ancient Native American Trail used to traverse the Tehachapi Mountains.  In 1772 by Spanish Explorers surveyed Old Tejon Pass and the route became an established way of reaching eastern San Joaquin Valley.  Old Tejon Pass was later used by the Jedediah Smith expedition of Alta California in 1827.

In 1853 Castac Pass through Grapevine Canyon west of the Old Tejon Pass was surveyed by Robert S. Williamson of the Army Corps of Engineers for a possible path of Transcontinental Railroad.  The 1853 surveying expedition found Castac Pass through Grapevine Canyon to be a far more viable route for travelers and the primary alignment was of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was shifted west from Old Tejon Pass.  Castac Pass had a far lower terminal elevation at 4,144 feet above sea level and had a gentler grade through Grapevine Canyon.  In 1854 a U.S. Army Garrison was established at Fort Tejon in Grapevine Canyon near modern Lebec to protect settlers and travelers along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  In time Castac Pass became known as Fort Tejon Pass and eventually simply Tejon Pass.  Tejon Pass would later become part of the Ridge Route alignment and Interstate 5.

This 1857 Highway Map of California shows all the major routes traversing the mountains between San Fernando Valley and San Joaquin Valley.  I highlighted the Cuddy Canyon alignment of the El Camino Viejo, the path over Old Tejon Pass, and the primary route of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road over Tejon Pass.  The route of the El Camino Viejo and Stockton-Los Angeles Road south of Antelope Valley took an identical path through San Francisquito Canyon to San Fernando Valley.

Travel on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road from San Joaquin to San Fernando Valley was gradually improved over the ensuing decades but the route continued to utilize San Francisquito Canyon.  San Fernando Pass was gradually improved by toll road franchise holders who cut a deep slot for wagons to cross.  The cut in San Fernando Pass was obtained by surveyor Edward Beale in 1863 who deepened it to 90 feet.  The cut in San Fernando Pass would come to be known as Beale's Cut and is still present east of the Sierra Highway and Newhall Pass (the modern name of San Fernando Pass).  This photo (which is actually reversed from the original) dated from 1872 shows wagon being pulled up Beale's Cut by horse.

In San Joaquin Valley much of the route of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was gradually replaced when the Central Pacific Railroad constructed a line along the modern US Route 99 (California State Route 99 in modern times) corridor to Tehachapi Pass.  The advent of the Central Pacific Railroad founded many of the modern communities of San Joaquin Valley and brought flood control measures which helped ebb the wildly varying flood plains of the Tulare Lake watershed.  None of these measures did much to improve the routing of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road between San Joaquin Valley and San Fernando Valley.

Chapter 2; the early State Highway era and the building of the Ridge Route

Through much of the 19th Century the State of California was reluctant to get involved with highway building and maintenance.  Much of the road building infrastructure was granted by the State Legislature to Franchise Toll Road companies.  Typically a Franchise Toll Company would build and maintain roadways for a period of ten years.  The trouble was that at the end of the toll franchise maintenance on roadways was deferred often back to the county level which led to varying standards of maintenance quality.  Such a system was far from adequate for the emergence of the automobile.

In 1895 the State Legislature created the Bureau of Highways.  1895 was also significant year due to Legislature authorizing acquiring the Lake Tahoe Wagon Road to be maintained as the first true State Highway.  Although there was various acts related to highways made by the State Legislature in the ensuing decade the next significant change would be during the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.  The 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was approved by voters in 1910 which added 3,052 miles of roadways to the State Highway system.  One of the routes included in the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was a new 359 mile long State Highway from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  This highway was the genesis point of the Ridge Route and was eventually assigned Legislative Route Number 4 in 1916.

I should note that the legislative history I'm describing has been researched by Daniel Faigin of  A full Chronology of the State Highway system and the applicable legislative acts can be found in chapter format on Chronology of the State Highway System Chapter 1

By 1910 travel between San Fernando Valley to San Joaquin Valley was still made over the routing of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  Such an alignment still required use of Beale's Cut, the rest of the route was not much better as this 1912 view south on LRN 4 towards Grapevine Canyon can attest to.

The first major change to the routing of LRN 4 between San Joaquin Valley and San Fernando Valley was made at Newhall Pass.  By early 1909 just prior to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act the Los Angeles County Highway commission posted a bond for the construction of the Newhall Tunnel to replace Beale's Cut.  The Newhall Tunnel was completed in December of 1910 and would remain in place until Newhall Pass was bored out in 1939.  At the time the Newhall Tunnel was completed LRN 4 used San Fernando Road (Sierra Highway) through the Newhall Tunnel and took a turn northward on Newhall Avenue to Newhall. has a far more detailed article on the Newhall Tunnel which can be found here: on the Newhall Tunnel

As stated above the actual alignment of the Ridge Route was defined as running from Castaic Junction north to Grapevine.  Various alignments for LRN 4 were considered but ultimately most of them were rejected due to concerns over landslides in the canyon grades.  Ultimately a route running along the ridges of the Sierra Pelona Mountains via Liebre Summit to Antelope Valley was chosen which was the ultimate path of the first alignment of the Ridge Route.  Ironically Piru Gorge to the west had been considered which ultimately would later become Ridge Route Alternate.

Construction of the Ridge Route began in 1914 and was one of the first the California Highway Commission.  The Ridge Route was an ambitious project which had a consistent 6-7% grade between Castaic Junction and Grapevine.  The 6-7% grade of the Ridge Route required use of 697 curves throughout the 44 mile alignment.  The unpaved Ridge Route opened in October of 1915 and reduced the expect travel time between Los Angeles to Bakersfield to a 12 hour drive.  What was once a journey that would take several days on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road was now possible in less than one on the Ridge Route.  This 1917 Automobile Club of Southern California map shows the Ridge Route when it was still new between Castaic north to Grapevine.

While the Ridge Route is most often associated with being part of the initial routing of US Route 99 it's first signed route was actually National Part-to-Park Highway.  The National Park-to-Park Highway was an Auto Trail which was signed between the majority of the western National Parks.  The National Park-to-Park Highway can be seen on the Ridge Route on the below 1924 Rand McNally Road Atlas of the western United States.

Paving on the Ridge Route would begin by 1917.  The Ridge route was paved with concrete slabs which were designed to have a long maintenance life and handle the heavy weight of commercial traffic.  The paving of the Ridge Route was delayed by World War 1 was but ultimately was completed by 1921.  Asphalt was added to the Ridge Route between 1922 and 1924 which straightened many of the 697 curves.  Despite the improvements it was clear the Ridge Route was becoming inadequate to handle traffic loads as it was assigned to the routing of US Route 99 of the new US Route system in 1926.  Despite being designated in 1926 the US Routes in California were likely not signed in-field until 1928.

Chapter 3; practicality leads to Ridge Route Alternate through Piru Gorge

US 99/LRN 4 from the south end of the Ridge Route at Castaic through Newhall Pass originally had been routed on; (what is now) Magic Mountain Parkway, Railroad Avenue, Newhall Avenue, and San Fernando Road (Sierra Highway).  In 1931 a new routing of US 99/LRN 4 bypassing Newhall Pass and Newhall to Castaic was constructed through Weldon Canyon on what is now known as The Old Road.  The former alignment of US 99/LRN 4 was reassigned to CA 126/LRN 79 in 1939 and remained in the State Highway system until 2001.

In 1929 a new alignment of the Ridge Route was selected to traverse through Piru Gorge which would shorten the highway by 9.6 miles and bypass most of the 6-7% concrete lined grades on the ridges of the Sierra Pelona Mountains.  This new alignment was known as Ridge Route Alternate and was completed through Piru Gorge to Tejon Pass by late 1933.  The Ridge Route Alternate grade was three-lanes with the center lane (known as a "suicide lane") reserved for passing.  The original alignment of the Ridge Route north from Tejon Pass to Grapevine was bypassed by a similar grade in 1936.  Sometime between 1934 and 1936 the original Ridge Route along the ridge of the Sierra Pelona Mountains was relinquished to Los Angeles County for maintenance.  The first map below shows the planned route of Ridge Route Alternate in 1932 west of the Ridge Route.  The second map shows both the Ridge Route and Ridge Route Alternate under State Maintenance before the former was relinquished.  The third map from 1936 shows Ridge Route Alternate as the only iteration of the Ridge Route under State Maintenance.

Ultimately Ridge Route Alternate was built out to a four-lane expressway grade in the late the 1940s and early 1950s.  Ridge Route Alternate/US 99 despite being a full expressway grade still had numerous at-grade intersections.  As traffic volumes increased in the 1940s it was quickly becoming apparent than even Ridge Route Alternate/US 99 was inadequate due it being the primary route between Los Angeles north to San Joaquin Valley.  The next change in the story of the Ridge Route would come with the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956.

Chapter 4; Interstate 5 over The Grapevine

The Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 authorized the creation of the Interstate Highway System of freeways.  Unlike the US Route system the Interstate Highway System consisted fully of freeway grades (a few substandard sections and surface portions were grand-fathered into the system) which had strict adherence to guidelines pertaining to maximum grade steepness and lane width.  While much of Ridge Route Alternate was ultimately incorporated into Interstate 5 it was clear that the alignment through Piru Gorge had to be replaced.  The 1966 State Highway Map below shows the planned routing of Interstate 5 east of Piru Gorge.

Interstate 5 would be completed from Castaic north to Grapevine by mid-year 1970.  Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a map from 1971 showing the completed I-5.  On the 1970 State Highway Map I-5 is shown on a temporary alignment through Piru Gorge on Ridge Route Alternate just before it's new grade to the east was completed.

Oddly the common terminology used to describe I-5 between Castaic and Grapevine ultimately became "The Grapevine."  Personally I find this somewhat odd considering that the majority of I-5 uses the right-of-way of the original Ridge Route and Ridge Route Alternate.  A common theory on why the route of I-5 became known as "The Grapevine" is a combination of route traversing Grapevine Canyon and the physical shape of the southbound lanes crossing the northbound twice near Castaic resembling an actual vine.  Regardless I-5 from Castaic north to Grapevine retains much of the scenic beauty and engineering wonder from the original Ridge Route in addition to Ridge Route Alternate.

Ridge Route Alternate through Piru Gorge was said to be one of the most beautiful sections of State Highway in California.  Unfortunately most of Ridge Route Alternate in Piru Gorge was flooded over by the Pyramid Dam project which created Pyramid Lake in 1972.  That said, Ridge Route Alternate can still be accessed from the Templin Highway north on Golden State Highway to the foot of the Pyramid Dam.

Chapter 5; Mapping the alignments of the Ridge Route

One of the goals I had in mind for this project was to map out all the alignments of the Ridge Route from 1915 up to modern Interstate 5.  I used USGS maps from and Division of Highways Map scans from the David Rumsey collection to get an accurate placement of the Ridge Route alignments.  The image below notes the map legend with color coding for each Ridge Route alignment.

My map images progress from Newhall Pass northward to Grapevine.  The first map shows original alignment of US 99/LRN 4 over Newhall Pass compared to the later route through Weldon Canyon.  The location of Beale's Cut is marked just east of Newhall Pass. 

The second map shows the original alignment of US 99/LRN 4 on Newhall Avenue and Railroad Avenue through downtown Newhall.  The 1931 alignment of US 99/LRN 4 is shown on The Old Road immediately west of I-5.

The third map shows the convergence point of the 1909/1931 alignments of LRN 4 at the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road just south of the Santa Clara River.  The original intersection was obliterated during the construction of I-5.

This map below shows where Ridge Route Alternate would have met the original Ridge Route alignment in Castaic.  Ridge Route Alternate continued northward on Castaic Road where it merges in with the northbound lane of I-5.  The original alignment of the Ridge Route crossed what is now I-5 on an obliterated alignment.  North of Castaic some of the original Ridge Route alignment can be found on Castaic Lake Drive.  The southbound lanes of I-5 can be seen crossing back over to the proper position at Castaic Road.

This map shows the southbound lanes of I-5 crossing over the northbound and following just to the east.  The northbound lanes of I-5 were built over Ridge Route Alternate.  The original Ridge Route is just above the southbound lanes of I-5 to the east.

On the map below the original Ridge Route can be observed entering Angeles National Forest.  The original Ridge Route in Angeles National Forest carries the designation of Forest Route 8N04.  Ridge Route Alternate branches off from the alignment of I-5 at Templin Highway and continues northward towards Piru Gorge.

On the map below I-5 is shown on a new alignment which differs from Ridge Route Alternate.  Ridge Route Alternate still can be hiked to the foot of the Pyramid Dam in Piru Gorge.  The original Ridge Route traverses through Swede's Cut which was the deepest excavation point on the first alignment of the highway.

The map below shows where Ridge Route Alternate would have been located below the waters of Pyramid Lake.  I-5 lies directly east of Ridge Route alternate on more suitable terrain for an Interstate.  The original Ridge Route is on far higher terrain which was easier to maintain in the early 20th century.

On the map below Ridge Route Alternate can be seen converging with the southbound lanes of I-5.  The original Ridge Route passes through a National Forest gate near the ruins of the Tumble Inn which has generally been closed this past decade.

On the map below I-5 is shown meeting California State Route 138.  The original Ridge Route continued north over Liebre Summit which was the high point on the alignment at 4,233 feet above sea level.  Near the ruins of the Sandberg Summit Inn the original Ridge Route is maintained by Los Angeles County.  At Pine Canyon Road the original Ridge Route is traversed partially by Signed County Route N2 to California State Route 138.  A small portion of California State Route 138 west to Gorman Post Road is on the original Ridge Route alignment.  The original Ridge Route continued westward towards the community of Gorman.  California State Route 138 and the original Ridge Route traversed Antelope Valley where they intersected the alignments of the El Camino Viejo in addition to the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.

The original Ridge Route would have crossed over what is now I-5 on Gorman Post Road to Ralphs Ranch Road at Tejon Pass.  From Tejon Pass the original Ridge Route would have followed Lebec Road northward into Grapevine Canyon.  The El Camino Viejo split west close to Frazier Mountain Park Road whereas the Stockton-Los Angeles Road continued northward into Grapevine Canyon.

Near Fort Tejon there is an older alignment of the original Ridge Route which would have crossed the I-5 alignment.  From Fort Tejon north to Grapevine much of the original Ridge Route was obliterated by the 1936 Grapevine Canyon widening.  There are some abandoned sections of the original Ridge Route alongside I-5 in Grapevine Canyon.  The original Ridge Route emerges between the travel lanes of I-5 in Grapevine on Grapevine Road.  The Grapevine was the north terminus point of the Ridge Route as US 99/LRN emerged into San Joaquin Valley.

Chapter 6; driving, running and hiking the Old Ridge Route

Over the course of the past three years I've explored most of the original Ridge Route via car, running and hiking.  I've often found it difficult to fully understand something in a historical context unless I've experienced first hand, the Ridge Route in that sense was no different.  What I can say is that original Ridge Route is certainly worth experiencing in any form or fashion.

In Grapevine as stated above there is an original segment of the Ridge Route on Grapevine Road between the travel lanes of I-5.

Looking southward into Grapevine Canyon the grades of I-5 are somewhat obscured by the terrain giving the sensation that you've stepped back in time.

Which is only accentuated further by applying a monochrome filter.

There is a small culvert along Grapevine Road which may date back to the era of the Ridge Route.

At a power transfer station there is an obvious former alignment of the Ridge Route as evidenced by the concrete slab jutting towards the northbound lane of I-5 on Lanny W. Reed Drive.

The concrete slab above would have been the rough location where the Ridge Route began it's ascent into Grapevine Canyon.  In the heyday of the Ridge Route this section of the highway was lined with service stations and garages as evidenced by this photo below.

The bend in the Ridge Route on Lanny W. Reed Drive can be seen from this southbound view from the blooming flowers surrounding the mouth of Grapevine Canyon in 1927.

As evidenced by the last map I posted Lanny W. Reed Drive ascends to a obliterated section of the Ridge Route traversed by the northbound lanes of I-5.  Travelers on the original Ridge Route alignment would have had this view (from 1922) looking north into Grapevine and San Joaquin Valley.

Within Grapevine Canyon there is very little evidence of the original Ridge Route until I-5 exit 210 at Lebec Road.  I haven't been able to find many vintage photos of the Ridge Route in Grapevine Canyon other than when the roadway was expanded after 1936.  The first photo is apparently from 1947 during the heyday of the Ridge Route expressway on US 99.

Looking southward along I-5 through Grapevine Canyon offers a wide view of a massive highway grade.

At exit 210 the original Ridge Route can be followed on Lebec Road.  Fort Tejon State Historic Park preserves the remaining structures of the Army fortification.  Most of the buildings at Fort Tejon has been restored from a state of ruin.

Fort Tejon could be visited a much more decayed state during the heyday of the Ridge Route.  The first photo below is of the Main Barracks building in 1914 as the Ridge Route was being constructed.

As stated above the original alignment of the Ridge Route on Lebec Road was on an abandoned concrete section which is next to the modern overpass.

The Ridge Route looking southward towards Lebec and Cuddy Canyon.

South of Lebec the Ridge Route originally used Ralph's Ranch Road where it would have crossed into Los Angeles County.  After entering Los Angeles County the alignment of Ridge Route crossed over what is now I-5 to the community of Gorman and Gorman Post Road.  The first American settler in Gorman arrived in 1853 to set up a service station on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  By 1858 Reed's Station was set up along the Stockton-Los Angeles Road which became Gorman's Station in 1867.  Post Office Service began at Gorman's Station apparently in 1877.

Looking northbound at Tejon Pass from Gorman Post Road the original alignment of the Ridge Route can be seen as the eye is directed by "END" signage.

Continuing southward on Gorman Post Road the original Ridge Route alignment begins to approach California State Route 138 on the San Andreas Fault.  The San Andreas Fault serves as a boundary line between the Tehachapi Mountains and Sierra Pelona Mountains.

There is an abandoned concrete portion of the original Ridge Route at the end of Gorman Post Road.  After Ridge Route Alternate was built and before I-5 was constructed California State Route 138 utilized Gorman Post Road to reach US 99. 

The original Ridge Route alignment follows California State Route 138 east into Antelope Valley on the San Andreas Fault before splitting southward again on Signed County Route N2.

South from California State Route 138 the Old Ridge Route is open to vehicular traffic for seven miles to a gate in Angeles National Forest near the ruins of the Tumble Inn.  The Old Ridge Route ascends quickly from California State Route 138 and has a wide vista view of Antelope Valley in addition to the San Andreas Fault.

The Old Ridge Route continues to follow Signed County Route N2 across the boundary for Angeles National Forest.  Signed County Route N2 splits away at the Angeles National Forest Boundary eastward on Pine Canyon Road.  There is still National Forest guide signage on the Old Ridge Route south of Pine Canyon Road but it is marked with a closure stamp.  There is a small historical sign detailing the history of the Old Ridge Route.

Los Angeles County maintains the Old Ridge Route for about a half mile south of Pine Canyon Road.  The Old Ridge Route crosses by the ruins of the Sandberg Summit Inn.

In the two photos below the Sandberg Summit Inn can be seen during it's heyday in the 1920s.  The second photo is dated from 1920 looking northward.

South of the Sandberg Summit Inn maintenance of Old Ridge Route switches to Angeles National Forest as Forest Route 8N04 southward towards Templin Highway.  The Old Ridge Route is very loosely maintained and difficult to traverse in a car.  I generally use the maintenance boundary as a trailhead to do some hiking or trail running on the Old Ridge Route.  The concrete slabs installed between 1917 and 1921 are immediately obvious.

The Old Ridge Route quickly ascends to the 4,233 foot Liebre Summit which as mentioned above is the high point on the original highway.

Despite the blank historical markers Liebre Summit is still marked by the Forest Service.

South of Liebre Summit the Old Ridge Route begins to descend and enters Horseshoe Bend.

Descending southward the 1922-24 asphalt improvements to the Old Ridge Route are obvious.  The asphalt alignments tend to be straight in nature whereas the original concrete often takes wider sweeping curves.

I believe this gate once said "Locked Gate 5 Miles Ahead."

The downward descent southward has a dramatic sweeping view of the Sierra Pelona Mountains.

The Old Ridge Route approaches the ruins of the Tumble Inn which are obvious from the brick foundations and archway.

I was able to line up one of my photos of the Tumble Inn with one from the 1920s.

I continued southward to the National Forest gate near the Tumble Inn which was surprisingly open.  I'm not sure why the gate was open but I do know several people on the California Historic Highways Facebook have taken the Old Ridge Route all the way to Castaic this month.

Chapter 7; Driving and running Ridge Route Alternate to Pyramid Dam

Back in 2016 I pulled off of I-5 at the Templin Highway exit to access the remaining section of Ridge Route Alternate on Golden State Highway north to the Pyramid Dam.

Looking southward it is easy to see where Ridge Route Alternate would have merged into I-5.

Looking northward on Ridge Route Alternate the expressway grade is obvious and devoid of traffic.

Ridge Route Alternate continues north as an active roadway on Golden State Highway to a gate at Frenchman's Flat Campground.

Ridge Route Alternate on Golden State Boulevard can be hiked all the way north to the Pyramid Dam.

The highway bridge over Piru Creek entering Piru Gorge displays a build date of 1951. 

Below Ridge Route Alternate enters Piru Gorge on a somewhat haggard two-lane configuration.  The second photo was taken from approximately the same location in 1960 when US 99 was on a four-lane expressway.

Ridge Route Alternate approaches the Pyramid Dam where it disappears.  The alignment of Ridge Route Alternate is now behind a 386 foot tall dam far under the waters of Pyramid Lake.

The two photos below are from Ridge Route Alternate in what is now Pyramid Lake.  The first photo is from 1935 and the second is from 1934.

Chapter 8; Interstate 5 over "The Grapevine"

The final chapter of this series is on the modern grade over Interstate 5 from California State Route 126 north to California State Route 99.  I started by approaching I-5 northbound from the east terminus of California State Route 126 at the edge of the City Limit of Santa Clarita.  Santa Clarita was incorporated in 1987 and is made of the formerly independent communities of; Newhall, Canyon Country, Saugus, and Valencia.

North from California State Route 126 the first northbound exit on I-5 is at Hasley Canyon Road which is at exit 173.

Bakersfield is signed 74 miles north of I-5 exit 173.

Exit 176A enters Parker Road whereas Exit 176B enters Lake Hughes Road.

North of Lake Hughes Road the southbound lanes of I-5 cross over the Northbound Lanes.  The northbound lanes of I-5 were built over the alignment of Ridge Route alternate until the southbound lanes cross back over.

The northbound lanes of I-5 cross back over the southbound and enter Angeles National Forest. 

As stated above the Templin Highway at Exit 183 accesses the remaining portion of Ridge Route Alternate at Golden State Highway. 

I-5 continues between the alignments of Ridge Route Alternate to the west and the Old Ridge Route to the east.  While ascending between the Ridge Route alignments I-5 intersects an access point for Pyramid Lake at Exit 191 at Vista Del Lago Road.

I-5 northbound continues climbing above Pyramid Lake where it picks up the former alignment of Ridge Route Alternate on Smoky Bear Road at Exit 195.

North of Smoky Bear Road I-5 northbound ascends above 3,000 feet above sea level and exits Angeles National Forest.

At Exit 198A I-5 northbound meets California State Route 138.  At Exit 198B I-5 meets Quail Lake Road.

Gorman is signed as being 3 miles north of California State Route 138 whereas Bakersfield is signed as 48 miles away.

Approaching Gorman traffic on I-5 northbound is advised of 5 miles of 6% downhill grades in Grapevine Canyon.  Exit 202 on I-5 northbound enters Gorman.

I-5 northbound has a Rest Area three miles north of Exit 202.  I-5 northbound crosses over the 4,000 foot line and approaches the 4,144 foot Tejon Pass.

At I-5 northbound Exit 205 there is access to Cuddy Canyon via Frazier Mountain Park Road.

North of Exit 205 I-5 northbound enters Kern County in Lebec.

The Rest Area in Lebec doubles as a Brake Check Area.

Exit 207 on I-5 northbound provides direct access to Lebec Road.

North of Exit 207 Bakersfield is signed as 39 miles away.

There is another advisory sign about the 6% downhill grade through Grapevine Canyon.

I-5 northbound Exit 210 accesses Lebec Road and Fort Tejon State Historical Park.

I-5 northbound begins to descend into Grapevine Canyon.  Trucks are directed to follow a 35 MPH speed limit and stay in the right lane.  There are multiple runaway truck lanes on both sides of the Grapevine Canyon Grade.

I-5 northbound emerges out of Grapevine Canyon into San Joaquin Valley, the former Ridge Route alignment can be seen below on Grapevine Road.  Exit 215 provides access to the community of Grapevine.

I-5 northbound Exits 219A and 219B intersect Laval Road in Wheeler Ridge.

Exit 221 on I-5 northbound is the junction with south terminus of California State Route 99.  I-5 continues west through San Joaquin Valley whereas California State Route 99 traverses the eastern edge.


Michael Ballard said…
I must say that I am very disappointed that other people that have worked hard on actually preserving and protecting the roadway, such as Harrison Scott and myself, Michael Ballard, get no mention or credit in this post. You go out of your way to mention three sites, two of which have little to do with the roadway specifically. My site has been up since 1995 and has had a tour of US 99 and the Ridge Route since then. It is almost as if you went out of your way to ignore the work of others rather than collaborate or even bother to tell others of the work.
Challenger 66 said…
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Michael Ballard said…
You have got to be kidding me. Your reply is insulting and disingenuous at best. You don't even get the site right. I have worked for years, as well as others, and you purposefully snub that work and ignore it. Dying hobby? Not hardly. So, if after a "quick search", you found others that have done research, you didn't bother to contact them or even make them aware? Yeah, rather annoyed at being snubbed involving something I hold near and dear to me. Something I have been involved in for at least half my life.
Challenger 66 said…
Mike, in looking around at I noticed your name on the Goals tabe under one of the Principal Officers as well as Harrison Scott. To that end the very first organization I linked was the Ridge Route Preservation Group which by proxy you are involved with. If the very first I did on my blog is cite your organization and it's preservation efforts, how is that a problem for you or somehow a snub? I didn't know about your Socalregion page on the Ridge Route, your name, or even Harrison Scott were until you said something. Yes, our name is under the Goals tab at but I apparently glossed over it looking for your organizations email. A day or so before you replied to me on this blog here I sent (which is on the bottom of the Goals page) an email to reach out.

So am I to surmise that this is the response from the Ridge Route Preservation Organization? if so, that's a pretty sorry way to blast someone who was only interested in helping promoting a cause that you're involved in. If that's the case I'm really disappointed, that said I do find the cause of promoting awareness of historic highways. If one additional person goes and sees a road or has obtained something useful by reading one of my posts than I consider that a win. To that end, preservation of the Ridge Route is something I considered a worthy cause to link over and advocate in my blog post. If it somehow offended you and the Ridge Route Preservation Group that I didn't mention you or others by name then that's something I can't really help with nor will apologize for. All I can say is that I wish you luck in your endeavors.
Michael Ballard said…
You still don't get it. No. I am not speaking for the Ridge Route group. I am speaking for myself. Try not to assume. You mean to tell me that you didn't bother to do a simple internet search to see who else might have done work regarding this topic? Only afterwards, when someone pointed it out? Makes me question your research abilities and your claim of only trying to help. Rather disappointing. is also not the site for the ridge route group. If you truly wanted to help, you might have actually done this simple research prior to posting.
Challenger 66 said…
Well the problem is that you are the president of said non-profit, for all intents and purposes that makes you the face of it. Out of the hundreds of blog posts I've done on highways, you're the only one who has complained that I didn't cite them directly. Again, I posted a link to and went out of my way to make sure that it was the first website sourced which is something I don't see as you put "a snub." The overwhelming majority of what I do on this blog site is researching map scans, so to that end you're not the only person out there who is capable of researching this topic. Like I said, I would have been more than happy to have had a dialog with you but and cited some additional sources but you chose to attack method instead. At this point all I can say is that I wish you luck in your endeavors in trying to preserve the Ridge Route.

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