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Mineral King Road/Mountain Road 375; the unbuilt California State Route 276

Back in July of 2016 I took Mineral King Road east from California State Route 198 to Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park.






Mineral King Road is a 24.8 mile roadway which travels from the confluence of the Middle Fork and East Fork Kaweah River in modern day Three Rivers to Mineral King Valley.  Mineral King Road has an approximate starting elevation at about 1,000 feet above sea level in Three Rivers and ends at approximately 7,400 feet above sea level in Mineral King Valley in the High Sierras.

Mineral King Road has an average grade of 5.1% but has stretches between 15-20% in places.  Pjammycycling has a detailed breakdown on the grade levels on the entirety of Mineral King Road.

Pjammycycling on Mineral King Road

A large silver claim at the White Chief Mine was struck in Mineral King Valley in 1872.  Previous trails to Mineral King Valley were fleshed out which lead to the creation of Silver City six miles west of Mineral King Valley later in the year. The first Mineral King Road via proxy of Silver City was built by the Visalia and Inyo Wagon Company in 1873 on the south side of the East Fork Kaweah River.  Construction second on a second Mineral King Road began in 1879 the north side of the East Fork Kaweah River in 1879, this alignment largely is the same as the current roadway.  The second Mineral King Road was managed by the Mineral King and Toll Road Company until it was deeded to Tulare County in 1884.  There were some major realignments on Mineral King Road in 1915 but it essentially was under Tulare County maintenance completely until the National Park Service absorbed the Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park.  Mineral King Road today is maintained by the National Park Service east of Lookout Point and as Tulare Mountain Road 375 west of it.

In time various other communities such as; The Gate, Barton's Camp, Harry's Bend, Sunny Point, Beluah, Ford's Camp, White Chief Camp, and Harmonville sprung into existence around the Mineral King Mining claims.  Mining in Mineral King Valley essentially was the only industry until 1890 when Atwell Mills was absorbed by the newly created Sequoia National Park which led to a tourism boom.  The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake destroyed most of the original mining buildings the Mineral King Valley mining district which generally consisted of cabins and shack.

Mineral King Road was improved for Automobile use in the 1920s along with access to most of Sequoia National Park.  The Disney Corporation won a bid to build a ski resort in the late 1960s but Mineral King Valley was annexed by Sequoia National Park in 1978 which ended the aspirations.  Mineral King Road was slated to become California State Route 276 and was first defined in 1965 along a routing between Three Rivers to Mineral King Valley.  The definition of CA 276 was truncated from Three Rivers to the Sequoia National Park boundary in Oak Grove in 1972.  More background information can be found on CAhighways.org.

CAhighways.org on unbuilt CA 276

Oddly the adopted alignment of CA 276 was never deleted from the State Highway system and can be found on the 2005 State Highway Map.

2005 State Highway Map

Mineralking.org has a detailed article about the history of the mining communities and Mineral King Road itself.
 mineralking.org on Mineral King Valley and Mineral King Road


Regarding vintage maps of the Mineral King area I found several.  This first map shows the Mineral King area and Mineral King Road as it was in 1892.

Mineral King area of Tulare County 1892

This 1945 tourism map of the Three Rivers area shows Mineral King and Mineral King Road.

1945 Three Rivers Tourism Map


Given the sun glare was awful ascending Mineral King Road eastward I took my photo album westward heading downhill from Mineral King Valley to CA 198.  Mineral King Road starts at the Eagle Lake Trailhead parking lot along the south bank of the East Fork Kaweah River.  Mineral King Valley is a glacial valley much like Yosemite Valley and is 7.5 miles long by 1 mile wide.  The walls of Mineral King Valley ascend as high as 11,000 feet above sea level.


Starting Mineral King Road westward it crosses over to the north bank of the East Fork Kaweah River on a wooden bridge.






Mineral King Road is flooded with deer, marmots, and black bears.  Looking west the grade downhill on the East Fork Kaweah River Canyon can be seen.






Mineral King Road is largely paved and passes through trace remains of the various mining communities that used to line the area.  The roadway is narrow but generally has enough room for vehicles to pass each other easily.  Between Mineral King Valley and the six miles west to Silver City the grade of Mineral King Road drops to a dirt surface.  I would speculate the dirt sections of Mineral King Road are simply broken asphalt top layered to mitigate repair costs .




Six miles west of Mineral King Valley the route of Mineral King Road becomes paved again entering Silver City.  Silver City lies at approximately 6,900 feet above sea level and largely consists of cabin structures that were built after 1906.  The 1929 Silver City Store has an older mechanical gas pump in front of the structure.  Silver City apparently has no power grid which makes the community quite the throwback to a bygone era.





West of Silver City is Mineral King Road passes through another small dirt section and enters Atwell Mills around 6,300 feet above sea level.  Atwell Mills served the Mineral King mining district during it's heyday and processed fallen Redwood Sequoias.  Various Sequoia stumps line the side of Mineral King Road through Atwell Mills.








West of Atwell Mills the alignment of Mineral King Road passes through another Sequoia Grove where it emerges on the cliff face north of the East Fork Kaweah River.  Between the elevations of 5,000 feet down to 2,700 feet I found myself on a massive downhill descent which apparently approached 20%.  I found myself mostly using 1st or 2nd gear through this section of Mineral King Road.









At approximately 4,000 feet above sea level Mineral King Road meets a sharp curve which houses the Mineral King Entrance Station for Sequoia National Park at Lookout Point.  All of Mineral King Road west of Lookout Point to CA 198 is outside the Sequoia National Park boundary.  The Mineral King Entrance Station is the location of the proposed post-1972 eastern terminus of CA 276.






At approximately 2,500 feet above sea level Mineral King Road descends to the East Fork Kaweah River where it crosses the 1923 Kaweah River Bridge to the south bank.












Surprisingly I actually found the segment west of the Kaweah River Bridge to be the most narrow part of Mineral King Road with the highest number of blind curves.  It should be noted that west of the Mineral King Entrance Station at Lookout Point the alignment of Mineral King Road is well post-miled by Tulare County as Mountain Road 375.






Approaching Three Rivers the terrain around Mineral King Road becomes much more indicative of the Sierra Foothills.





Mineral King Road ends at California State Route 198.  The eastern terminus of CA 198 interestingly is only a couple miles to the east the start of the Generals Highway.






I did find some vintage photos of Mineral King Road before the Kaweah River Bridge was built.  Apparently the previous span over the East Fork Kaweah River was a wooden span.  The first photo is from 1913 and the second is from 1920 when it fell into the East Fork Kaweah River.

1913 photo of the Kaweah River Bridge

1920 photo of the Kaweah River Bridge

This photo shows a 1883 survey map of Mineral King Road when it was still a toll facility.

1883 Mineral King Road Survey Map

This Youtube video is a timelapse drive westward on Mineral King Road.

Mineral King Road timelapse

Recently Mineral King Road has gained attention as being apparently cited as one of the ten most dangerous roads in California.  While the terrain of Mineral King Road has much more in common with a wagon route than a modern roadway I find that claim dubious.  Very little people use Mineral King Road to travel on.  As I stated above most of Mineral King Road is wide enough to allow for careful passing.  My personal opinion is that Kaiser Pass Road is by far a more difficult paved roadway due to vehicles and terrains, even Blackrock Road rates much higher simply due to the dangerous terrain.


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