The Driving Experience
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 vehicles (RV’s).
According to Wikipedia, “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.”
The high-country segment of Highway 4 between Lake Alpine and Silver Creek is generally open from June to mid-November. During snowy months the U.S. Forest Service keeps portions of this section groomed for winter recreation activities such as snowmobiling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Close to Ebbetts Pass is the Tioga Road/Big Oak Flat Road National Scenic Byway, providing a unique opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind “trans-Sierra loop” connecting the burgeoning Central Valley, Bay Area and beyond through Yosemite National Park following the eastern Sierra’s Highway 395 to the wonders of Ebbetts Pass.
You are invited to become a steward of this pristine environment. As you travel please keep the following safety and etiquette tips in mind:
• 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 and Markleeville.
• 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.
Looking for more information on the drive? Check out these resources: