Henness Pass Road

Henness Pass Road in WinterSteeped in the history of the old west, Henness Pass Road provides a more scenic and relaxed route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Originally the indigenous tribes of North America used this as a major trade route.  This secluded and winding mountain road extends for over 100 miles.  It travels through scenic mountain passes and vistas. A lot of it is recommended for high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles. In addition to the scenic views, travelers will find waterfalls, rustic inns such as the Mountain House Stage Stop and Inn, abandoned mining camps, abandoned mines and numerous historic sites from the Gold Rush.

Eastern side of Henness Pass RoadHistory

Henness Pass Road was the primary emigrant trail from Virginia City, Nevada as early as 1849 and the only mountain pass that existed at the time. During the Gold Rush, this often forgotten highway served as a supply road for the Comstock silver mines in Nevada. In 1852, Henness Pass Road was a wagon toll road from Nevada to the gold field of California. Between 1860 and 1868, traffic was so heavy at times, that freight wagons had to travel by day and stagecoaches drove at night. Once the transcontinental railway was completed in 1868, the road was abandoned. Fortunately the road is still there and has been left to the more adventures among us.


Henness Pass Road passes Sardine House and a 1,500 acre ranch that once stood in Sardine Valley. Weber Falls is at the top of a 25 foot pool that plunges into a waterfall of nearly 80 feet. Jackson Meadows Reservoir marks the halfway point. Henness Pass Road traverses the Middle Fork of the Yuba River, travels along the open pine forests and meadows above the Little Truckee River. In many places, the creeks wash over the road.  This pass is the lowest pass through the Sierra.


From the East the road begins in Verdi Nevada, Old Dog Valley Road. then travels West over Henness Pass then drops down to the Middle fork of the Yuba River.  The road terminates at Camptonville California on highway 49.

Henness Pass, California 96126, USA

The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels

The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels

Endangered History

The Donner Pass Railroad TunnelsSFgate Article on The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels

The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels have long been an attraction for hikers, history buffs, artists and vandals.  They are located in a favored area of local outdoor enthusiasts. For most people the tunnels were an obscure curiosity.  But thanks to COVID and an increased interest in exploring our world, this area has become much more popular.

The structures and tunnels are over 150 years old. And there are other stories here too, such as the the ancient petroglyphs which are etched into the granite.  The stone itself is attractive to rock climbers and hikers.  Bicyclists pedal by on the old Lincoln highway, (highway 40), and in the winter this is the backyard to Sugar Bowl, a popular ski resort and the lower gateway to some really great winter back country.

Art in The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels

And because of all of this the Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels are being loved to death.  Read more here.

This area has a great story to tell.  It is a tale of the indigenous people who lived here.  The Chinese who played a pivotal and unacknowledged role in our history.  And there are abundant local stories of extreme skiing, rock climbing, aeronautics, runners, hikers and bicyclists.  From within these diverse populations a community has developed consisting of those who love and protect this part of the sierra.

The Donner Pass Railroad Tunnels


Please read on and learn more.  These stories can save the legacy of this area, and maybe create stewards out of those who would visit.