Ebbetts Pass

Ebbetts Pass, a very steep narrow road in the Sierra Nevada

Ebbetts Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.663m (8,736ft) above the sea level, located in Alpine County, eastern California, in USA. The pass is not plowed for snow. It is an idyllic drive for those who crave tight switchbacks, tiny hamlets, and multiple alpine vistas.

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the pass was named after John Ebbetts. It’s traversed by the asphalted California State Route 4, also known as Alpine State Highway, part of the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway (a 61-mile stretch of Highways 4 and 89). It’s one of the least traveled passes in the Sierra Nevada. The road does get busier at weekends and in the main holiday season. It is a delight to drive, with every kind of twist and turn.

Is Ebbetts Pass open?

The road suffers the harsh meteorological conditions of the area every winter. It does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. The pass usually remains open until the first heavy snowfall of the winter arrives. Often that occurs sometime in early November, but snow can temporarily close the pass at any time. 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. The lack of a center line, along with dramatic elevation changes, steep grades and sharp curves encourage travelers to traverse the route at a leisurely pace.

Is Ebbetts Pass steep?

The winding scenic road offers stunning views running through the mountains. It has very steep sections with hairpin corners. It is rarely used by commercial traffic and is not recommended for vehicles towing long trailers. It is not suitable for large trucks, buses, or RVs, as it becomes very steep and narrow, with no center dividing line shortly after the Mount Reba Turnoff to Bear Valley Ski area, with tight switchbacks. It winds in improbably steep switchbacks around large tree trunks and truck sized boulders, climbing the next ridge. 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. The road, past Bear Valley, gets very narrow. It also has a 24% grade and three hairpin turns. Increasing elevation yields different biomes.

 

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NOTICE: Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads are closed and travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.