Old Priest Grade Road

The killer Old Priest Grade Road hits a 20% of max gradient

Old Priest Grade Road is a very hairy ride located in Tuolumne County, California, USA. It’s brutally steep hitting a 20% through some of the ramps. Passenger vehicles only. Though it may be dangerous, it’s also very scenic.

Located into the Western Sierra mountains, the curved and dangerously steep graded mountain road is 2.89km (1.8 miles) running west-east from Moccasin, an unincorporated community in Tuolumne County to Priest, a populated place located one mile southwest of Big Oak Flat. The road is paved. The road was originally an Indian path and then a wagon route. It was originally built for stagecoach and supply wagons to service the 1840-1850’s gold miners.

Trucks, motorhomes, buses and trailers are prohibited. This route is for passenger vehicles only and is very steep and windy. There is a 7,500-pound weight limit. It’s a killer road. 18 people have died going down it over the years. It’s one of the steepest climbs in Northern California. The road has grade steepness up to 18 percent, and the steepest stretch might be closer to 20 percent. You should only attempt to drive it if you have a reliable car. Functional brakes are a must.

The road was bypassed by the New Priest Grade Road. It is very slippery when wet. High risk of rock slides. It has some narrow parts and it’s a heavily traveled route to Yosemite National Park. Bad weather in winters creates safety hazards: the roadway can become icy during chilly winter temperatures.


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