Between Yosemite and Los Angeles, there’s not a lot of excitement. Hwy. 41 takes you to Hwy. 99, which eventually joins up with Interstate 5 for the drive into LA. Most of the way, you’ll pass through flat farmland, that provides very few excuses for a stop.
I-5 finally gets interesting as you approach Tejon Pass, a break in the Tehachapi Mountains that takes you out of California’s San Joaquin Valley, and into Los Angeles County. The climb up to the pass is steep, but thanks to the superslab freeway, requires little effort.
There is an alternative, though, one that will take you back in time to the very early days of motorized transportation: the Old Ridge Route.
The Old Ridge Route opened in 1915, and wasn’t completely paved until 1919. Even though the route was narrow, winding, and steep, it was still a big improvement over the long trip around the mountains.
[tmt_info =””] Here’s how to find the Old Ridge Route: Exit I-5 onto CA Hwy. 138, headed east. You’ll pass Quail Lake, then make a right turn when you see the “Old Ridge Route” sign (it follows Rte. N2 for a short distance, then splits off.) [/tmt_info]
Check out this wide panorama of a typical view along the Old Ridge Route. You’ll probably feel like you’re on top of the world as you travel this road. You’ll also feel very alone.
Even though you may not pass a single car during your journey over the old road, you’ll still be able to see lots of traffic. In several locations, the Old Ridge Route looks down onto I-5, providing a stark reminder of what century you’re in.
[tmt_info =””] The northern end of the Old Ridge Route is buried underneath the I-5 freeway. The stretch of old road that remains is roughly 21 miles long.[/tmt_info]
Feel free to pull over to the side of the road and take a picture any time you want. Heck, just stop in the middle of the road!
Back in the Old Ridge Route’s heyday, restaurants, service stations, and hotels lined the road. In some places you can still spot the remnants of these buildings. For example: the Tumble Inn.
While not much of this roadside watering hole survives, you can still climb its steps, and stand on the edge of its rock wall.
[tmt_info =””] Before traveling the Old Ridge Route, fill your tank, buy a bottle of water, and check your spare tire. You’ll be on your own out here.[/tmt_info]
Preservationists have placed historic markers near the locations of many old businesses along the route. You can stop and read them, or visit Ridgeroute.com for a wealth of historic information.
Once Castaic Lake comes into view, you know you’re making progress.
After traveling about 21 miles, you’ll reach Templin Highway. At this point, you can decide whether to cut back to I-5, or drive a little further on the old road, to Castaic. I chose to hop back onto I-5, for the final leg of my trip, back to LA.
[tmt_info =””] The Old Ridge Route hasn’t been officially maintained since 1933, when an alternate, 3 lane highway opened. The road hasn’t been totally neglected, though, since utility workers use it to access high voltage lines, and a natural gas pipeline that parallels the route.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2004.