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Cajon Pass

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Cajon Pass

The pass between the Mountains

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Cajon Pass is not a town or a village, it is a Mountain Pass between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, used for thousands of years, it is the place where Route 66 leaves the Mojave Desert and reaches Los Angeles, visit the landmarks: Camp Cajon, The San Andreas Fault, Meekers Cafe site, Blue Cut and Summit Cafe

Cajon Pass CA

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About Cajon Pass California

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation 4,300 ft (1.311 m). Population n⁄a .
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).

Cajon Pass is a place (not a town or a village) located on Route 66, in south western San Bernardino County in the south of California. (Map of Cajon Pass area).

View of the San Gabriel Mountains seen from Cajon Pass

View of the San Gabriel Mountains seen from Cajon Pass
View of the San Gabriel Mountains seen from Cajon Pass, Route 66, California.


Historic Context of Roads through Cajon Pass

Visit our San Bernardino web page to learn more about the early history of this area.

The name, Cajon Pass

The word Cajon is Spanish for "Box" or "drawer" (cajón).

The pass had been used during thousands of years by the Native American people who lived in the area.

In 1772 Pedro Farges, a Spanish officer marched from San Diego to Monterey and became the first European to cross Cajon Pass.

Father Garces in 1776 used this route on his way to visit the Hopi people in Arizona, but took the old Mojave Indian Trail which runs to the east of the modern highways, from Devore, through Sawpit Canyon to the Mojave River on the north.

The northern approaches to the pass

The Mormons used the pass to reach San Bernardino in the mid 1850s and it was William Sanford who opened the Mormon Trail in 1850. He moved the trail through "Sanford Pass" in 1853 making it easier to use.

North of the pass, the road (later adopted by the railroad in 1885) took a wide curve from present Victorville, towards the east through Hesperia before tackling the climb along Summit Valley into Cajon Pass.

This route followed the Mojave River, and was the course of the route taken by Father Garces and the one adopted by the "Spanish" and "Santa Fe" trails it was the one followed by state Hwy. 138 and Summit Valley Rd. nowadays.

Later the "Brown turnpike" and the Panamount Stage used a straighter route which is the course adopted by modern Route 66 and I-15.

There was a third approach from the north, the "Mormon cut-off" (1852) which ran futher west, from Oro Grande through Baldy Mesa to Summit Valley, it was straigher and shorter.

Toll Way: Brown's Turnpike

When gold was found in the nortan easier route for carts was needed so John Brown, George Tucker and Henry Willis secured a charter from the California state Legislature in 1861 and built a toll highway across the "Sierra Nevada" it followed the Spanish Trail and was known as "Brown's Turnpike".

The toll for a man with a horse was 25 cents and a wagon payed $1. The 1868 flood razed most of the road but they rebuilt it. It had two toll stations and their concession lasted for 20 years then it became a free road which was upkept by the county until it was closed in 1938. By then US 66 had replaced it.

Railroad in Cajon Pass

When silver was discovered in 1881 near Barstow, in the Calico Mountains, the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) extended its line from Bakersfield to move the ore out, and then continued west to block their rival, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A & P) from reaching California.

However, A &P (which later was absorbed by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad), had just crossed the Colorado River at Needles in 1883 so both lines met there.

The following year A &P upped the bet and started building a line westwards towards Barstow, forcing SP to sell them the Mojave line.

In 1885 A&P continued south, from Barstow to San Bernardino going across Cajon Pass.

National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.) in Cajon Pass

In the early 1900s, the use of the automobile had grown considerably and better roads were needed, so the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) association planned a road from Los Angeles to New York, and they aligned the Californian section next to the AT & Santa Fe railroad tracks from San Bernardino, across Cajon Pass, through Victorville, and then via Barstow, to Needles.

The 1912 Automobile Club of Southern California showed the N.O.T. road begin to curve 8 mi. south of Hesperia and 1 mile west it met the SF Railroad, "Summit" was 1 mile aheadland then camee an "18% grade" towards "Cajon Staton which was 5 miles south, followed, one mile away by "Cozy Dell Store the road crossed the railway tracks several times in this area, and reached Devore 8 miles later.

The 1915 map shows that the road has been improved as it only crosses the tracks once, north of Cajon Station. "Cosy Dell Store" (now written with an "s") is still there. The map also shows the road described below, which was the old road, as a secondary option.

In 1915, the road from San Bernardino to Barstow via Cajon Pass became California’s highway LRN 31; it was the first section of the route to be brought under state jurisdiction.

Alternate Old Toll Road through Cajon Pass

The first part of this route is a dirt road and requires a high clearance vehicle, the southern part is paved.

The old Toll Road passed through here. The N.O.T. paved part of it in the 1910s. This road avoids Summit Pass, going through the "real" Cajon Pass. See the map of this road.

The 1924 map has the main road bypassing Hesperia (which then became the US 66 and I-15 alignment), and ths summit "Cajon Pass EL 4250'" half a mile after the road leaves the desert. Cajon Canyon is shown with the N.O.T. road passing by "Camp Cajon" 6 miles ahead described as "Store-Gas-Oil (Free Auto Camp)", 0.5 mi south was "Cajon" followed 1.5 miles away by "Cosy Dell and as the road enters Blue Cut Canyon, the "Mountain View Camp" 1 mile ahead. From there it was 6 miles to Devore that had a "Gas Sta.".

Ten years later ASCS has the same layout but Cajon Pass is now "4,301 feet" high. And it is now Route 66, which had been created in 1926, using the alignment of the N.O.T. through Cajon Pass.

Road Improvements

The road had been widened so that by 1920 it was generally 16 ft. wide and it had been paved with macadam since 1916.

The road was widened further to 20 ft with 5 ft. shoulders, eliminating curves (1932 - 34). Gish and Alray grade crossings were eliminated with underpasses and Blue Cut area was improved to avoid the landslides caused by the San Andreas fault. Cajon Creek was channelized to prevent flooding (but the 1938 floods washed out the road in Blue Cut, leading to it being relocated and less prone to flooding.

The Pass in a Guidebook from 1939

The WPA book "Guide to the Golden State" published in 1939 describes the road from Victorville to San Bernardino in a pictouresque prose:

... US 66 crosses rolling desert country again toward immense blue ranges.
MILLERS CORNER, 47.7 m. (3,050 alt.), has a gas station and a few cabins for motorists.
US 66 now sweeps across BALDY MESA (3,000 alt.), a vast, sun-scorched expanse of mesquite and scattered yucca trees. At 49.6 m. is a junction with US 395 (...) , which unites with US 66 for about 30 miles southward.
As the desert surrenders to chaparral-covered foothills, US 66 crosses at 53 m. a boundary of the SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST, a preserve of 804,045 acres, containing more than a billion board feet of merchantable timber sugar and Jeffrey pine, big cone spruce, incense cedar and tamarack, among other species. It is maintained principally for watershed protection. A number of streams and lakes in the high country furnish water for hydroelectric power and irrigation, and afford excellent trout fishing.

"The mountains draw together to form the mouth of CAJON (Sp., box) PASS, through the Sierra Madre Mountains, for nearly a century the southeastern gateway for overland travel to the coast, since William Wolfskill blazed the Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles through it in 1831. From the summit, 54 m. (4,301 alt.), is an inspiring view over mountains, deserts, orchards, and vineyards. US 66 makes its descent in a series of twisting slopes.
US 66, roughly following (R) alder-grown CAJON CREEK, rolls smoothly downgrade to DEVORE, 67.1 m. (2,025 alt., 153 pop.). MOUNT SAN GORGONIO (11,485 alt.), looms into view. The ARROWHEAD, a natural phenomenon on the face of Arrowhead Peak, is visible at 75.2 m. At 75.3 m. US 66 broad and palm-lined, turns R., dividing the business district (L) of SAN BERNARDINO, 77.1 m. (1,073 alt., 37,486 pop.), seat of San Bernardino County.

Route 66 was widened to a four lane divided highway across the pass in 1955, but it was not up to the standard. Traffic grew, peaking in 1960: over 1.1 million travellers passed through Cajon Pass that year. A new safer road was needed and it was finally built: I-15. It was built from the foot of Cajon Pass through Victorville to Barstow in 1958. Then across the Pass into San Bernardino in 1971 -72.

Where to Stay in Cajon Pass

Lodging in Cajon Pass: Cajon Junction

> > Book your Hotel in Cajon Junction

More Lodging Near Cajon Pass along Route 66

Motels and Hotels close to Victorville, California

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Book your hotel in Cajon Pass

>> Check out the RV campground in San Bernardino

Weather in Cajon Pass

Latest Cajon Pass, California weather
Route 66: Cajon Pass, California location map
Location of Cajon Pass on Route 66

The Cajon Pass experiences extreme weather including snow, wind and heat. It is high so it gets more rain than the lower areas to the north, this also helps to reduce the temperatures and increase the day - night amplitude.

The average high temperatuer during summer (July) is 85°F (30°C), and in winter (Jan) it is 51°F (11°C). The average low during summer (Jul) is 64°F (18°C) and in winter (Jan) 37°F (3°C).

Rainfall is lowest from May to September less than 0.1 in (0.3 mm) monthly, January is the wettest month.

Tornado risk

Cajon Pass is located well to the west of the Rocky Montains, so there is no risk of tornados in this part of California.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Getting to Cajon Pass

You can reach Cajon Pass along old Route 66 which here is named "Old National Trails Highway". Also from I-15 (which goes right through it).

Map of Route 66 in Cajon Pass, CA

thumbnail of map of Cajon Pass CA

Click on map to enlarge

Check out Cajon Pass on our Route 66 Map of California, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

That map shows Route 66 through Cajon Pass. The following color key applies:

Pale Blue: Driveable 1926 to 1952 Route 66 alignment.
Black: the old alignment of US 66 that now lies between the lanes of I-15.
Blue, the pre-freeway ALT Route 66 into San Bernardino.
Yellow, shows the course of the San Andreas Fault in Cajon Pass (between Victorville and San Bernardino).

Cajon Pass Map

Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Cajon Pass

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across California

U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite the survival of long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica.

Click Here for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.

Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Cajon Pass.

Cajon Pass attractions

Drive Old Route 66 along Cajon Pass

A detailed description of the drive through Cajon Pass along Route 66.

From Caliente Road to Summit Inn and Mariposa Road

We describe the route westbound, from Exit 140 on I-15 to the junction of I-15 and I-215.

Head south from Victorville along the interstate and leave I-15 at Exit 140, (westbound) and drive down Caliente Rd. (which is the Old Route 66).

At the Oak Hills RV village, just east of I-15's Exit 138 the old US 66 swerved to the south and therefore is now buried under the roadbed of I-15. You will have to continue along Caliente Rd. until the Oak Hill Rd. overpass, take a left algong it, cross I-15 and then take a right along Mariposa Rd. and head south to mee the old US 66 again.

Just ahead is the old Summit Inn, past the modern Chevron gas station. It is here that US 66 resurfaces after being overlaid by I-15.

Summit Inn

5970 Mariposa Rd., Hesperia.

This landmark was destroyed by the Blue Cut Fire on Aug. 16, 2016. See news video, a great loss. Only the sign has survived:

Summit Inn sign, all that remains of the cafe

Summit Cafe
View of Summit Inn on Route 66 at Cajon Pass. Google
Click image for Street View

The Inn opened in 1952, built by Gordon Fields for Mr. Riley in the days when a stop for a coffee or a snack on the "crest" of Route 66 was quite common. Many Las Vegas performers stopped by here en route between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Drive along Mariposa Rd. (Route 66) for 0.4 mi. where it ends, cutoff by I-15. This was the original road.

See this Map of this segment of Route 66 (Exit 140 to Mariposa Rd. cutoff).

The section between I-15 lanes

Route 66 crosses at this point to the north of the eastbound lanes of I-15 and, here, at the summit, there is a small section of the original Route 66 that survived, it is sandwiched between the east and westbound lanes of I-15 -see the map above, it is shown in Black.

You can reach it from the eastbound lanes here (see map).

The section by Al Ray station

Total distance 5 miles, Map of this segment.

West of this section between lanes, Route 66 is buried by the westbound lanes of I-15 for about 1.2 miles and then resurfaces to the right of them here (see map), becoming an electrical maintenance road that curves south, passsing under I-15 as Santa Fe Rd.

You can drive it, and just ahead Santa Fe Rd. crosses the two lines of the SF Railroad at Al Ray siding (underpasses) the southern one was known as Gish Underpass, and it had been widened to a four lane divided highway in 1955 from the south to this point. The Sumit would not be widened until 1955. This section was replaced in 1968 by I-15.

After the undepass US 66 approaches I-15 again, which here runs with a north-south alignment.

Then it meets and crosses state Hwy. 138 at I-15 Exit 131.

Meekers Café - gone

State Hwy 138 and Santa Fe Rd. SE corner

This is the site of the now defunct Meekers Cafe.

The Meekers moved to Cajon Pass in 1918 and opened a gas station, restaurant, motel (Meekers Sunrise Cabins) and grocery store on the brand new state highway between San Bernardino and Victorville.

Ezra Blaine Meeker (1884 - 1966) continued the business after his father's death with his wife Frances. Meekers garage was next to the stone building which sold cold drinks, ice cream and was a Post Office, Cafe and Grocery.

In 1946 a runaway truck ran into the place and destroyed the café, killing the driver. Which Ezra rebuilt.

In 1954 the widening of Route 66 to a four lane highway led to the demolition of Meekers Café He built a new place with a gas station and cafe, running it until his death. (Read more).

The image below is a composite from two photographs of the same scene, one is from a Vintage postcard - 1940 and the other is from the book, Route 66 in California by Glen Duncan (See Photograph).

Meekers Cafe in a 1940s image

A 1940s photograph of Meekers Cafe in Cajon Pass, California
1940s photograph of Meekers Cafe in Cajon Pass. Route 66, California.

Site of the old Meekers Cafe:

Meekers Cafe, the site as it looks today
Site of the old Meekers Café. Google
Click image for Street View

Notice the two cuttings left and right (white rock) blasted to make way for State Hwy 138, they were not in the old photo.

Just down the Road was Camp Cajon:

Camp Cajon

Approximate location of Camp Cajon (Street View).

In the old days, travel in a car was a gruelling experience: dust, heat, poor roads made it necessary to stop frequently and Camp Cajon was a favorite spot, it had all a traveller could possibly need: shade, camping facilities, picnic tables and more.

William M. Bristol a citrus grower decided that there should be a Welcome Center at the point where the Salt Lake and Santa Fe Trails met in Cajon Pass, a "Gateway to Southern California".

The Santa Fe Railroad donated the land and Bristol designed the layout, built the round concrete picnic tables and dedicated the place in 1919. Later stoves were added, barbeque pits, bath and toilet facilities. A stone building was built by the Elks Club.

The 1938 flood razed the place burying it under tons of sand and rock. Nothing remains of the place except some tables now found at Lytle Creek Park in San Bernardino.

After Camp Cajon, Santa Fe Rd. continues south ending at the Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument.

Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument

California Historical Marker

The marker is at Crowder canyon where Route 66 meets the Pacific Crest Trail and the road, at least for cars, ends. You can trek the trail however.

The white masonry monument has a plaque that says "Erected in 1917 in honor of the brave pioneers of California who traveled the Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail in 1849 by Sheldon Stoddard, Sydney P. Waite, John Brown, Jr., George Miller, George M. Cooley, Silas C. Cox, Richard Weir, and Jasper N. Corbett". It was at this point that both trails met.

Side trip to Mormon Rocks

Short side trip (1.5 mi.) at Exit 131, head west along Hwy 138 to see the Mormon Rocks formation.

These rocks, located on the north side of the highway, are sandstone formation that has been exposed by the rifting caused by The San Andreas Fault.

Mormon Rocks near old Route 66

Mormon rocks
View of Mormon Rocks, a formation near Route 66 at Cajon Pass. Google
Click image for Street View

The Pacific Crest Trail

The trail is a hiking trail 2,659 miles (4.279 km) long running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. It goes through Cajon Pass.

Route 66 South of Cajon Pass

6.6 mile section Map of this segment

The road ends at the monument, but continued, now buried by the freeway, to the western side of I-15 resurfacing 0.4 miles to the south, here (see map), at Cajon, beside the Cleghorn Exit from I-15 at the northern terminus of North Cajon Blvd.

This map shows you how to get there from the Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument.

A few hundred yards from where it starts (here - see map), is a concrete bridge built in 1930 as attested by the date stamped in the concrete.

Cosy Dell

The road descends towards Cosy Dell where Cleghorn Canyon meets the main canyon at right angles. Nothing remains of this spot located at the junction with the Swarthout Canyon Rd. (here - see map).

Blue Cut and San Andreas Fault

The road then swerves to the west following Cajon Wash, away from I-15, hugging the SF railway tracks, through Lone Pine Canyon. Stop to see the Blue Cut Trail Marker.

During the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, there was an inspection point here where the authorities checked on those travelling to California.

The place is named after the blue-colored rocks on the hills it is here that the The San Andreas Fault cuts across the Cajon Pass with a SE to NW direction creating a transversal valley which, one mile to the west has a small lake, Lost Lake.

this spot was known as "Mountain View Campground".

Plaque at Blue Cut

Plaque and marker

The plaque (See location), tells about the different roads through the area and John Brown's toll road and says: "... The lower end of Cajon Pass consists of a huge alluvial deposit two miles wide. About five miles above devore is a narow gorge eroded by Cajon Creek known as Blue Cut, also called Lower Narrows. A toll house for the Brown Road was located nearby. This became the logical path for the railroad, which came in 1885....". The plaque was placed by the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the E. Clampus Vitus order in 1994.

Stone wall guard rail

Don't miss the stone wall which dates from the 1930s and served as a modern guard rail (crash barrier) in those days, keeping cars from falling down the cliffs.

Stone wall beside old Route 66

Stone wall beside old Route 66 in Blue Cut, Cajon Pass
View of Stone wall beside old Route 66 in Blue Cut, Cajon Pass, Google
Click image for Street View

The last part, towards Devore

The road heads west and then begins a wide curve. It is here, in the middle of the curve, 1 mile south of the Blue Cut marker that you can spot the remains of what once was a Union 76 Service Station in the 1950s. Compare these two views: Vintage Postcard and the 2009 Google Street View.

South of this point, the road curves back towards the southeast and approaches I-15, heading towards San Bernardino but it ends at a cutoff at Kenwood Ave. To continue along Route 66 you have to reach Cajon Blvd. south of the I-15 ⁄ I-215 junction that is just ahead. So you will have to get on to I-15 westbound here. This map shows how to get there. Once you reach Cajon Blvd. again, you can drive along the two alternative Route 66 alignments into San Bernardino, that we describe in our San Bernardino page

The Natural setting: Geology of Cajon Pass

There are two massive mountain ranges that meet at Cajon Pass, which is a natural gap between them. To the east are the San Gabriel Mountains and to the west, the San Bernardino Mountains, and, as an additional element, the famous San Andreas Fault runs across the Pass too.

San Gabriel Mountains

The mountain range is located to the north of Los Angeles and has a east - west orientation. It's highest peak is Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy) at 10,064 ft (3.068 m).

The Mountains' dimensions are:

  • Length: 69 mi (111 km)
  • Width: 23 mi (37 km)
  • Area: 970 sq mi (2.500 km2)

It is made up of Precambian to Mezosoic rocks that were uplifted as fault blocks during the Cenozoic (5 - 15 M. years ago).

San Bernardino Mountains

Located to the north and northeast of San Bernardino their highest peak is San Gorgonio Mountain at 11,489 feet (3.502 m).

They were uplifted some 11 M. years ago by the San Andreas Fault and are still rising. Snow accumulates on the peaks during winter as well as rainfall which feeds rivers that flow into the surrounding desert.

The Mountains' dimensions are:

  • Length: 60 mi (97 km)
  • Width: 41 mi (66 km)
  • Area: 2,063 sq mi (5.340 km2)

The San Andreas Fault

The fault runs for 800 miles (1.300 km) across California with a NW - SE course. It marks the tectonic boundary where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates meet.

The plates have a horizontal movement, sliding against each other (right-lateral-strike-slip), where the western part of California moves north and the eastern part wit the rest of North America, moves south. The slip is about 0.9 in per year (4.5 cm).

The plates jam in some sections and tension builds up until the rock fails deep in the Earth's crust, causing the plates to jump into position again and releasing all the pent up energy as an earthquake.

Discovered by Prof. Andrew Lawson in 1895, it was named after the San Andreas Valley. It runs from San Francisco to the Baja California area.

Route 66 Alignments


> > See the previous segment Barstow to Victorville (west)

> > See this segment San Bernardino to Victorville (west)

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A Guide to the Golden State, by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, Hastings House, New York, 1939.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.