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U.S. Route 395 shield
U.S. Route 395
Defined by S&HC § 610, maintained by Caltrans
Length: 556.909 mi[1] (896.258 km)
Formed: 1930s
South end: I-15 near Hesperia
SR 14 near Ridgecrest
US 6 in Bishop
US 395 at Nevada state line
US 395 at Nevada state line
SR 70 at Hallelujah Junction
SR 299 in Alturas
North end: US 395 at Oregon state line
State highways in California (list - pre-1964)
< I-380 I-405 >
History - Unconstructed - Deleted - Freeway - Scenic

In the U.S. state of California, U.S. Route 395 (US 395) is a 557-mile (896 km) route which traverses from Interstate 15 near the southern city limits of Hesperia, north to the Oregon state line in Modoc County near Goose Lake. The route clips into Nevada, serving the cities Carson City and Reno, before returning to California.

Prior to truncation, US 395 served the metropolitan areas of San Diego and San Bernardino. The highway serves as a connection to the Los Angeles area for the communities of the Owens Valley, Mammoth Mountain and Mono Lake. The highway is used as an access for both the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley.

The corridor has been used since the California gold rush, and before numbering was known by several names including El Camino Sierra. This route is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System and is eligible for the Scenic Highway system.


Route description

US 395 in the Mojave Desert near Victorville

The route of US 395 in California is split into two segments, as the highway exits and reenters California. The southern segment crosses the Mojave Desert and Owens Valley and passes east of the Sierra Nevada. The northern segment also follows the Sierra Nevada and crosses the Modoc Plateau.[2]


Mojave Desert

U.S. Route 395 begins in Hesperia at a partial interchange with Interstate 15 as it heads north. The road enters into Adelanto, on the western edge of Victorville. Victorville, founded by the Santa Fe Railroad to take advantage of water along the Mojave River, and for most of its history home to George Air Force Base,[3] was the second fastest growing city in the United States for July 2006 to July 2007.[4] Although US 395 was once rural road, passing to the side of these cities of the Mojave Desert, with the rapid growth these cities are fast encroaching on the highway and changing the character from rural to suburban.

Old signs near Inyokern

After leaving the Victorville area the scenery changes, as suburban neighborhoods disappear and the highway traverses the Mojave Desert. While crossing the desert, the route clips the northeastern corner of Edwards Air Force Base. Just past the base the road intersects SR 58. This is currently an at-grade intersection; however, SR 58 is gradually being upgraded to a freeway.[2] US 395 crosses the Rand and El Paso Mountains, which is also where the highway crosses the San BernardinoKern county line, near Johannesburg. While traversing these mountains the route is joined by an active line of the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) that loosely follows the route of State Route 14 through the Mojave. Though the railroad is abandoned north of Inyokern, US 395 follows the old railroad grade from this point to Bishop.[2][5]

On the other side of the mountains is Indian Wells Valley, US 395 passes between the cities of Ridgecrest and Inyokern, where US 395 Bus. is located and is routed on South China Boulevard.[6] US 395 follows the western boundary of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, not far from Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons, where Coso People created prolific rock art and traded with distant tribes using tools crafted of stone.[7] The highway proceeds diagonally across the valley, until merging with State Route 14. SR 14 is an old routing of U.S. Route 6 that proceeds north from Los Angeles, following the edge of the forming Sierra Nevada mountains. Formerly US 6 and US 395 ran concurrent from this junction north to Bishop. Near where US 395 and SR 14 meet, the mountains crest at an altitude of 8,400 feet (2,600 m). US 395 follows the valleys along the eastern edge of the Sierra as the mountains gradually increase in altitude until reaching their peak at over 14,000 feet (4,300 m) near Lone Pine.[2]

Just after crossing the Inyo County line, the highway enters the unincorporated community of Pearsonville, which namesake Lucy Pearson bills as the "Hubcap Capital of the World".[8] After passing by three small lakes, Little Lake, North and South Haiwee Reservoirs, the highway enters the Owens Valley.

Owens Valley

US 395 traverses the entire length of the Owens Valley, entering the valley near the former site of the Owens Lake. The valley, named for one of explorer John C. Fremont's guides, was primarily home to Timbisha and Paiutes before European settlement. Formerly a fertile lake and valley, Owens Lake and the southern portion of the valley are now dry. Water from the valley is channeled for use by the City of Los Angeles, via the Los Angeles Aqueduct, in what is commonly called the California Water Wars.[9]

Volcanic Rock above Little Lake, as seen from US 395

Along the shores of Owens Lake, the highway passes by Cartago and Olancha. Just north of the lake is Lone Pine. Lone Pine is noted as an access for both the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley. Both Mount Whitney and the mountains surrounding Death Valley are visible from US 395.[2] The US 395 corridor from Lone Pine north to the Nevada state line is noted for a high concentration of natural hot springs leading to area being known as the "hot springs jackpot".[10]

Past Lone Pine, the highway passes by Manzanar National Historic Site, a concentration camp where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. The next community is Independence, the county seat of Inyo County and the home to the Eastern California Museum. Just north is the small Fort Independence Indian Reservation and the Tinehama Reservoir. Nearby is where the Los Angeles Aqueduct is tapped from the Owens River; with more vegetation visible north of this point.[11] In this portion of the valley is Big Pine and the Big Pine Indian Reservation.

Truck passing through Owens Valley with the Sierra Nevada in the background

From here to Bishop the highway is overlapped with SR 168.[11]

At the north end of the valley sits Bishop, the largest city in the Owens Valley. Bishop serves as a gateway for the recreation areas of the Sierra Nevada, including Mammoth Mountain. At the north end of Bishop is the former separation with, and current terminus of, U.S. Route 6, a 3,205-mile (5,158 km) route which can take motorists ultimately to Provincetown, Massachusetts on the east coast. This point is also where the route of US 395 and the abandoned railroad grade separate, with the former SP grade following US 6 towards Hawthorne and Tonopah, Nevada.[5]

The scenery changes dramatically past Bishop as the highway reaches the end of the valley and with a single ascent, gains over 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. From here to Gardnerville, the highway is routed across spur ranges of the Sierra Nevada mountains.[2]

Sierra Nevada

US 395 descending into Owens Valley from the Sierra Nevada, just north of Bishop

US 395 scales the Sierra Nevada on a ridge between the canyons of the Owens River and Rock Creek. Sherwin Summit, at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), is the first of five mountain passes crossed by US 395 in the Sierra Nevada. The highway enters Mono County midway up the ascent, called the Sherwin Grade.[2]

After cresting Sherwin Summit, the highway travels along the west shore of Crowley Lake. Crowley Lake is a reservoir for the City of Los Angeles's acqueduct,[12] supplied by the Owens River. However US 395 does not resume following the river, instead cutting across the Long Valley Caldera to serve the ski resort area of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain via SR 203, after paralleling the runway of the Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

Eight miles past the junction leading to Mammoth, the highway crests the second summit, Deadman Summit, at 8,036 feet (2,449 m). This summit separates the Owens River watershed from that of Mono Lake, a salt lake with approximately three times the concentration of salt as the Ocean.[13]

Along the descent towards Mono Lake, the highway passes near the community of June Lake, a recreation area where there are several freshwater lakes famous for trout fishing, and the June Mountain Ski Area. The June Lake area is served from June Lake Junction by the June Lake Loop Road (SR 158)

Just before arriving at Mono Lake, US 395 has a brief concurrency with SR 120; the two routes separate at the southern end of Lee Vining. At this junction US 395 is 12 miles (19 km) from Tioga Pass, along route 120, the highest paved route in California, and the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park.[2]

Southbound US 395 cresting Deadman Summit with Mount Morrison in the distance

Visible for miles, the highway finally passes Mono Lake, squeezed between the lake and the Sierra crest. The next geographic feature is Conway Summit. At 8,138 feet (2,480 m) in altitude, this is the highest point along US 395, and the highest point along a U.S. Highway in California. This Summit also separates the Mono Lake watershed from that of the East Walker River.[2]

The highway descends Conway Summit via the tributaries of the East Walker River, heading towards Bridgeport and Bridgeport Reservoir. Along the descent the highway passes by Bodie, a ghost town which the state park system has preserved, including items still on the shelves in the abandoned stores.[14]

The fourth summit crossed by US 395 in California is Devil's Gate Pass, elevation 7,519 feet (2,292 m), which separates the East and West Walker Rivers. The winding descent from Devil's Gate follows the West Walker River, exiting near the towns of Walker and Coleville in the Antelope Valley, a few miles south of Topaz Lake which is on the California-Nevada State Line.


View of US 395 and Mono Lake from Conway Summit

Topaz Lake is where US 395 leaves California, to serve the Reno and Carson City metropolitan areas. The highway runs for 87 miles (140 km) in Nevada.[15] While in Nevada, the highway crosses one more pass, Simee Dimeh Summit, before exiting the mountains.[16] The highway returns to follow the receding escarpment of the sierra.[2]

Honey Lake

US 395 returns to California as a freeway, but is soon downgraded to a divided highway just past the state line. The road follows Long Valley Creek along the edge of the sierra towards Honey Lake. From this point north, the highway follows a rail line originally built by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway; the line is now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.[2][5]

US 395 ascending the West Walker River towards Devil's Gate Pass

The highway enters the state in a corner of Sierra County, entering Lassen County just 3 miles (4.8 km) later. A short segment in Lassen County is a freeway with one exit, SR 70 at the Hallelujah Junction. This exit is numbered 8, even though it resides hundreds of miles from the origin of the highway; the exit number instead uses the distance from the point of re-entry to California.[17] Though SR 70 does not directly serve any major cities, the highway is noted as an all-weather crossing of the Sierras. Just less than 5 miles (8.0 km) from Hallelujah Junction is Beckwourth Pass, the lowest pass in the Sierra, used by both SR 70 and the Feather River Route.[18] SR 70 was at one time numbered U.S. Route 40 Alternate, using US 395 from this junction south to Reno to connect with the mainline US 40 (now Interstate 80). Though driving route 70 and US 395 is a much longer route between Reno and Sacramento than mainline US 40 (130 miles (210 km) versus 226 miles (364 km)),[19][20] the alternate route was more likely to be open during winter storms than US 40, which crested the sierra at Donner Pass.

The highway proceeds towards and around the west side of 73-square-mile (190 km2) Honey Lake while en route to Susanville. Although Susanville is used as a control city, US 395 does not technically enter the city. In a T-intersection with State Route 36 just before Susanville, US 395 makes a sharp turn avoiding the city, making a near complete loop around the Susanville Municipal Airport.[21]

Modoc Plateau

North of Susanville, the highway bends around Shaffer Mountain and crosses the Modoc Plateau. While en route, the highway serves the ghost towns of Ravendale, Termo,and Madeline in Lassen County, as well as Likely in Modoc County. Here US 395 parallels the South Fork of the Pit River until the confluence with the north fork in Alturas. Past the confluence, the highway follows North Fork Pit River across Modoc County toward Goose Lake. The last junction in California is with SR 299, former U.S. Route 299, in Alturas. SR 299 can be used to travel west all the way to the western side of California at US 101 in Arcata, and east to Nevada State Route 8A at the Nevada state line. The two highways are briefly concurrent from Alturas to the XL Ranch Indian Reservation. US 395 travels in a north-northeast direction for some last 50 miles (80 km) in California, paralleling the east shore of Goose Lake just before crossing the Oregon state line at New Pine Creek, Oregon.[11]


Camino Sierra

The Camino Sierra was a trail from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe loosely paralleling modern State Route 14, US 395, and State Route 89. The trail was first believed to be used by Jedediah Smith in 1826. The trail was in common use by prospectors passing through the area because of the California gold rush and Comstock Lode. Though this area was not directly affected by the gold and silver rushes, the Owens Valley was more fertile than the areas around the strikes in Nevada. Farmers and ranchers raised cattle and other goods to trade with the mining boom towns nearby. The town of Bishop was established to trade goods with the mining town of Aurora.[22] By 1860, the Camino Sierra was an established trail appearing in maps and guides. After these mining rushes died down, the Camino Sierra saw a revival because of the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct beginning in 1908. The route was promoted for its scenic value by the Southern Pacific Railroad, as a side trip from its rail lines, as far back as 1912.[23] By 1918, the Camino Sierra had been included in the Blue Book, an early road atlas of the United States.[24]

Rail lines

Both the northern and southern segments of the US 395 corridor were used by railroads built in the 1880s branching from the First Transcontinental Railroad in Nevada. Both lines where intended to connect the main Southern Pacific Railroad line in Nevada with other lines, but were never completed.

Dedicatory road sign along US 395 just north of Mono Lake

On May 20, 1880 the Carson and Colorado Railway was formed, with the intent of extending a rail line from the existing Virginia and Truckee Railroad at Hawthorne, Nevada through the Owens Valley towards the Colorado River. Though the rail line was never finished, it did bring economic development to the valley. The railroad was never completed past Keeler on the shores of Owens Lake.[25] This line was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1900,[26] and eventually connected with their main line at Mojave. Most of this line was abandoned in 1959, and has since been removed.[25] However, the path of the railroad is still visible and many bridges and trestles remain.[11]

The corridor for the northern segment was first used by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway, a line also started in 1880, at Reno, to connect with the Great Northern Railway in Oregon.[26] This line also was never completed, ending at Lakeview, Oregon. This line is still active, through a series of acquisitions, the Union Pacific Railroad now owns this line. The portion from Reno to Hallelujah Junction is used as a connection between the Union Pacific's two main lines in northern California/Nevada, the Overland Route (First Transcontinental Railroad) and the Feather River Route.[2]

U.S. Route 395

US 395 between Big Pine and Independence

As first commissioned in 1926, US 395 was a minor spur route of U.S. Route 195 connecting Spokane, Washington with Canada.[27] During the 1930s, US 395 was extended from Spokane to San Diego, over the Camino Sierra, using several existing state routes. The extension first appeared on the Official Nevada Highway map in 1935.[28] By 1937, US 6 had been extended to California, concurrent with US 395 between Bishop and Inyokern.[28] The new southern terminus of US 395 was at the Pacific Highway (former US 101) in San Diego, traversing the path similar of modern SR 163 and I-15 to Escondido. Past Escondido the route passed through Fallbrook using portions of what is now SR 78 and SR 76 before returning to I-15 near Temecula.[29] This portion was straightened using the route of modern I-15, by 1960.[30] Past Temecula, the route followed SR 79, SR 74, I-215 and I-15 until reaching the modern terminus in Hesperia.[30] This part would also be straightened with the construction of what is now I-215. In 1969, the portion south of Hesperia was removed and assigned to other routes.[31]

Over time the road was paved, upgraded and straightened. Some parts are now built to freeway standards. Among the more notable upgrades, the Los Peñasquitos Creek Arch Bridge, along the portion of former US 395 now used by I-15, was built in 1949, and replaced in 1964, with a second span built in 1977.[32] Today, US 395 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System[33] and is eligible for the State Scenic Highway System.[34]

Major intersections

Note: Except where prefixed with a letter, postmiles were measured in 1964, based on the alignment as it existed at that time, and do not necessarily reflect current mileage. The numbers reset at county lines; the start and end postmiles in each county are given in the county column.
County Location Postmile
#[17] Destinations Notes
San Bernardino
SBD R3.98-73.52
Hesperia R3.98 I-15 south (Mojave Freeway) – San Bernardino Interchange; southbound exit and northbound entrance; former US 395 south
I-15 (CA).svg Joshua Street to I-15 north – Victorville
R5.61 Main Street, Phelan Road – Phelan
Adelanto 11.18 SR 18 (Palmdale Road) – Palmdale
Kramer Junction 45.95 SR 58 (Barstow–Bakersfield Highway) – Bakersfield, Barstow
72.77 Trona Road – Trona, Death Valley
KER 0.00-R36.82
R1.15 Redrock Randsburg Road – Randsburg
R15.00 China Lake Boulevard (US 395 Bus. north), Brown Road – Ridgecrest, China Lake NAWS China Lake Boulevard serves Cerro Coso Community College; Brown Road was former US 395 north
R23.48 SR 178 (US 395 Bus. south, to SR 14 south) – Ridgecrest, Mojave Interchange
R25.08 Brown Road – Inyokern Interchange; southbound exit and northbound entrance; former US 395 south
R29.64 SR 14 south – Los Angeles Interchange; southbound exit and northbound entrance
INY R0.00-R129.46
Nine Mile Canyon Road (CR J41) – Kennedy Meadows
Olancha 34.67 SR 190Death Valley
Lone Pine 55.83 SR 136 to SR 190Death Valley
Big Pine 100.83 SR 168 east – Westgard Pass, Deep Springs South end of SR 168 overlap
Bishop 115.40 SR 168 west – Lake Sabrina, South Lake North end of SR 168 overlap
116.25 US 6 north  – Tonopah
MNO R0.00-120.49
Tom's Place R10.26 Crowley Lake Drive/Owens Gorge Road -- Rock Creek Lake
R13.93 Crowley Lake, Hilton Creek Interchange
R25.75 SR 203Mammoth Lakes, Devils Postpile Interchange
June Lake Junction 40.34 SR 158 north (June Lake Loop)
45.96 SR 120 east – Benton, Mono Lake South Tufa South end of SR 120 overlap
46.40 SR 158 south (June Lake Loop)
Lee Vining 50.74 SR 120 west – Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park North end of SR 120 overlap
58.24 SR 167 / Lundy Lake Road  – Hawthorne, Lundy Lake
69.85 SR 270Bodie
Bridgeport 76.30 SR 182  – Bridgeport Lake, Yerington
Sonora Junction 93.70 SR 108Sonora
116.96 SR 89Markleeville
120.49 Nevada state line
US 395 exits and reenters California via Nevada
SIE R0.00-R3.12
R0.00 Nevada state line
No intersections in Sierra County
LAS R0.00-138.98
South end of freeway
Hallelujah Junction 4.62 8 SR 70 west – Portola, Quincy
North end of freeway
29.84 CR A26 (Garnier Road) – Herlong, Sierra Army Depot
CR A25 (Herlong Access Road) – Herlong
51.87 CR A3 north (Standish Buntingville Road)
R61.09 SR 36Susanville
Standish 70.12 CR A3 south (Standish Buntingville Road)  – Reno
Litchfield 72.94 CR A27 (Center Road)  – High Desert State Prison
Madeline 129.19 Ash Valley Road – Adin
MOD 0.06-61.56
Alturas 22.76 SR 299 west – Redding, Klamath Falls South end of SR 299 overlap
28.29 SR 299 east – Cedarville, Gerlach North end of SR 299 overlap
Fandango Pass Road – Fort Bidwell, Willow Ranch
New Pine Creek 61.56 Oregon state line


  1. ^ a b California Department of Transportation, State Truck Route List (XLS file), accessed February 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Benchmark Maps. California Road and Recreation Atlas [map], 3rd edition, 1:300,000. (2002)
  3. ^ "Victorville — City History". City of Victorville. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  4. ^ "A world of Opportunity". City of Victorville Economic Development Department. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  5. ^ a b c Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Map of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad/ Western Pacific and Connections [map]. Cartography by Pool Broths. Chicago. (1914-06-14)
  6. ^ Google. Google Maps — Ridgecrest, California [map]. Cartography by Tele Atlas. Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  7. ^ C.Michael Hogan (2008) Morro Creek, ed. by A. Burnham
  8. ^ "Hubcap Capital". Lucy Pearson. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  9. ^ "The Owens Valley Land Grab". University of Southern California. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  10. ^ Bischoff, Matt C. (2006). Touring California and Nevada Hot Springs. Globe Pequot. p. 49. ISBN 0762736410.  
  11. ^ a b c d "Google Maps street maps and USGS topographic maps". Acme Mapper. Retrieved 2007-12-15.  
  12. ^ LADWP Mono Basin Project
  13. ^ "Mono Basin Statistics". Mono Lake Committee. 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  14. ^ "Bodie State Historical Park". California State Parks. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  15. ^ "State Maintained Highways, Descriptions, Index & Maps and NHS". Nevada Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2008-01-28.  
  16. ^ Google. Google Maps [map]. Cartography by Teleatlas. (2008) Retrieved on 2008-09-21.
  17. ^ a b California Department of Transportation, California Numbered Exit Uniform System, US-395 Northbound and US-395 Southbound, accessed February 2008
  18. ^ "Office of Historic Preservation — California State Parks". State of California. Retrieved 2008-10-05.  
  19. ^ Google. Reno to Sacramento [map]. Cartography by Tele Atlas. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.
  20. ^ Google. Reno to Sacramento via Quincy and Oroville [map]. Cartography by Tele Atlas. Retrieved on 2009-01-03.
  21. ^ Google. Google Maps- Susanville, California [map]. Cartography by Tele Atlas. (2008) Retrieved on 2008-09-21.
  22. ^ Cheuvront, Mike. "About Bishop: History". Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 2008-10-30.  
  23. ^ "Two Mules and a Motorist". Sunset — the Pacific Monthly (San Francisco, California: Southern Pacific Company) 29: 159–171. 1912.  
  24. ^ The Automobile Blue Book — Standard Road Guide of America. 8. The Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company. 1918. p. 21.,M1.  
  25. ^ a b "Laws Museum — The Story of Laws". Laws Museum. Retrieved 2008-10-05.  
  26. ^ a b Myrick, David F. (1992). "Carson and Colorado". Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California. University of Nevada Press. pp. 166. ISBN 0874171938.,M1.  
  27. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture. United States System of Highways [map]. (1926) Retrieved on 2008-03-03.
  28. ^ a b "Historical Maps". Nevada Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  29. ^ Automobile Club of Southern California. Coast and Inland Routes — Los Angeles to San Diego [map]. (1929)
  30. ^ a b National Geographic Society. National Geographic Atlas of the 50 United States [map]. (1960) p. 22, section F5.
  31. ^ "Statutes and Amendments to the Codes" (pdf). State of California. p. 609 of 2220. Retrieved 2008-10-18.  
  32. ^ Svirsky, Alexander. "National Bridge Inventory". Alexander Svirsky (using data from the Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 2008-10-22.  
  33. ^ "CA Codes (shc:250-257)". State of California.  
  34. ^ "CA Codes (shc:260-284)"]. State of California.  
  35. ^ California Department of Transportation, Log of Bridges on State Highways, July 2007
  36. ^ California Department of Transportation, All Traffic Volumes on CSHS, 2005 and 2006

External links

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