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the old Ridge Route

16 mar 2022

Ridge Route in 1930 Ridge Route obsolete in 1935

The Ridge Route was the first highway, or road for vehicle traffic, from Los Angeles north, over the mountains to Kern County. It was made largely by manual labor, mules, and steam power in a few key places. It opened in 1915, was paved in the early 1920's, and was obsolete by the 1930's when a state highway was carved through the mountains (with new-fangled powered machinery). The route now resides within the Angeles National Forest.

The road is still there, just. I always wantyed to drive it, and having procured a futuristical machine (my 1960 Rambler American Super station wagon) Simon and I decided it would make a nice day trip.

It did. We drove from the Pasadena area up the 210 and 5, took the Old Road, such as it is (that's its actual name) to Castaic and the Ridge Route. The lower end parallels I-5 then veers slightly west, and provides access to power and pipelines, so it's well kept for some miles.

The original roadway was concrete, revised a number of times in its own active history (many of the original 700+ turns caused many fatalities; until the automobile it was not possible to sustain road speeds of 15 miles/hour (the 1915 limit) over long distances; turn radii was as low as 70 feet), so concrete turns end in hillsides, paved over with newer concrete then later asphalt.

Past the National Forest Inn ruins, the road is essentially abandoned. Alas, jerks stole all the historic plaques from their pedestals, but with the intertubes you can get decent information on the ruins along the route, and there are many.

The mountainous terrain is quite tough. The difficulty of roadmaking through it, without heavy self-powered equipment taken for granted today, is fairly obvious when you look past the right of way.

Here's a Google map of the the old Ridge Route road, a rough overview of the area; requires zooming in for detail. The route runs from approximately Castaic in the lower edge/southern end of this map, through the dropped pin (National Forest Inn ruins), the Tumble Inn and to Sandberg. The blue bubbles are photo spheres, probably mine.

It was a lovely, and easy, drive in the little Rambler, which is just great in stuff like this. We ended up at The Rock Inn in Lake Hughes CA for lunch.