Few wagon wheel ruts worn into the barren landscape more than a century ago remain accessible for curious rut rats to trace on foot. Many are on private property; others are buried under blacktop or shopping malls.

The 1844 Emigrant Trail-Truckee River Route in California’s Sierra Nevada is easily visible gouged into granite boulders near the Big Bend Ranger Station. Located in Placer County on old Highway 40 at 49685 Hampshire Rocks Road, the California Historic Landmark 799.2 plaque in front of the Big Bend Visitor Center estimates that more than 30,000 travelers used this trail on their way to the gold fields.

Follow a wheelchair accessible path from the parking area to the bridge. Look under the bridge over the Yuba River.

Wagon wheel ruts at Big Bend Ranger Station

A quarter mile north from the Visitor Center at Loch Leven Trailhead, park at east end of parking area and look north for a dark stake among boulders to begin trail. Walk northeast looking for green metal markers on trees. Follow wagon wheel ruts over granite. Return to original stake and walk northwest following markers to Yuba River and Big Bend Campground Bridge.

Anza-Borrego Desert in southern California is another great location where it’s easy to see and touch wagon wheel ruts on dusty trails in barren landscape much as it was during the 1850s.

The San Felipe Valley Stage Station (1858-1861) (CHL 793), built at the southern trail of explorers, trappers, soldiers, and emigrants where it crossed ancient trade routes of native Indians, was later used by Banning Stages and the military during the Civil War.
0.9 miles North of Highway 78 on San Felipe Road
Plaque on northeast hilltop.

Wagon Trail, Blair Valley

Vallecito Stage Station (1852) (CHL 304)
An important stop on the first official transcontinental route, the Butterfield Overland Stage line, and southern emigrant caravans.
19 miles North of Vallecito at Southwest corner of Highway 78 and Route 2.
Also see Vallecito Stage Station County Park, Route 2

Butterfield Overland Stage Trail

Butterfield Overland Mail Route (1858-1861) (CHL 647)
Blair Valley; marker at top of Foot & Walker Pass.

Box Canyon (1847) CHL 472)
See rough, hand-tool cuts carved by the Mormon Battalion in January 1847 on the rocky walls for their wagons to pass through the narrow gorge, thus opening the first road into southern California.





About Lynne Schaefer

Lynne Schaefer has written two newspaper columns ("The Schussboomer" about skiing in California, and "Notes from Lynne's Journal" about Oregon wildlife); travel and garden articles for regional magazines copy for DVD tours of the High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, both in Bend, Oregon. She has published three non-fiction books, A Traveler's Guide to Historic California, Christmas Trivia Quiz, and His Daughter's Remembrance.
This entry was posted in California History, History, Human Interest, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to WAGON WHEEL RUTS

  1. Muriel Carbiener says:

    Thanks. Since Gail & I are “rut nuts”, it’s special to see this on your blog. Next to our front door is a lovely wrought iron sign with a wagon wheel and trees and “rut nuts”.


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