CALIFORNIA (KTXL) — California has scenic roads that pass through coastal, forest, desert and country areas, but which paved roads will get you to some of California’s highest locations?
Since these roads cut through remote and extreme wilderness, make sure to have everything you need in case of an unexpected emergency if you plan on traveling through any of them.
While there are gravel or dirt roads at the highest elevations, here is a list of the five highest-elevation paved roads in California.
1. Rock Creek Road, Inyo County, Inyo National Forest, Elevation 10,239 feet
Rock Creek Road is the highest paved road for public use in California. Starting on the west side of Highway 395, drivers will gain 3,179 feet over the 10.4-mile length of road.
Some grades can be up to 10 to 15 percent, with the average grade being around 5.79 percent.
The roadway is usually not cleared until May or early June and the weather is incredibly unpredictable, given the elevation and the propensity of snow.
The scenic drive will take you up and through a narrow mountain valley towards Rock Creek Lake and eventually to Little Lakes Valley Trail Parking.
The start of the road is about 250 miles or a five-hour drive southeast from Sacramento.
2. Horseshoe Meadow, Inyo County, Lone Pine, Elevation 10,072 feet
An almost spaghetti ribbon of asphalt along the Eastern Sierras, Horseshoe Meadow Road offers stunning views of the lower Eastern Sierras and western Nevada.
Unlike the somewhat gentle grade of Rock Creek Road, Horseshow Meadow Road’s switchbacks have an average 6.9% grade across 19 miles of road.
The higher you climb, the greater the views and there are plenty of pullouts along the way to get photos.
Once the switchbacks are over, drivers will have a less twisty accent to the end point of the road, Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead.
On the way down it is advised to use a low gear and use four-wheel drive if it is an option.
3. Sonora Pass, Tuolumne County, Toiyabe National Forest, Elevation 9,624 feet
Situated along Highway 108, this mountain pass has been used by travelers since at least the 1860s.
The highway is closed during winters and usually only opens in late May and through the first heavy snowfall.
Even though the pass is high in elevation, the 63-mile drive from East Sonora allows for a gradual elevation gain.
4. Onion Valley Road, Inyo County, Independence, Elevation 9,219 feet
It may not be the highest road in the state, but Onion Valley Road is one of the steepest, with the last 10 miles of the 13-mile road averaging more than 8% grade.
The elevation gain over the relatively short road is 5,265 feet from the starting place in the town of Independence.
Similar to Horseshoe Meadows Road, a series of switchbacks provide for some quick elevation gain and also allow for some stunning photo opportunities of the Owens Valley below.
The final destination of the climb is the Onion Valley Campground.
5. Kaiser Pass, Fresno County, Sierra National Forest, Elevation 9,184 feet
The last entry on this list is incredibly narrow and twisty, but beautiful.
Starting at CA-168 and continuing to Florence Lake, this 22-mile road has a short section of two-lane road as it narrows into a meandering stretch of pavement.
The road cuts through and rockets its way up through alpine forests, meadows, hot springs, campgrounds, rockfaces and lakes.
The road itself has a five-star rating on Google from four reviewers.