California 49

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California 49

Routing

Beginning in Oakhurst just north of Fresno and south of Yosemite National Park, California 49 traces the Mother Lode of California, passing through such historic gold mining communities as Jamestown, Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp, San Andreas, Jackson, Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley, and Nevada City. Leaving the foothills, California 49 enters the Sierra Nevada, passing through Downieville en route to its northeasterly terminus at California 70 in Vinton.

History

California 49 received its designation honor of the 49ers, owing to the fact that California 49 serves many cities and communities founded during the Gold Rush of 1849.

Naming

California 49 is frequently referred to as the Gold Country Highway, Mother Lode Highway, Golden Chain Highway, and other names that speak to its heritage as the main highway to communities, towns, and cities linked along the famed Mother Lode gold mining area.

Highway Guides

California 49 north
California 49 north and California 140 east
California 49 north
California 49 north and California 120 west
California 49 north
California 49 north and California 108 east
California 49 north
Historic/Bypass signage along California 49. Photo taken by Mike Ballard, 08/98.
Northbound California 49 approaches the turnoff to California 16 west. This intersection marks the western terminus of California 16. Photo taken by Joel Windmiller, 03/29/01.
Skipping ahead, California 49 approaches its freeway segment just southwest of Grass Valley. Photo taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 approaches McKnight Way, one-half mile. California 49 will widen into a freeway as it enters the Grass Valley-Nevada City metropolitan area. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 meets McKnight Way and South Auburn Street. This is the beginning of Business California 20-49, which follows original route of California 20-49 through Grass Valley and Nevada City. Photo taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 approaches its southern junction with California 20, one-half mile. The two routes will merge together to form the Golden Center Freeway through Grass Valley and Nevada City. Photo taken 01/19/03.
West California 20 leads to Penn Valley, Rough and Ready, Yuba City, Marysville, Colusa, Williams, Clearlake, Willits, and Fort Bragg on the coast. It is a major east-west corridor, with easterly connections to Truckee and Lake Tahoe. Photo taken 01/19/03.

Northbound California 49 meets California 20. The next exit is for Junction California 174. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 north and California 20 east
For pictures of the Golden Center Freeway through Grass Valley and Nevada City, go to the California 20 page.
California 49 north
The original, 1920s-era California 49 bridge was a concrete arch that used to carry the state highway over the Yuba River. This bridge is adjacent to the new bridge (see next photobox). Crafted in a manner similar to the U.S. 80 arch bridges in San Diego County, this bridge is in excellent condition considering its age. The bridge is closed to vehicles, and it is primarily a pedestrian bridge for those wishing to hike to the Yuba River below. Photos taken 01/19/03.
These views show the new California 49 bridge as it passes over the Yuba River. The mileage and bridge identification sign is located along northbound. This newer bridge is similar to some modern arch bridges used for various overpasses along Interstates 805 and 15 in San Diego County. Photos taken 01/19/03.
En route to Downieville, California 49 maintains a low elevation initially as it passes through the mountains. This changes after Downieville, as California 49 rises to over 6,000 feet to cross the Sierra Nevada at Yuba Pass. Photo taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 uses one-lane bridge to cross the river in Downieville. California 49 only has one lane for both directions as it crosses the river here, so vehicles must yield to oncoming traffic. It's hard to believe that this is the same road that was a freeway back in Grass Valley! Photos taken 01/19/03.
These views of northbound California 49 are provided at Yuba Pass, elevation 6,701 feet above sea level. From here, the highway winds down into the Middle Fork of the Feather River Basin, or Sierra Valley. The third photo shows a view of the floor of the valley as seen from Yuba Pass. At the time this photo was taken, a recent snow had left behind significant drifts and walls created by snowplows. Photos taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 approaches California 89 north. Note the directional indicator located within the California state shield. Southbound California 49 and 89 merge from this point until Sierraville. Photo taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 meets California 89 north. The highway is still at high altitude here, but it will drop into a basin/valley in which Sierraville and Loyalton are located. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 north and California 89 south
Some distance south and now in Sierra County, California 49 and California 89 merge together for about five miles between Sattley and Sierraville. Signed as California 49 north and California 89 south, the two routes actually travel east between these two communities. This view is taken upon entering Sierraville. Photo taken 01/19/03.
The routes divide in Sierraville. California 49 proceeds northeast through the eastern edge of the Sierra Valley en route to Loyalton and Vinton, while California 89 turns south from Sierraville toward Truckee via Hobart Mills. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 north
California 49 is still in the Sierra Valley as it enters Loyalton, the only community along California 49 north between Sierraville and Vinton. Photo taken 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49 approaches its junction with Sierra County Route A-24 in Loyalton, Sierra Valley Road. County Route A-24 enters Plumas County to the north as it heads toward the Middle Fork Feather Wild and Scenic River area. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 passes under the Union Pacific (Western Pacific) Railroad overcrossing (built in 1928) just south of Vinton. This series of pictures shows the bridge when a Union Pacific train was passing overhead. Photos taken 09/04/10 and 01/19/03.
This view looks east along the railroad near the 1928 overcrossing. Photo taken 09/04/10.
Shortly thereafter, northbound California 49 approaches the unincorporated community of Vinton and its northern terminus at California 70/Feather River Highway. Photo taken 09/04/10.
A flashing red light and stop sign govern the flow of traffic along California 49 north at the intersection with California 70/Feather River Highway. Photo taken 09/04/10.
California 49 north ends at its junction with California 70 in Vinton. Eastbound California 70 leads to U.S. 395 and Reno, while California 70 west travels to Quincy and the Feather River Canyon. Photos taken 09/04/10 and 01/19/03.
Northbound California 49/GOlden Chain Highway reaches its northern terminus at the intersection with California 70/Feather River Highway. Photo taken 09/04/10.

California 49/Golden Chain (Mother Lode) Highway south
The first California 49 south reassurance shield is posted along southbound shortly after the intersection with California 70 in Vinton. Beyond the sign is a mileage sign (with distances to Loyalton and Sierraville) and a Union Pacific Railroad bridge. Photos taken 09/04/10 and 01/19/03.
This mileage sign along California 49 south provides the distance to Loyalton (11 miles) and Sierraville (24 miles). Photo taken 09/04/10.
The Union Pacific (Western Pacific) Railroad bridge will pass over California 49 just south of Vinton. Photos taken 09/04/10.
A date stamp inscribed into this overpass pegs the year of bridge construction in 1928. Photo taken 09/04/10.
California 49 arcs southwest after passing under the Union Pacific (Western Pacific) Railroad bridge. Photo taken 09/04/10.
California 49 south and California 89 north
California 49 south
Much further south, California 49 south meets Sierra County Route 490, which connects to Forest Service Road 25/Eureka Road and Indian Valley. This sign is located just southwest of Downieville. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 south and California 20 west
For pictures of the Golden Center Freeway through Grass Valley and Nevada City, go to the California 20 page.
California 49 south
Southbound California 49 enters the community of Cool, which is an unincorporated community of El Dorado County south of Auburn and north of Placerville. The community of Cool had a population of 2,520 and sat at an elevation of 1,518 feet above sea level. Photo taken 12/28/04.
In Cool, California 49 south approaches California 193 east to Georgetown. Continue straight ahead for California 49 south to Placerville and U.S. 50. Photo taken 12/28/04.
The intersection between California 49 and California 193 in Cool was governed by a four-way stop sign. Photo taken 12/28/04.
Leaving Cool, this mileage sign along California 49 south provides the distance to Pilot Hill (four miles), Coloma (11 miles), and Placerville (20 miles). Photo taken 12/28/04.
Skipping ahead and now in Placerville, southbound California 49 approaches its junction with U.S. 50. At the traffic signal, turn left for U.S. 50 east to Lake Tahoe or right for U.S. 50 west to Folsom and Sacramento. Photo taken 12/28/04.
Southbound California 49 meets U.S. 50 east to South Lake Tahoe and west to Folsom and Sacramento. Photo taken 12/28/04.
Through downtown Placerville, California 49 makes several twists and turns. After the U.S. 50 intersection, California 49 takes Spring Street south, turns east on Main Street (Old U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway), turns southeast onto Pacific Street (shown here), and then turns south onto Sacramento Street. Photo taken 12/28/04.
California 49 south and California 88 west
California 49 south
Southbound California 49 approaches its junction with California 4 in Angels Camp. Turn right ahead for California 4 west to Copperopolis, Farmington, Stockton, Concord, and Hercules. A new bypass of Angels Camp opened in Summer 2009; with that opening, California 4 was rerouted out of downtown. As a result, the next left connects to California 4's bypass east to Arnold, Big Trees State Park, Alpine Lake, Ebbetts Pass, and points east. Prior to the opening of the bypass, California 4 continued south along with California 49 south into downtown Angels Camp. Photo taken 07/18/09.
A new California 4 trailblazer is posted prior to the Angels Camp bypass. Photo taken 07/18/09.
This traffic signal governs the flow of traffic at the California 49 and California 4 intersection in Angels Camp. Photo taken 07/18/09.
California 49/Main Street south and Former California 4 east
An aging historical marker sign is posted shortly thereafter along California 49 south (and former California 4 east). Due to its historical role in the California Gold Rush of 1849, several buildings and structures in Angels Camp date to the 19th century. Photo taken 07/18/09.
Southbound California 49 approaches Murphys Grade Road east to Murphys. While the guide signs point for through traffic to continue to follow (former) California 4 to Murphys, it is true that Murphys Grade Road also leads to Murphys. Photo taken 07/18/09.
California 49/Main Street continues south toward downtown Angels Camp. Photos taken 07/18/09.
Utica Park, located on the east side of California 49 (former California 4) is accessible by a right turn off southbound Main Street. Photos taken 07/18/09.
Southbound California 49 enters and passes through downtown Angels Camp. Imprinted in the pavement at the intersection of Hardscrabble Street (west) and Raspberry Lane (east) is a jumping frog, for which Angels Camp is known worldwide. The frog was a bit faded when we approached the area. Photos taken 07/18/09.
Southbound California 49/Main Street meets Old Highway 4/Vallecito Road and Finnigan Lane. Another jumping frog is imprinted in the asphalt at this intersection. Aim right for the continuation of California 49 south to Sonora, Jamestown, and points south. Turn left to connect to California 4 east to Arnold, Murphys, and Big Trees State Park. Photos taken 07/18/09.
At this intersection in Angels Camp, California 49 splits right (south) and former California 4 turns left (east). Eastbound California 4 winds its way to Ebbetts Pass, with Vallecito, Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Bear Valley Ski Area (Junction California 207), and Lake Alpine along the way. California 49 continues south to Columbia and Sonora in Tuolumne County. Photo taken 01/19/03.
California 49 south and California 108 west
California 49 south
California 49 south and California 120 east
California 49 south
California 49 south and California 140 west
California 49 south
An END shield is posted for California 49 as the state route approaches its end in downtown Oakhurst. Motorists may turn right (south) on California 41 to Fresno or left (north) to Yosemite National Park. Photo taken 05/13/05.
This close-up shows the END shield for California 49 in Oakhurst. Photo taken 05/13/05.
Scenes Pertaining to California 49: Foresthill Bridge
These photos show the Foresthill Bridge, located just east of Auburn right off of Interstate 80. Built in 1973, this bridge was intended to provide a new route for California 49 that would avoid the low-lying areas at the base of the canyon and thus straighten out the route as well as reducing its risk for spring flooding and avoid the once-proposed but never-constructed Auburn Dam. If the dam had been built, the water would have risen to 135 feet the bridge deck at capacity. Even though the Foresthill Bridge was constructed as planned, the approaches to the route were never constructed, so it was orphaned from the state highway system. It is currently maintained by Placer County and is not assigned a state route number. These first eight pictures show the bridge from the hiking trails below the bridge. For more, visit Auburn Journal, "New sign celebrates Foresthill Bridge’s 30th" (09/01/03). Photos taken 01/19/03.
These photos show the Foresthill Bridge from the top, at the eastern end looking down and across all views. At 730 feet in height, this bridge is currently California's tallest bridge. Only the Royal Gorge bridge in Colorado, at 1,053 feet, and the New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia, at 876 feet, are higher than the Foresthill bridge. Note the superstructure and walkways located on either side of the bridge as well as the height of the bridge as evidenced by views looking straight down. The bridge itself is a work of art. Painted green, with huge concrete supports, the bridge flies way over the top of the North Fork of the American River. Even though it is such a high bridge, there are sidewalks built on either side of the bridge that provide stunning, obstructed views of the valley below. Photos taken 01/19/03.

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Page Updated April 15, 2012.