California 173 is a 23.04-mile state route divided into three components: (1) a paved, two-lane highway from California 138 near Silverwood (south of Hesperia) west to a point just east of the intersection with Arrowhead Lake Road via Summit Valley and Mojave River Forks; (2) an unpaved dirt road currently closed to through traffic from that point east to Willow Creek Road (Rifle Range Road) via the northern face of the San Bernardino Mountains; and (3) a paved, two-lane highway from the gate closure at Willow Creek Road (Rifle Range Road) southeast via Lake Arrowhead to California 18 (Rim of the World Highway) at Crest Park.
Unpaved Segment Closure
California 173 was a traversable route in its entirety until a press release on February 15, 2011, announced that the unpaved section would be closed to through traffic permanently in early March 2011.1 As a result of this action, California 173 is now effectively split into two separate routes. In the meantime, some residents have proposed shifting responsibility of the dirt road segment to either San Bernardino County or the U.S. Forest Service, but as of October 2012, no deal has yet been struck to reopen the road and move it into another governmental entity's jurisdiction.2, 3 The center portion of the route, while closed to the general motoring public, remains the only remaining unpaved state highway in California (as Caltrans continues to provide roadway preservation maintenance to the closed roadway).
Assigned as a state highway in 1933, California 173 was commissioned in the same year as nearby California 189 and included the entire route from California 138 to California 18. The legislative designation was changed to match the state sign route, which was assigned in 1964 (along with many other state highway numerical designations in California).
|California 173 east|
|This is the first California 173 shield along eastbound after California 138 northwest of Silverwood Lake. Photo taken 04/18/04.|
|View of the mountains as California 173 passes north of Silverwood Lake. Photo taken 04/18/04.|
|California 173 scenes|
|This view of Lake Arrowhead is seen from a boat dock accessible near the outlet shops off of California 173. Photo taken 05/01/02.|
- State Route 173 (Unpaved Portion) Permanent Closure - Caltrans District 8 Press Release dated February 15, 2011, by Terri Kasinga. Relevant quote: "The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will permanently close an approximate five mile section of unpaved State Route 173 (SR-173) in early March 2011. The route is located west of Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains and is the only state highway in California in which the travel way is comprised of dirt. The route will be closed from west of the original closure at Willow Creek Road, downhill to east of Arrowhead Lake Road, just east of Hesperia. The decision to close the roadway was made by transportation officials late last year based on safety concerns or the motoring public. The roadway is narrow, unpaved, and in many areas does not have two travel lanes for the safe passage of opposing vehicles."
- Route Concept Fact Sheet District 8: State Route 173 by Caltrans District 8 Division of Planning, March 2000. Relevant quote: "Segment 2 is unpaved and traverses mountainous terrain. The unpaved section is generally closed in the winter and often restricted to one-lane width. The closures normally occur between the months of November and April depending upon weather conditions. Traffic volumes on this segment are extremely low. Only about 50 vehicles traverse this segment per day and many of them are public vehicles (Caltans, sewer districts, and utility companies, etc). Segments 2 and 3 primarily have no State highway purpose and are considered by the mountain communities to serve as a backdoor fire escape even though the route has not been needed for this purpose since it entered the State highway system in 1933. ... Most of the traffic on the route is concentrated in the Lake Arrowhead area and is comprised of local trips. Other State highways (SR-138, 189 and 18) provide alternate service and links to State Route 173. The route traverses through National Forest, the City of Hesperia, and the County of San Bernardino. Relinquishment of SR-173 to these jurisdictions should be considered. "
- Highway 173 to close Permanently? on My Jeep Rocks Forum; retrieved on October 14, 2012. Relevant quote: "Caltrans has tried to relinquish the road over the years and the Department remains willing to do so," by Terri Kasing, Caltrans Public Information Officer.
Page Updated October 14, 2012.