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California U.S. Highway 40

Historic Old Highway 40 sign – Bill Oudegeest

Old U.S. Highway 40 stretches from New Jersey to California, and with Route 66, was one of the main travel routes across the country. To travel today on Old Highway 40 instead of Interstate 80 is to see America as it once was.

Driving along Old Highway 40 across the Sierra Nevada from Sacramento to Reno gives the traveler a new perspective and experience. Traveling at a slower pace, one passes the remnants of the past: old gas stations and motels, museums, towns off the beaten path, and historical sites and buildings.

Across Donner Summit, the old highway is the last historic incarnation of the Emigrant Trail that brought emigrants to California on the wagon trains. In many spots the old trail became the Lincoln Highway then the Victory Highway, and then Highway 40. You can sit at Donner Pass on Old Highway 40 and see the various routes still existing of all those roads next to the first Transcontinental Railroad.

Download the PDF file in the right column to get turn by turn driving instructions from Rocklin to Truckee without using Interstate 80.

The route has been set up in “legs” so that you can do any parts you want without having to do the whole. Each “leg” begins and ends at an easy to find location and each could make an interesting trip.

Leg 1: Rocklin to Old Town Auburn and the Auburn courthouse
Leg 2: Old Town Auburn to Colfax
Leg 3: Colfax to I-80 at Baxter
Leg 4: Cisco Grove to Donner Summit and Truckee

Driving Directions

Old Highway 40 parallels Interstate 80 for much of its route through California, particularly across the Sierra Nevada.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

Along Old Highway 40 travelers have the opportunity to see an old America, as it was before the interstates became the preferred mode of automobile travel. Old motels, museums, historic buildings, scenic viewpoints, and historic sites are just some of the highlights travelers can see.