Sonora Pass-Mono Road (No. 422 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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Rising to an elevation of 9,624 feet, the Sonora Pass–Mono Road lies in the northeastern corner of Tuolumne County. Many visitors believe the road is one of the most beautiful mountain passes and also the most impassable in all of Tuolumne County. The pass lies at the converging point of the counties of Mono, Alpine and Tuolumne. As a wagon road, the pass was used to transport mining supplies beginning in 1864, and as the weekly passenger stage from Sonora to Bodie.
The jagged crest of the Sierra is the eastern edge of Tuolumne County and the boundary line for Yosemite National Park. The western slope is a sharp downhill featuring a series of granite domes, lakes and canyons.
Some historians believe that Jedediah Strong Smith was the first white man to cross the Sierra Nevada by using the old Sonora Pass Trail on his way to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1827. He is referred to as the “pathfinder of the Sierra.”
During the 1850s, visitors paid a toll at a crossing gate before they were allowed to enter the pass. Fine hotels and a stable was also located at the toll gate.
The Bidwell-Bartleson party, the first overland emigrants, reached one of the Sierra's highest ridges in October 1841 after several months of hardship. Their route over the mountains consisted of a series of gorges and steep canyons and progress along the ridge continued to be slow. Ten more years passed before thousands of miners, pack animals and wagons arrived to flatten and enlarge the faint trail to a well defined wagon road.
The Sonora Pass-Mono Road is now State Highway 108 and follows closely to the trail of the old Sonora Pass. The historical marker is located at State Highway 108 (P.M. 14.5) at Sugar Pine Cutoff in Sugar Pine. The road is also part of the Mark Twain and Bret Harte Trail.
A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the county, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush.
Time Period Represented