CAJON PASS (/kəˈhoʊn/ ; elevation 3,777 ft (1,151 m) ) is a
mountain pass between the
San Bernardino Mountains
San Bernardino Mountains and the San Gabriel
Southern California in the
United States . It was created
by the movements of the
San Andreas Fault
San Andreas Fault . Located in the Mojave
Desert , the pass is an important link from the Greater San
Bernardino Area to the
Victor Valley , and northeast to Las Vegas .
Cajon Pass is at the head of
Horsethief Canyon , traversed by
California State Route 138 (SR 138) and railroad tracks owned by BNSF
Union Pacific Railroad
Union Pacific Railroad . Railroad improvements in 1972
reduced its maximum elevation from about 3,829 feet (1,167 m) to 3,777
feet (1,151 m) while also reducing the curvature.
Interstate 15 does
not traverse Cajon Pass, but rather the nearby CAJON SUMMIT,
34°20′58″N 117°26′47″W / 34.34944°N 117.44639°W /
34.34944; -117.44639 (Cajon Summit) , elevation 4,190 feet (1,280
m). However, the entire area including
Cajon Pass and Cajon Summit is
often collectively called Cajon Pass. Sometimes the entire area is
called Cajon Pass, but a distinction is made between
Cajon Pass and
Cajon Summit in detail.
In 1851, a group of
Mormon settlers led by
Amasa M. Lyman and Charles
C. Rich traveled through the
Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City to southern California. A prominent rock formation
in the pass, where the
Mormon trail and the railway merge (at
34°19′06″N 117°29′31″W / 34.3184°N 117.4920°W /
34.3184; -117.4920 , near Sullivan's Curve), is known as
Located at the Highway 138 and
Interstate 15 junction, the Mormon
Rocks are visual evidence of the San Andreas fault lying beneath the
* 1 Name
* 2 Aviation
* 3 Rail transport
* 3.1 Traffic
* 3.2 Incidents
* 3.3 Passenger service
* 4 Road transport
Pacific Crest Trail
* 6 Utilities infrastructure
* 7 Natural hazards
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
In Spanish, the word cajón refers to a box or drawer. The name of
the pass is derived from the Spanish land grant that encompassed the
area; it was first referred to in English on a 1852 map.
Cajon Pass area is known for high wind, turbulence and fog. The
weather over the pass can vary, from foggy days with poor visibility
to clear afternoons where aircraft are bounced by gusting Santa Ana
winds that top 80 mph (130 km/h). The wind in this area is
predominantly out of the west, although in Santa Ana and other weather
conditions it may be out of the north or the southeast. Air spilling
over the San Gabriels can cause fairly violent up- and downdrafts. On
a normal day, with the wind out of the west, turbulence usually starts
a few miles west of Rialto and continues a few miles to the east,
growing in strength above the altitude of the mountains and especially
over the pass near the HITOP intersection. In Santa Ana conditions,
up- and downdrafts can become especially violent northeast of Ontario
Airport, and turbulence can be experienced all the way east to the
Banning Pass , well known for turbulence. It's important to note that
the mass and wing loading of an aircraft determines its sensitivity to
turbulence, so what may seem violent in a
Cessna 172 may seem only
mild to moderate in a
Boeing 747 . In the
2006 Mercy Air 2 accident ,
an air ambulance helicopter collided with mountainous terrain near the
pass in foggy weather.
Santa Fe R.R. train going through
Cajon Pass in the San
Bernardino Mountains 1943
Union Pacific Railroad
Union Pacific Railroad GE Dash 8-40C
#9214 leads a freight train up
Cajon Pass Union Pacific steam
excursion train at Cajon Pass, November 2011. Locomotive is
UP 844 .
California Southern Railroad , a subsidiary of the Atchison,
Topeka and Santa Fe Railway , was the first railroad to use the Cajon
Pass as a route through the mountains. The rail line through the pass
was built in the early 1880s as part of a connection between the
present day cities of Barstow and
San Diego . Today the Union
Pacific Railroad and
BNSF Railway (the successor to the Santa Fe) use
the pass to reach Los Angeles and San Bernardino. Due to the many
trains, noteworthy scenery and easy access, it is a popular location
for railfans , and numerous photographs of trains on
Cajon Pass appear
in books and magazines about trains.
Union Pacific Railroad
Union Pacific Railroad operates and owns one track through the
pass, on the previous Southern Pacific Railroad Palmdale cutoff,
opened in 1967. The
BNSF Railway had two tracks and began to operate a
third main track in the summer of 2008. The railroads share track
rights through the pass ever since the Union Pacific gained track
rights on the Santa Fe portion negotiated under the original Los
Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad . The original BNSF (ATSF) line was
constructed in the 1880s and later roads,
U.S. Route 66
U.S. Route 66 and I-15,
roughly followed this route. The 3.0% grade for a few miles on the
south track is challenging for long trains, making the westbound
descent potentially dangerous, as a runaway can occur if the engineer
is not careful in handling the brakes. The second track, built in
1913, is 2 miles (3.2 km) longer to get a lower 2.20% grade. It ran
through two short tunnels, but both were removed when the third main
track was added next to the 1913 line. Trains may be seen traveling
at speeds of 60 and 70 mph (97 and 113 km/h) on the straighter track
away from the pass, but typically ascend at 14 to 22 mph (23 to 35
km/h) and descend at 20 to 30 mph (32 to 48 km/h). The third track
enables a capacity of 150 trains per day on the BNSF lines.
* The steep downhill grade south of the pass was a contributing
factor in the May 12, 1989,
San Bernardino train disaster .
Cajon Pass was the site of a major train accident on December 14,
1994, when a westbound Atchison, Topeka the northbound/eastbound lanes
and corresponding bridges are closed to through traffic. It is along
this stretch of road, accessible via either the Kenwood Drive or
Cleghorn Road exits that some of the best aforementioned trainspotting
areas may be found.
Summit Inn , off the Oak Hills exit at the summit of the
pass, was a historic Route 66 diner and was in the same location from
1952 to 2016, when it was destroyed by the Blue Cut fire. Some maps
may show the
Cajon Pass as a feature on SR 138, which crosses I-15
south of the summit between West Cajon Valley and Summit Valley. The
highest point on I-15 between Los Angeles and Victorville is thus
sometimes identified as Cajon Summit. However, the entire area,
including Cajon Summit, is often called Cajon Pass.
PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
Pacific Crest Trail goes directly through Cajon Pass, and during
the hiking season up to several hundred transient hikers will pass
through this area after walking one of the hottest, driest, and most
grueling sections of desert on the trail. The McDonald\'s restaurant
at the pass happens to be very close to the trail, and it is famous
among hikers, who often arrive dehydrated; most will stop here for
water and salty food. Many hikers also spend the night in the one
motel at Cajon Pass.
In addition to transportation infrastructure, three high voltage
Southern California Edison 500 kV power lines cross the summit as
well. These power lines head to the Lugo substation northeast of Cajon
Pass and connect to
Path 26 and
Path 46 . Both
Path 26 and 46 provide
the Los Angeles metro area another source of electricity generated
from fossil fuel power plants in the
Four Corners region, and
hydroelectric dams along the
Colorado River .
During October and November 2003, a number of wildfires devastated
the hills and mountainsides near and around the pass, forcing the
closure of Interstate 15. The following winter, rains in addition to
burnt vegetation caused a number of landsides to further close the
On July 17, 2015, during severe drought conditions plaguing the whole
state and creating extreme fire hazards, a fast, wind-whipped wildfire
Interstate 15 between
California State Route 138 and the
Oak Hill Road exits, sending drivers running for safety and setting 20
vehicles ablaze, officials said. The vegetation fire, which closed
the I-15 southbound lanes and restricted the northbound side to 1
lane, overtook stalled cars.
The following year, the
Blue Cut Fire again forced the closure of the
freeway for several days starting on August 16, 2016. The fire closed
the I-15 north and southbound lanes due to the intensity of the fire.
It destroyed a number of outbuildings and homes, and destroyed the
Summit Inn Restaurant in Oak Hills. A McDonald\'s restaurant was also
burned but the damage was minor. The fire threatened homes in Lytle
Creek, Phelan, Oak Hills and Wrightwood and burned 37,000 acres
In addition to wildfire hazards,
Cajon Pass is notorious for wind
hazards. In gusty conditions it is especially difficult to navigate
through it as the
Santa Ana winds
Santa Ana winds usually push through that area. The
winds sometimes reach gale-force strength. As a result, there are
usually high wind advisories as well as road signs posted throughout
the area. It is not uncommon to see overturned trucks during such
windy weather there.
Cajon Pass gets snow occasionally, sometimes enough to close the pass
temporarily. When there is snow, the
California Highway Patrol
California Highway Patrol will
set up checkpoints on the freeway. Since most southern Californians
are without snow tires or snow chains , they are forced to turn back,
or wait until the snow has stopped and the freeway has been cleared of
When there is high wind or snow in the Cajon Pass, it is fairly
common for weather forecasters or reporters for San Bernardino, San
Diego, and Los Angeles-area televisions stations to do location
reports from the Cajon Pass.
San Andreas Fault
San Andreas Fault passes through the
Cajon Pass (crossing I-15 on
the south side of the summit) and is responsible for the unique local
* ^ A B C "703 26 B". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey
. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
* ^ "Itinerary". Retrieved 2010-11-28. The slope, which is the
southern edge of the
Mohave Desert , consists of a thick succession of
sheets of gravel and sand which extend far up the mountain sides and
beyond the summit at Cajon (cah-hone') Pass
* ^ "Summit". NGS data sheet.
U.S. National Geodetic Survey
U.S. National Geodetic Survey .
Retrieved 3 August 2010.
* ^ "Cajon Summit".
Geographic Names Information System
Geographic Names Information System . United
States Geological Survey .
* ^ "
Interstate 15 South - Hesperia to Ontario". AARoads.com.
Retrieved 11 July 2010.
* ^ "Cajon Pass/Cajon Canyon". Summitpost.org. Retrieved 11 July
* ^ Hall, Alice Aby (2009). The Cajon Pass. Arcadia Publishing. pp.
7–8. ISBN 978-0-7385-7075-4 .
* ^ "Inventory of Lifelines in the Cajon Pass, California". Federal
Emergency Management Agency . 1991.
* ^ California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current
* ^ Ghori, Imran; Lisa O'Neill Hill; Ben Goad (2006-12-13). "Mercy
aircraft missions resume : Some crews are back in service after the
fleet was grounded following a crash Sunday.".
James Ladue, a flight instructor for M.I. Air, a flight school that
operates out of Redlands Municipal Airport...said the Cajon Pass
...area is known for high wind, turbulence and fog.
* ^ Gang, Duane W.; Lisa O'Neill-Hill; Paul LaRocco (2006-12-12).
"Helicopters grounded : The number of crashes has increased in recent
years, a federal study finds.".
Press-Enterprise . Cpl. Brian Miller,
a helicopter pilot with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department
Aviation Unit, said the weather over the pass can vary, from foggy
days with poor visibility to clear afternoons where aircraft are
bounced by gusting
Santa Ana winds
Santa Ana winds that top 50 mph (80 km/h).
* ^ Waters, Leslie L. (1950). Steel Trails to Santa Fe. Lawrence,
Kansas: University of Kansas Press. pp. 131–133.
* ^ Serpico, Philip C. (1988). Santa Fé Route to the Pacific.
Palmdale, California: Omni Publications. pp. 18–24. ISBN
* ^ A B C D Ghori, Imram (August 15, 2007). "Railway aims to add
track through Cajon Pass". Riverside Press-Enterprise.
* ^ Gorman, Tom (15 December 1994). "Runaway Train Hits Another in
Cajon Pass". Los Angeles Times.
* ^ Gorman, Tom; Malnic, Eric (2 February 1996). "2 Killed in Fiery
Train Wreck in Cajon Pass". Los Angeles Times.
* ^ Boyd, Shawn (18 August 2016). "RR Trestle Burned by Blue Cut
Fire Undergoing Rapid Repairs". CalOES.
* ^ Wallace, Robert, E. (1990). The
San Andreas Fault
San Andreas Fault System,
California (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper. 1515 (1
Washington, D.C. :
United States Government Printing Office . p.
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