49 miles from Bell Tower. Moderate-easy 4 miles, round trip. MAP
This practically forgotten old road is under-used and a great alternative to Highway 50 and the Meyer’s Grade. Too bad the upper end is so isolated and not connected another ¼ mile over to the grand Pacific Crest Trail. Hawley’s Grade is recognized as one of our “National Historic Scenic Trails.” The Hawley Grade replaced the older Johnson Grade that climbed up from Tahoe and over “Johnson Pass” (3/4 mile north of Echo Pass). The earlier grade was the weakest link in the road between Placerville and Lake Tahoe at the time, so steep and rough it prevented stages from using it.
Today most hikers start from the bottom end, hike up and then return back down. Mountain bikes welcome.
Directions: The upper trailhead is accessed from the last right hand road before you start down the Meyer’s Grade, The unmarked road is right before the 35 mph curve sign. Drive in and the trail post is soon seen on your left.
The lower trailhead is accessed from Lake Valley. Go down Highway 50 and turn R on the Upper Truckee Road. Drive 3 ¼ miles to turn R on Road 1110 just before the bridge. The trailhead is just before the end of this road.
The trail is an old one lane road that climbs up to the top of present day Meyer’s Grade. Near the start a short side trail offers a peek at the tumbling Truckee River. Further along good views of Lake Tahoe open up and there are a good variety of wildflowers smiling back at you as you climb this easy old way.
History: The life of the Hawley Grade as a wagon road was short-lived due to construction of the early Meyer’s grade in 1860. Hawley’s was used heavily from 1858-1860 due to the big Silver strike in Nevada in 1859 that attracted countless miners from the declining gold mines of California.