24 miles from Bell Tower. Easy-moderate 22.6 miles.
Nothing inspires the romantic notion about frontier settlement better than the image of the Pony Express riders streaking across the plains to deliver mail between Sacramento and St. Joseph, Missouri. Despite its short eighteen month service and huge financial loss, the legend lives on in rosy nostalgia.
Between Lake Tahoe and Placerville much of the original route is buried beneath present day Highway 50, but some of the original route, along with newer connecting trails, allows us to enjoy many miles of this modern version whether riding or hiking. If and when the Brockliss/Blair Bridge gets replaced, the route could continue more easily to Placerville.
This section of the trail goes from Ice House Road to Strawberry with connecting trailheads at Silverfork, Kyburz, Fred’s Place, and Wrights Road.
Note: The Pony Express Trail suffered extensive fire damage from the Cleveland Fire of 1992 and the Fred’s Fire of 2004. Volunteers continually struggle with winter blow-down and fast growing brush following the fire. Much work has gone into rebuilding burned bridges and cutting out the fallen dead trees.
Directions: The closest section to Placerville begins at Weber Mill Road at its intersection with Ice House Road. Go east from Placerville 22 miles and turn Left on Ice House Road, proceed past the info station at 3 miles, to Weber Mill Road, FS 11N38, on the right about one mile past. There is an old trail from the info station itself but it was washed out following the Cleveland Fire of 1992 and is currently unusable.
The trail for us begins at Weber Mill Road. (FS 11N38). The road is a wide and pleasant grade for 5 1/2 miles, then drops steeper on a narrower and rougher grade for 3 more miles to Highway 50. Weber Mill Rd. at Highway 50 is signed only as milestone 31 tract. There is a gate about ¼ mile in, usually open, and then the trail takes off from the road at about ½ mile.
Weber Mill Road is the historic Brockliss Grade, originally a toll road used by stages and freight wagons for a few years before the Pony Express used it.
The XP Trail follows the contour of the terrain as it winds 3 ½ miles east along the canyon, crossing two creeks on wooden bridges, before reaching the Kyburz trailhead. It passes below the Sugarloaf rock which has its own trail that intersects with the XP Trail above Kyburz.
Kyburz trailhead is accessed by an unsigned dirt road on the Left about a half mile east of Kyburz. It cuts back at a steep angle and makes for a tricky turn, especially if you are pulling a trailer. The trailhead is a broad parking area about ¼ mile in from Hwy 50. The trails come in at the north side near the usually open gate. If you’re going west you will want to follow the road straight up the hill watching for the XP marker about ¼ mile beyond the gate.
From the Kyburz trailhead the trail heads east for 5.5 miles to reach the Wrights Lake Road. This section parallels the highway and sneaks through the Eagle Rock area of cabins, named for the mountain peak, visible at the 2 mile point, where eagles have been observed nesting. Another mile along, the trail intercepts a dirt road that leads down to “Fred’s Place,” once a road station, now just a memory. Then, after another mile and a half, the express trail brings you to Wright’s road (paved).
The next section of Pony Express Trail goes from the Wright’s Lake Road to Strawberry, 3.5 miles. From where the trail hits the road you must go right along the road a couple hundred yards to turn east again on the marked XP Trail. The trail shares its route with logging roads before finally reaching the Strawberry Staging area near the 42 mile tract of Highway 50.
The XP route continues to the Pacific Crest Trail. Maps for the route are to be added soon.