Beckwourth Trail

The Beckwourth Trail was opened in 1851 by James Beckwourth.  Beckwourth was born inVirginia in 1798 , the son of planter Jennings “Beckwith” and a slave woman of mixed race.  He established a reputation as a trapper,lived for several years with the Crow Indians and pursued varied occupations until the discovery of gold in 1848.

Leaving American Valley (Quincy) in 1850 on a prospecting trip Beckwourth discovered the low pass (5,212 feet) that was named for him.  During 1851 he began to construct a new wagon road from Sparks, Nevada to Bidwell Bar, California. He led the first wagons over his new road in August of 1851.


He established “War Horse Ranch” in Sierra Valley, near the present town of Beckwourth, where he operated a trading post for emigrants entering California.

The Beckwourth Trail is under Lake Davis

Grizzly Valley

The Beckwourth Trail follows Grizzly Valley from Lake Davis to the ascent of Grizzly Ridge


This was the emigrant’s descent
from Grizzly Ridge


Looking up at Grizzly Ridge from the West









Beckwourth Pass is 5,216 feet.  Travel was fairly easy until they reached the 1,500 ft. ascent to 7,000 ft. plus Grizzly Ridge.

Grizzly Ridge Ascent

“The … road was very steep … Mrs. Corbin, my two children and I went on ahead.  It was too hard work to carry both children at the same time, and so I carried my baby ahead about a hundred yards and made a sort of cache for her, and placed her in it, then I returned and carried my little boy on up the hill a hundred yards beyond the other child and cached him the same way, and so on up the long, weary mountain.”

Mary Variel, Grizzly Ridge, September 14th, 185



Soapstone ruts on the Beckwourth Trail