Trail MapPhotos copyright by Shann Rupp, Dave Johnson
Sketch by Dick Davis

The Sonora Route branched off the Carson River near the later Fort Churchill, ending in Sonora.

Fort Churchill Ruins

Sonora -Walker River RouteThe adobe buildings erected on stone foundations in the form of a square were built in 1860 because of the Indian scares. This desert outpost, which guarded the Pony Express run and other mail routes, served as home base for hundreds of soldiers.



Sonora -Walker River RouteSlinkard Valley

Bill Paden believes the Bidwell Party followed this valley south to its head.



Sonora -Walker River RouteWild Iris [close-up]

“…we commenced descending some of the worst mountains imaginable, and afterwards rise several steep and rocky ascents; road strewn with dead cattle, horses, remnants of wagons, etc.; in fact this route is the worst that could possibly be found; it is called the Walker River route and I advise no emigrants to take it when others so far preferable are known.”  –John Ebbetts, 1853





Sonora -Walker River RouteSteep Ramp Built by Emigrants Below Fremont Lake

“a steap and a very ruff rockey road large rock and short turns a round a rock and large timber and Brush down and steap Banks to go down and up to warkers river ruff eather going down or up.” “…went to work on the road we cut brush and roled stone till noon then hooked up started on came to the top took off the teams let the wagons down by hand for it was very steep hooked on agin traveled on the walkers river” “…stopt to kill a beef for we nothing to eat we had hardly got it half skined before it was on the fire by the time the hide was off he was half eat up we then took one wagon up to the top of the mountains by hand for it was so steep and stony that the mules could hardly get up themselves”  –William Browder, 1853


Sonora -Walker River Route

Fremont Lake
Sketch by Dick Davis

Sonora -Walker River Route

Dick Davis Exploring the Trail









Sonora -Walker River Route

High Emigrant Lake at Summit of Pass

Sonora -Walker River Route

“Paved Trail” Provided by Glaciated Granite Near Chain of Lakes












Sonora -Walker River RouteTower Peak

The Peak is in the NE corner of Yosemite National Park.  The trail drops into Pickel Meadow in foreground and veers to right in high mountains in distance. “…then we got to the mountains which were so rocky that we couldn’t go on.  In one full day we went only as far as we could have gone in half an hour on flat land.  We were in the mountains for four weeks and then we didn’t have any more food.”  –George Mayer, 1852

Sonora -Walker River RouteVolcanic Rock Gorge Leading to Summit – East Side of Pass

The trail is on the right shoulder.




Sonora -Walker River RouteSummit Creek Canyon Leading Down to Relief Valley 

“This, I believe is the worst hill a wagon ever went down, stony and steep.  One half mile you go up a very steep hill; 1 mile you go up a second steep hill’ one mile you go down a steep hill into Relief Valley,…” — Joseph Williams, 1853


Sonora -Walker River RouteUpper Relief Valley 




Sonora -Walker River Route



Sonora was the goal of many emigrants traveling the various overland and sea routes. The 1852 Clark-Skidmore Party of emigrants from Elizabethtown, Ohio and Lawrenceburg, Indiana struggled to forge a wagon trail up the Walker River and over the 10,000 ft. pass east of Sonora.  In 1853, more than 2,000 emigrants with 20,000 cattle followed, creating a new emigrant road to Sonora. Difficult for wagon travel, the Walker River and Sonora Wagon Route was soon abandoned. The emigrant wilderness area in the high country has been named to honor these pioneers.  Following major changes, the trail became an important passenger and supply route between the Bodie gold regions and Sonora.

Dedicated by
The Oregon-Calif. Trails Assn. and the E. Clampus Vitus
February 18, 1996

Sonora -Walker River RouteWalker River and Sonora Wagon Road Monument at Terminus in Sonora, CA.