Sand dunes dominate the landscape in the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area.
Wildhorses at Sand Creek Barrel Springs Byway at sunset.  Photo by Laurie Sada Upper Wall Canyon creek.  Photo by B. Parrott Windmill at Sunset in Surprise Valley Sunset reflection on Upper Lake in Surprise Valley.
BLM>California>Surprise>California National Historic Trail and Fandango Pass
Print Page
Surprise Field Office

California National Historic Trail - Fandango Pass

Fandango Pass Overlooking a Pond and Surprise Valley

In 1849, the most used route to the California goldfields crossed the Nevada desert from Fort Hall in present day Idaho, into Surprise Valley, and over Fandango Pass.  The route to Oregon, pioneered by the Applegate brothers and Levi Scott in 1846, it was used by Peter Lassen to get to California in 1848.  Many pioneer documented the experiences, thoughts and feelings as they survived the fearsome Black Rock desert in late summer, came through rugged High Rock Canyon, viewed "the elephant" overlooking Surprise Valley and then made the spectacular steep climb up Fandango Pass. Because this region remains essentially as it was 150 years ago, the present-day explorer can walk, bike and ride along the route and relive the emigrant trail experience. The Surprise / Sheldon Regional Recreation Guide shows this portion of the Applegate / LassenTrail route and is available for $2.00 from the BLM office in Cedarville.

From U.S. Highway 395, six miles south of the Oregon State line, a good gravel road proceeds along the meadows of Fandango Valley and up to Fandango Pass, overlooking Surprise Valley. The road, as it switchbacks down to the Valley, crosses the Applegate / Lassen route of the California National Historic Trail a number of times. But there were no switchbacks for the wagons of the pioneers and the fact that the trail traces come straight up a mountain so steep is almost unbelievable.

Bureau of Land Management
Surprise Field Office
602 Cressler Street
Cedarville, CA 96104
Phone: (530) 279-6101
Fax: (530) 279-2171
Office Hours: 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
Contact us by Email