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
Applegate Field Office
708 West 12th Street
Alturas, CA 96101
Phone: (530) 233-4666
Fax: (530) 233-5696
Office Hours: 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
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