Transcontinental Railroad Grade

The Transcontinental Railroad National Back Country Byway, also known as the Central Pacific Railroad Grade, is administered by the Bureau of Land Management for public use and enjoyment.  Due to its unique history and scenic beauty, the Transcontinental Railroad Grade is a designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 90-mile Backcountry Byway, known as the Promontory Branch, begins west of lands managed by the National Park Service, the Golden Spike National Historic Site. It winds through remnants of railroad camps, towns, and trestles, There are interpretive signs at points of interest, as well as the visitor center and museum at Golden Spike National Historic Site.  You should carry plenty of water, spare tires and be prepared for rough roads in a remote setting. Today, cattle graze where once thousands labored to open the West to industry and commerce.  The Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway is interpreted at over 20 sites along the grade.  Enjoy the past as you travel this route on your public lands. 

Locomotive, circa 1869View along the byway

 Traveling this National Back Country Byway: To travel this Back Country Byway, begin on the west side of the Golden Spike National Historic Site, located 32 miles west of Brigham City.  From there, travel is on a dirt road across the desert following the abandoned Central Pacific Railroad grade through the old town sites of Kelton, Terrace and Lucin to the Utah/Nevada border.  The route is approximately 90 miles one-way.  Plan on at least three hours travel time.

Road Conditions: This road is graded gravel or dirt.  Approximately half of it is maintained as a county road.  The remaining portion is not maintained.  There are no vehicle restrictions on the railroad grade, but 4-wheel drive vehicles with chains, tow rope or winch are recommended, particularly during wet weather conditions.  This is an isolated area with limited cell phone coverage and no services.  Care must be taken to have adequate food, water, first aid supplies, gasoline and spare tires.  The byway is open year-round, but it is suggested that travel be attempted in dry, mild weather.

Facilities and Services: There are no facilities or services along the Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway.  Make sure you have plenty of gas and water. Gas and services are available in Snowville, Tremonton, Corinne, or Brigham city to the east and Wendover to the west.  Limited fuel services are available in Park Valley to the north and Montello, Nev., to the west. 

Scenery and Attractions:  Rolling hills and flat lands make up the terrain of this area.  Crossing the northern extension of the Great Salt Lake Desert, this "trail" showcases the northern rim of the Great Salt Lake depression.  The route represents miles of the original railroad grade which have remained largely unaltered since 1903, and upon inspection remain in remarkable condition today.  The outstanding solitude of the desert and the remnants of Utah's railroad history are the prominent features of the Backcountry Byway.

OHV Regulations: Please limit off-highway vehicle use to the Byway route and other existing routes.  Driving even one vehicle over the side of the grade and on untouched terrain can leave a scar that will last decades. Respect adjacent private lands. Chasing or harassing wildlife or livestock is illegal.

Camping: Camping is permitted on BLM lands. Please use previously disturbed sites and pack out what you take in. Check with BLM on current fire conditions.

Protect Cultural Resources: Enjoy, but do not destroy America's heritage.  Cultural resources are fragile, irreplaceable, and protected by law. Collecting, digging, or otherwise disturbing sites is not permissible. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act provides penalties up to $250,000 and 5 years imprisonment for violators.

Help Prevent Vandalism: Notify the Box Elder County Sheriff (435) 743-9441 or the BLM (801-977-4300) if you see someone violating the law.  Make a note of physical descriptions and license plate numbers. Do not confront suspected violaters.



Meeting at Promontory Point, 1869


Route of Transcontinental Railroad 1869


Railroad grade looking west


For additional information, contact Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake Field Office, 2370 South Decker Lake Blvd, West Valley City, Utah 84119, (801) 977-4300.