September 10, 2011

Take a 'monumental' tour of Cajon Pass

Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument (

Mark Landis, Correspondent
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

For centuries, the Cajon Pass has been a primary corridor into Southern California, and a series of little-known monuments commemorate the pioneers who blazed the trails over the rugged mountain barrier.

There are nine unique monuments set in historic locations throughout the Cajon Pass. Each one tells a story of the hardships and triumphs faced by the pioneers who made the difficult journey.

The routes through the Cajon Pass began as simple footpaths used by Indians traveling from the inland deserts to the coastal regions of Southern California.

The first white explorer to travel through the Cajon Pass was most likely Spanish military Captain Pedro Fages in 1771, who was leading a band of soldiers hunting for deserters.

Other famous explorers including Padre Francisco Garces and mountain man Jedediah Strong Smith followed various routes through the Cajon Pass.

The most prominent group of settlers that traveled through the pass was a party of 500 Mormons who came by wagon train from Utah in June 1851. The task of hauling their heavy wagons down the steep slopes of the Cajon Pass was the final test of their grueling 400-mile journey.

The monuments are spread throughout the Cajon Pass, and all but three are easily accessible by car. Those that are accessible can be seen in an enjoyable afternoon road trip.

Stoddard-Waite Monument: The first monument set in the Cajon Pass was dedicated May 18, 1913 to commemorate the early pioneers who came by horseback and wagon train through the passage. Sheldon Stoddard and Sidney P. Waite, two of the most well-known pioneers who traveled through the pass in 1849 were honored attendees.

This spire-shaped monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 578, was placed along the former Santa Fe/Salt Lake Trail. It is located in a thick grove of Cottonwood trees near the CHP truck scales on the southbound I-15, about three-quarters of a mile south of Highway 138. The monument is on private property owned by the San Bernardino County Museum, and is only accessible by special permission.

Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument: A second monument of similar size and shape was erected in 1917 just a few hundred yards northeast of the Stoddard-Waite Monument. A festive ceremony was held to dedicate the monument, once again attended by pioneers who had traveled the early wagon roads.

The concrete spire, listed as California State Historic Landmark No. 576, is located at the end of Wagon Wheel Road (south of McDonalds), just east of the northbound I-15 CHP truck scales.

Sycamore Grove Monument: This large spire-shaped monument was built in 1927 to mark the site of the 1851 Mormon camp at Sycamore Grove, known today as Glen Helen. The 500 Mormon settlers camped here while the leaders of their party negotiated the purchase of Rancho San Bernardino.

This monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 573, is located just inside the grounds of Glen Helen Park, on Glen Helen Parkway, .8 mile south of Cajon Boulevard.

Mohave Trail Monument: The Mohave Trail Monument was set on Sept. 19, 1931, on a remote mountaintop northeast of Devore, fittingly named Monument Peak. This small stone and mortar monument was placed by the San Bernardino County Historical Society to commemorate the explorers and frontiersmen who traveled this ancient footpath.

A 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach the 5,290-feet elevation Monument Peak site. Take Palm Avenue north from the I-215 until the paved road ends and becomes Bailey Canyon Road. The 5.9-mile trip up the dirt road can be readily found on Google Maps. The monument is located at GPS coordinates: 34 14'43.95"N, 117 21'12.33"W.

Mormon Trail Monument: A modest stone and mortar monument topped by a wagon wheel was built in the West Cajon Valley by the Sons of Mormon Pioneers, and dedicated on May 15, 1937. A small, weathered plaque commemorates the Mormon settlers who passed through this area in 1851. The monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 577, is located on Highway 138, 4.2 miles west of I-15.

Pioneer Women Monument: On April 16, 1977, this simple concrete and marble monument was placed near the former Mormon campsite of Sycamore Grove to commemorate pioneer women. The plaque is a memorial to the hardships the pioneer women faced as they traveled across the untamed country by ox team and covered wagon.

The monument is located on Glen Helen Parkway at the onramp to the northbound 1-15 freeway.

Mormon Pioneer Trail: This small stone and mortar monument was placed in July 1985 to commemorate the wagon train of 500 Mormon settlers who passed by the site in 1851.

The monument is located on the Old Salt Lake Trail near the 1912 Stoddard-Waite Monument and is accessible only by permission.

Blue Cut: This large concrete monument was erected alongside old Route 66 in a narrow gap of the Cajon Pass known as Blue Cut. The monument, dedicated July 23, 1994, was placed by the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitus. The inlaid brass plaque describes the explorers and immigrants who blazed the trails and roads through the pass, as well as some of the historic events that occurred in the area.

To reach this monument, exit I-15 at Kenwood Avenue and go south to Cajon Boulevard (old Route 66). Turn right onto Cajon Boulevard and go 3.7 miles north. Look for the monument on the left in a wide turnout area, set back among the shade trees.

Summit Train Station Monument: This carved marble monument was placed near the site of the Summit Train Station in 1996 by the Hesperia Recreation and Park District. The weathered text carved into the marble commemorates the site of the Summit Train Station on the Santa Fe Railway, and the nearby site of the Elliot Ranch settled in 1927.

The monument also is near the entrance to Horse Thief Canyon where thousands of stolen horses were driven through this section of the Cajon Pass in the 1800s.

The monument is located in Summit Valley on Highway 138, 4 miles east of I-15 on the north side of the road. It is part of a series of monuments placed by the Hesperia Recreation and Park District to commemorate historic sites in the area.