California U.S. Highway 40

Old U.S. Highway 40 stretches from New Jersey to California, and with Route 66, was one of the main travel routes across the country. To travel today on Old Highway 40 instead of Interstate 80 is to see America as it once was.

Driving along Old Highway 40 across the Sierra Nevada from Sacramento to Reno gives the traveler a new perspective and experience. Traveling at a slower pace, one passes the remnants of the past: old gas stations and motels, museums, towns off the beaten path, and historical sites and buildings.

Across Donner Summit, the old highway is the last historic incarnation of the Emigrant Trail that brought emigrants to California on the wagon trains. In many spots the old trail became the Lincoln Highway then the Victory Highway, and then Highway 40. You can sit at Donner Pass on Old Highway 40 and see the various routes still existing of all those roads next to the first Transcontinental Railroad.

Download the PDF file in the right column to get turn by turn driving instructions from Rocklin to Truckee without using Interstate 80.

The route has been set up in “legs” so that you can do any parts you want without having to do the whole. Each “leg” begins and ends at an easy to find location and each could make an interesting trip.

Leg 1: Rocklin to Old Town Auburn and the Auburn courthouse
Leg 2: Old Town Auburn to Colfax
Leg 3: Colfax to I-80 at Baxter
Leg 4: Cisco Grove to Donner Summit and Truckee


Latitude: 38.788484 Longitude: -121.222598
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Driving Directions

Old Highway 40 parallels Interstate 80 for much of its route through California, particularly across the Sierra Nevada.

Highlights and Key Points Along the Route

Along Old Highway 40 travelers have the opportunity to see an old America, as it was before the interstates became the preferred mode of automobile travel. Old motels, museums, historic buildings, scenic viewpoints, and historic sites are just some of the highlights travelers can see.


The most beautiful parts of Donner Summit can only be seen from Old Highway 40 from Cisco Grove to Truckee.

Cheryl Paduano, 11/5/2010

I believe Auburn Boulevard in Sacramento was part US 40 as was West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento. I have been told that San Pablo Dam Road that goes through several East Bay cities (including El Cerrito, home of Creedence Clearwater Revival) was also part of US 40. When I lived in Truckee, the former route of 40 is now occupied by I-80. Once it got out of the mountains, it split off and went on into Reno.

John Waid, 4/11/2013

The comment that John Waid wrote is correct. Auburn Blvd. in Sacramento County as well as Del Paso Blvd and West Capital were all a part of U.S.40. I traveled it often growing up in Rocklin.

Donald Miller, 4/25/2015

We live on original 40. My father in law says he remembers sitting in bumper to bumper traffic coming home from weekends with his parents in the 1940/50's , he remembers our house!

Dianna, 9/4/2016

I remember traveling with my parents in summer of 1962 from Niagara Falls New York to california and my dad drove route 40. We traveled through western pa and I believe we went through clarion ohio and on to Nebraska and stopped at the hitching post restaurant in either Cheyenne or Rawlings Wyoming through salt flats through Elko nevada and on INto northern ca. It took five days and it was warm weatherWe had no air conditioning in our car. From nothern ca we traveled 99 to Encinitas where we lived that summer. Quite an adventure.

Ginger f Rush. 10-9-17, 10/9/2017

There is a promo for the TV series "Route 66" filmed along Highway 40 at Old Donner Pass.Of course they play the Nelson Riddles theme.

Chris LeGate, 12/1/2017

When I was ten years old (in 1962), we drove from San Francisco to Washington, PA on U.S. 40. It was a wonderful experience that left life-long memories for me. I remember getting out of the car at the lookout at the top of Donner Pass and taking pictures. I believe that Caltrans, The Nevada DOT and Utah DOT should restore the official "40" U.S. Route designation in the West running it along as much of the historic roadway that is still available.

Fred M. Cain, 1/9/2018

I grew up in the 50's & 60's in a town nearly 40 miles North of US40 in California, near Reno, NV. At least twice a year my folks packed my brother and I He drove US40 all the way. With no I-80 through Sacramento, 16th Street (I believe) was the route through town. He timed our trips to pass through in the morning. No car owned by my folks ever had AC. Wet washrags and laying low was our stay cool strategy. Lots changed when I-80 was completed in the early 60's. I still drive the Truckee to Hwy 20 exit route often and grow nostalgic when a still existing stretch of US40 comes into my view from the freeway.

Lee May, 1/8/2019

My Father purchased a small parcel of land at Donner lake in the late fiftys. He alwe's took hyway40,starting in Sacramento.What I'll alwe's remember,near what is called Old Town was a section reserverd for the down and out.I remember my Dads 51 Chevy trying to avoid literaly Hundreds of alcoholic men who quite frequency would run into his bumper,unharmed. My Dad called this area Bum Town. And he said these men were chased out of San Francisco.Quite an eyefull for a boy under ten years of age in the early sixtys. My Father died in 1997,had to sell his property in the 70's and we spent decades using hyway 40 to vacation at Donner Lake.

Joseph J. Simon, 2/18/2019

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