Cape Horn Vista is a scenic viewpoint in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, between the recreational havens of Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. Cape Horn Vista is one of the crown jewels on the Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway which meanders through seemingly endless miles of natural wonders.
From Cape Horn Vista you can see panoramic views of the Dardanelles formation, and also a 270 degree view of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area, Union, Utica, and Spicer Reservoirs. Cape Horn Vista features the signature "sleeping lion" and "elephant" of the Dardenelles Range, and gnarled, twisted trunks of the western juniper trees on the exposed south-facing slope below.
Ten million years ago volcanic material covered this area to a depth of 2,000 feet. The Dardanelles formed in the depths of a river valley when multiple basaltic flows filled and solidified in the channel. Extensive glacial and other erosion removed the surrounding volcanic material, leaving very resistant lava river rock high above the surrounding topography. The Dardanelles today stand 2,000 feet above the Spicer Reservoir and the Stanislaus River basin.
The Western or Sierra Juniper, with its relatively short twisted and weathered trunks, is found on the rocky, wind-exposed slopes making for very dramatic scenery where abandoned, dead branches strike a defiant gestures against the sky. Originally, the old road above Lake Alpine climbed straight up Stroble Hill and over the top of Cape Horn, an extremely steep route. Alpine County later cut the present route, which was dubbed "The Straits of Magellen" by Grant Merrill of the Alpine County Division of Highways, as it ran around Cape Horn.
There are only a few parking spaces among the granite outcroppings, but even slowing down a bit more and viewing this while moving is an outstanding scenic experience in the Stanislaus National Forest.
Ebbetts Pass: Begin in Arnold, CA SR 4. Travel northeast to the end of SR 4 at the junction of SR 89 in Alpine County. Continue north on SR 89. End at the town of Markleeville.
Cape Horn Vista: From Arnold: take Highway 4 east to the Cape Horn Vista. From Markleeville: take Highway 4 west to the Cape Horn Vista.