Sierra Highway…The Antelope Valley’s Original US Highway

The Antelope Valley was “Ground Zero” for the Space Race era. While it can be argued that the entire country was enjoying heretofore unimagined prosperity, the good times were particularly evident in towns like Lancaster and Palmdale. But there’s a time for everything. Followed by the inevitable “morning after.” And even today, a drive along old US Highway 6 (Sierra Highway) between Palmdale and Mojave reveals glimpses of its 50’s and 60’s heyday. On the morning after one hell of a party. Just about every city has their own version of a “Sierra Highway.” Generally it’s the
former main drag through town. The road that, before freeways, was part of a state or US highway. It’s both fun and educational to seek out these time capsules that encourage the mind to drift back a few years. You’ll see unique examples of vintage motels and restaurants, along with remnants of what once were “damned near opulent” resorts. You’ll notice that we haven’t offered specific architectural examples here, and this is by
design. First, there’s simply no way that a mere photograph will properly convey the sense of time and place that is so important when viewing these treasures. Secondly, what’s a treasure to one person is a pile of rubble to another.

Look at a simple map of the Antelope Valley and you’ll notice that Sierra Highway follows the classic “old road” configuration, running parallel to the railroad tracks, in this case from Palmdale, through Lancaster, Rosamond and finally Mojave. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, you’ll leave the 14 Freeway at the Pearblossom Highway offramp. Follow Pearblossom for about a mile to the intersection of Pearblossom and Sierra Highway.

(Above) EB Pearblossom Highway approaching Sierra Highway. The intersection is next to the billboard in the center/left.

Make a left at the stoplight and follow Sierra Highway north through the foothills for a few miles. You’ll drop out of the hills into the Antelope Valley.

(Above) NB Sierra Highway at Avenue S

A couple of miles further north, you’ll pass Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks.

(Above) Lockheed Martin Skunkworks at Air Force Plant 42 (Palmdale Airport)

Sierra Highway crosses over the railroad tracks a few miles north of here. So by the time we reach Palmdale Blvd. (Highway 18), the tracks are west of the highway. We’ll cross over the tracks a final time a few miles north of here.

(Above) Route 6 in Palmdale just north of Palmdale Boulevard

The streets just to the east contain a great variety of midcentury buildings, suggesting that the area was at once an important spot for local commerce. These days, most of the buildings are vacant.

Lancaster is a couple of miles north. Aviation’s roots in this area become quite apparent, starting with the F-4 Phantom II displayed on the northeast corner of Lancaster Blvd. and Sierra Highway.

(Above) Route 6 at Lancaster Boulevard in Lancaster.

One of the more interesting streets for a side trip is Lancaster Blvd. Several years ago, the merchants decided to spruce things up, and they’ve done a fabulous job. You’ll enjoy the slow easy drive through six or seven blocks that comprise “The Blvd.” between Sierra
Highway and 15th Street West. We can recommend Bex for a great hamburger. If you’re making the trip on a weekend, be sure to visit Pour d’Vino and take advantage of Happy Hour. It runs from noon until 5 on Saturday, and all day Sunday. $5 house wine. $3 beer. And delightful $5 appetizer plates. Grab a couple of plates and a couple of drinks and head for the rooftop tables. You’ll get a birds-eye view of the activity on “The Blvd.”

Continue on Sierra Highway for another couple of miles and you’ll pass the original intersection of Highway 138 and US Highway 6. Since construction of the freeway in the early 70’s however, it’s been known merely as Avenue D and Sierra.

(Above) Sierra Highway at Avenue D.

Continue a few more miles north and you’ll enter Kern County. The Rosamond city limits are another couple of miles north. The first (and only) stoplight you’ll deal with in Rosamond is at Rosamond Blvd.

(Above) NB Sierra Highway at Rosamond Blvd.

Because we’re eternal pessimists here at Mojave Treks, especially when it comes to the price of a lousy gallon of gasoline, we thought we’d leave the sign visible. This was the price as of 2-27-16. And cheaper gasoline was easily available elsewhere that day.

Old US 6 unceremoniously ends at the junction of Silver Queen Road:

(Above) End of Sierra Highway at Silver Queen Road.

After being lulled into complacency by driving several miles along a two lane road, you’ll find it extremely easy to miss the turnoff to the Freeway 14 onramp, and instead continue north along what used to be Sierra Highway, ignoring the yellow “Not A Through Road” sign. Your vehicle’s suspension will alert you to your mistake about a half-mile later. This portion of Sierra Highway ends here. Sierra Highway doesn’t resume until you
reach the outskirts of Mojave. In a manner of speaking, Sierra Highway does continue past this point, constituting the northbound lanes of Highway 14 until the freeway’s terminus in Mojave.

And Mojave! Much has been said about this “gem” in the desert, and you can believe every last word of it. Despite being a hardscrabble rail and meth town, the area has many of the features you’ll find in a village of comparable size. Things are simply done a little, well, a little differently here. For example, while faith appears to be a strong component of local life:

(Above) …proper spelling is sometimes overlooked in the exuberance over spreading The Word.

But make no mistake. Mojave folks are not afraid to take a stand against the tawdry:

(Above) Sign and motel in Mojave.

We’re guessing that the folks responsible for the sign on the left don’t have a financial partnership with the folks whose sign is on the right.
Your tour of this portion of Sierra Highway ends at the northwest intersection of Highway 14. We hope you’ll make some time to take the tour. If you’re planning on travelling from Pearblossom Highway to Mojave anyway, taking Sierra Highway rather than the freeway will only add a few minutes to your drive, depending upon stops and side trips.