As California storm sets in, here’s how to avoid the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway

Snow blankets the top of the Tejon Pass between Gorman and Frazier Park
Snow blankets the top of the Tejon Pass between Gorman and Frazier Park on Wednesday as a powerful storm moves through California.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A fresh storm rolling into Southern California is bringing dangerous driving conditions to the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway as Thanksgiving travel picks up.

So what’s the best way to avoid the Grapevine when weather interferes?


The California Department of Transportation suggests taking the 101 Freeway as an alternative to the 5.

Take the 101 — the route closer to the coast

For this storm, the 101 is generally the best of terrible alternatives when the Grapevine is closed by snow. Here’s a map made by the California Highway Patrol of this key alternative route:

101 Freeway detour around the Grapevine
The 101 Freeway can be used as a detour around the Grapevine section of the 5 Freeway when it is closed by snow.
(California Highway Patrol / Google Maps)


Because the 101 in California never gets too high in elevation, it generally doesn’t get the amount of snow that could force a road closure.

Travelers driving between the Bay Area and Los Angeles can take the 101 the entire way and avoid the 5 completely.

The other possible detour probably will get snow too

The other possible detour, through the Mojave Desert, is not advised for this storm because the weather service is forecasting snow falling in the Antelope Valley foothills, with a chance “there could even be accumulating snow on the valley floor.”

This detour involves the 14 Freeway through the Mojave Desert and the Soledad Pass, at an elevation of 3,255 feet, and the 58 Freeway through the Tehachapi Pass, at an elevation of 3,793 feet. Forecasters have warned both routes may see snow.

14 Freeway detour around the Grapevine
The 58 and 14 freeways through the Mojave Desert can also be used as a detour around the Grapevine.
(California Highway Patrol / Google Maps)

What kind of snow will the Grapevine see?

Grapevine snow forecast for Wednesday evening 2019 Thanksgiving
(National Weather Service )

Forecasters expect 3 to 6 inches of snow on the 5 through the Tejon Pass.

With snow levels falling to 2,000 feet, well below the lowest point of the 5 as it winds through the Tejon Pass at an elevation of 4,144 feet, meteorologists warn that snow-covered roads will lead to extremely difficult or nearly impossible travel.

What is the Grapevine?

The Grapevine is the name given to a section of one of California’s most important sections of the 5 Freeway, traversing the Transverse Ranges to connect the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles County.

Though many motorists believe the name was inspired by the road’s many curves as it winds through the Tehachapi Mountains, it’s actually traced to the abundance of wild grapes that grew in the area. That caused a Spanish army lieutenant two centuries ago to name a canyon in the area Cañada de las Uvas, or Grapevine Canyon, according to a Times story in 1993.

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