US 80 Guide

Towns in the Laguna Mountains

[US 80 with fences] US 80 Near Jacumba
This section is literally unchanged since it was built in 1931. This is where it crossed the SD&AE railroad. An earlier 1920s alignment is locatated on the left (north) side.

Laguna Summit to Jacumba

Laguna Summit marks one of the two highest points along US 80. At Sunset Highway (County S1) there is a break in the highway. Before the Interstate went through, this was much higher than it currently is. Turn right on Sunset Highway and cross the freeway. At this point you will want to continue along S1 by turning left after the freeway interchange. This continues to be signed as "Old Hwy 80" and will continue independant of the Interstate for the next 40 miles until just before the descent into the Imperial Valley.

This 40 mile stretch has the most remaining intact road through the mountains and has many landmarks that offer a window to the past. Perhaps the best part of this section is that the original concrete is still in use with only a few places having been paved over with an asphalt overlay. Most of this section was bypassed between 1967- 1971 with the final completion of I-8 to the north. From the intersection with Sunrise Highway, US 80 descends down a verdant canyon, heading south in the direction of the Mexican border. This area has become a center of illegal immigrant activity and during the night, the INS Border Patrol spotlights are constantly visible. For several (exact number undetermined by me) miles, US 80 closely parallels I-8. Again, this offers a remarkable contrast between the ultra-modern Interstate and the 1930s era two lane country road. This section also demonstrates how much the advent of the Interstate has taken from sightseeing. I've been on both roads several times and while I've seen a lot from I-8, I realized how much more I was able to see from S-1 (US 80).

Heading east, the highway goes through rugged country. Beyond the intersection with Live Oak Springs Rd, US 80 again heads south. While the old highway has been configured to "end" at a 'T' intersection, a portion of the old concrete is still visible on the right side showing how the road had continued uninterrupted. About two miles down the road, there is a country general store on the left, going back to the days before the Interstate when this was the main road. A large, glittery sign is still up and trying to capture the attention of passing motorists. The small town of Boulevard is another couple of miles beyond this, an example of the rustic kind of towns found so frequently on old US highways. Be careful, though, as I have seen on at least two occasions children playing in the street. Going below 40 mph is not a bad idea along this stretch. To the right, SR-94 merges with US 80 for a few blocks. Before 1970, this marked its terminus, but it has been extended to the freeway. Take care to stay to the right on old US 80 or you may end up on I-8.

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US 80 dips south east of Boulevard, again heading into more "untamed" country. Just east of Jacumba, US 80 brushes against the Mexican border. There is about a 1/2 mile section of US 80 that has been perfectly preserved. In fact, it is about the best preserved section of old highway I have seen. This section was built in 1931 and has remained all but unchanged since then. The white wood fence still stands, not having been replaced by the more modern steel guard rail and the series of bridges.

The one thing this really makes this section of historic note is the San Diego and Arizona Eastern (SD&AE) Ry. overhead, crossing the only railroad that went into San Diego from the east. This railroad was built to give San Diego a direct railroad connection with points east, instead of having it be a spur off of the main line from Los Angeles. The only catch was that part of it had to go through Mexico due to the fact these mountains are so rugged. It operated until 1984 and while it is currently unused, there is talk of reopening it in the near future.

About five miles east of Jacumba, US 80 crosses under I-8. Beyond this is the Desert View Tower which affords a spectacular view of all the surrounding area, provided it's not smoggy. To get to it, go under I-8 and follow the frontage road, which is old US 80, to the tower. To get back to the tour, follow the road back under I-8 and head on I-8 east. About 1 1/2 miles beyond the entrance is a Vista point which has a view of Mountain Spring and I-8 (east) descending the In-Ko-Pah Gorge. I-8 becomes rather windy and shift between San Diego and Imperial counties twice. A large cyclone fence has been erected in order to prevent rocks and other debris from flying on the road. Unfortunately, this obstructs the view of an abandoned section of US 80, which is to the right. Use the Mountain Spring exit to view this part, but be aware that one of the old alignments goes through private property. The original 1920s road is inaccessible since it goes to the trailer park, but the 1930s alignment continues a little way. While it has been paved over with asphalt, it still has the exaggerated embanked turns that were typical of this road going down to the desert.

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80_old_shield2.gif (3780 bytes) East: Mountain Spring and In-Ko-Pah Gorge
West: San Diego


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