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Old 05-22-2022, 01:09 PM   #1
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Road grades on Hwy 20 to Fort Bragg, CA

Hi,

We are planning a trip to get from I-5 to Fort Bragg, and everyone on these forums seem to agree that HWY 20 is the best route for that. I know that HWY 20 between Willits and Fort Bragg has been discussed quite a bit on here, but all of the threads just talk about the road being narrow, windy/twisty. However, I'm trying to find more specific information on the actual road grades/steepness of this route because my older 99 F350 sometimes struggles a bit towing our 33' 5th wheel up extended steep grades (above 6-7%). Note - by struggle, I mean it's hard to keep the EGT below 1300 because my trans loves to randomly upshift at the worst times for me.

So can anyone confirm if HWY 20 from Williams to Fort Bragg has a lot of extended steep grades, or if the concern is just the narrow/windy road?

Thanks so much!
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Old 05-22-2022, 02:33 PM   #2
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I towed my 39 ft 14,000 lb fifth wheel trailer with a 2002 Ford F250 7.3L diesel from Ft Bragg to Willits ONCE a number of years ago...........32 miles curvy with some short grades (see attached from Mountain Directory https://mountaindirectory.com/) https://mountaindirectory.com/), but it is over before you know it. The only other option is 127 miles from Petaluma via highway 128, which is what my rv club and I normally drive since it no significant grades but does have some hairpin and when you get close to Ft Bragg, highway 1 narrows so you want to navigate that short section BERY slowly to avoid clipping the overhanging cliff.
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Old 05-22-2022, 04:50 PM   #3
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From the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers & RVers' (highly recommend a purchase of it) it reads:

"(Between Willits and Fort Bragg) Tractors-semis over 36' kingpin to rear axle not advised. This is a better road than highway 1 is between Leggett and the coast. It is wider and smoother. There is a summit about 5 mi. west of Willits. The east side is posted "9% next 2 miles" but it doesn't seem to be that steep. The west side descent begins with 1 mile of 10% followed by a 1/2 mile break in the grade and then a warning sign - "6% next 6 miles." There are some sections of milder grade included in the 6 miles and there are lots of sharp curves along this road. There are several other short 6-7% climbs and descents."
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Old 05-22-2022, 04:57 PM   #4
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Route to Ft Bragg area


Take Highway 20 West out of Williams. 37.1 miles.

Watch for Highway 53 as you drop down a hill after a fairly long climb. Easy climb and multiple lanes going up, then you will crest the hill and need to keep your speed down to be able to make the turn. If you go by, just relax and stay on 20. Butif you take the following directions the road is better for the stress.
Turn what would be South onto 53. You will go about 8 miles. Look for the sign to Highway 29 which leads to Kelseyville. This is a nice road and will become freeway in a few miles. Eventually you are back to two lane for a short distance and will come to a stop sign. You are back to Highway 20 again. This leg is about 30 miles. Turn left and enjoy the beautiful drive right to 101. This route will bypass the two lane twisting and winding on the North side of Clear lake. If you want a good view of the lake go ahead and stay on 20 all the way to 101.

Take the freeway ramp towards Willits. Once in town stay in the left lane and be patient. Traffic can back up a bit. You will come to a large intersection that has a shopping center on the right and fuel stations on three corners. Turn left and relax and enjoy a beautiful twisting and winding road that has plenty of pull outs to rest, calm queasy stomachs and stretch the pets.

This section may take you an hour. Use your shifting lever to keep things in a lower gear so you don’t get hot brakes. Nothing steep, just lots of slow curves.

After the 33 miles you will come to a stop light. Two ways to go, right or left. Left will take you to Mendocino and right will take you to Ft. Bragg. Be sure to make reservations in advance. Turning left there is a really nice campground “Pomo”, that we have used many times. Further down is Casper beach. My wife does not like the cramped spaces but I liked being able to walk across the street to the beach.

Adding to this. Keep an eye out for Elk along the road from Williams to the Clear Lake area. Another interesting place along the way on the right is an old mining camp. You will come to a three lane road, two lanes going uphill. On the right you will see an old slag dump. This is Abbot mine. It was a mercury mine in the 50's and 60's. "Quick Silver", is an incredibly heavy liquid metal at room temp. There were about a dozen families living at this mining camp at one time. A cook house, bunk house and showers were provided for many miners. Ore was trucked to the crushers, then entered furnaces. The slag was dumped over an embankment. The site was cleaned up several years ago so mostly memories are the only things left.

Yes there are a few long steep climbs. Just drop gears and take your time. If you are traveling in the Summer the temps can be in the low hundreds. It is not a race route. It is a beautiful place to see so take your time.

As mentioned earlier. There are a couple of Elk herds in the area and may show up at any time.

The route I show has been traveled by me and my family more times than I can remember.

If you go North of Ft. Bragg there is/was a campground 17 miles up the road. Very twisting road and narrow. The campground is right no the beach.
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Old 05-22-2022, 11:13 PM   #5
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Wow thanks so much guys!!! I was expecting all the detailed responses! This is very helpful
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Old 05-23-2022, 06:47 AM   #6
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This question comes up so much that I saved my response long ago to be able to re-post it.

The drive is a beautiful one so take your time. There are some steep hills but not long.

One thing we really miss about Calif is camping in Ft. Bragg.
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Old 05-23-2022, 08:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usmc1723 View Post
Wow thanks so much guys!!! I was expecting all the detailed responses! This is very helpful
To help keep EGT lower on hard pulls, manually downshift the tranny and drive slower to accommodate the RPM's.
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