Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | Transportation

"The Grapevine" in Southern California

Often, Angelenos refer to the 40-mile stretch, from just north of Castaic in Los Angeles County to the bottom of the grade where the I-5 enters the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, as “the Grapevine” (the orange and yellow portion of the I-5 in the map below). The stretch is almost as well known to Angelenos as the Hollywood Freeway (see Old Ridge Route). It is along the fastest highway route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The fact is, though, that the Grapevine is actually only a six-mile portion of Interstate 5 in Kern County, between Fort Tejon and the bottom of the grade (the yellow portion of the I-5) to the north.

Grapevine Route, Los Angeles County

Map showing commonly-perceived Grapevine Route (Orange & Yellow portion of the I-5) versus actual Grapevine Route (only Yellow portion of the I-5). Los Angeles Almanac Map.

So why is it called "The Grapevine"?

In 1772, searching for a shorter pass between San Diego and Monterey, Acting Governor of Alta California Pedro Fages discovered a canyon pass that led southbound towards the Santa Clarita Valley. He named it "La Cañada de Las Uvas" or “Canyon of the Grapes” because of an abundance of wild grapevines along the route. Although it proved to be an excellent pass, early travelers were forced to hack their way through thickets of wild grapevines. Today, you can still see wild grapes growing along the canyons that, at quick glance, easily resemble ivy.

Vitis Girdiana, California Wild Grape

Vitis girdiana or desert wild grape, coyote grape, or valley grape at the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido, California. This type of wild grape is native to Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Stickpen via Wikimedia Commons.

Where did the Name "Hungry Valley" Come From?

Just south of Gorman and west of Interstate 5 in Los Angeles County is the 19,000-acre Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreational Park. It is California's second largest off-highway recreational area for motorcycle, four-wheel drive, and all-terrain vehicles (the largest is Ocotillo Wells in San Diego and Imperial Counties). According to Bonnie Kane, historian at the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society in Frazier Park, early settlers in the area raised bees for honey, leading to it originally being called "Honey Valley." However, as most farming ventures there ended up failing, the area name came to be jokingly changed to "Hungry Valley." The name stuck.