Once a travel necessity, the theatrical-looking gap between mountainsides made a great place to film a good ol’ fashioned silent western.
Paralleling Interstate 14 through Newhall Pass (historically known as Fremont Pass) Beale’s Cut dates back to 1854 when Phineas Banning dug out a 30 foot gash in the mountain to provide a better passage to Fort Tejon. In 1861 Edward Fitzgerald Beale (from whom it gets its name) elongated the gap to 90 feet in height.
The cut was used by the Butterfield Overland Mail, a stagecoach that operated mail between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco. Beale’s Cut lasted as a transportation passage through the present day Newhall Pass locale until construction of the Newhall Tunnel was completed in 1910.
Beale’s Cut has appeared in many silent western movies. The location became a favorite of movie producers like John Ford and D. W. Griffith. In Ford’s 1923 film Three Jumps Ahead American film actor Tom Mix is filmed jumping over the pass. John Ford used the location in at least four films over a twenty-year period beginning as early as 1917.
Still in existence today, it is no longer passable by automobile. During the 1994 Northridge Earthquake it suffered a partial collapse, and now is about 30 feet (9.1 m) deep. It is visible from the Sierra Highway about one mile north from the intersection of The Old Road and Sierra Highway, just after the first bridge under SR 14. It lies between Sierra Highway and the new freeway, about a quarter mile to the northeast of a stone marker. Beale’s Cut is difficult to find today because it is fenced off and not close enough to the Sierra Highway to be easily seen, but if you’re a serious explorer, you should be able to track it down.