Due to its extreme steepness, the eastern portion of Johnson’s Cut-off from Echo Summit to lower Lake Valley was not suitable for most uses. Asa H. Hawley solved this problem in 1855 by constructing a new road – Hawley’s Grade – from Echo Summit to upper Lake Valley, which then continued south along the same route taken by Charpenning and Woodward.
On June 11, 1857, J. B. Crandall climbed aboard a stage coach owned by the Pioneer Stage Line and hauled seven passengers from John Blair’s Sportsman’s Hall over the Brockless Grade. There, two additional passengers were picked up: William D. Keyser and Theodore F. Tracy. The coach then continued to Genoa by way of Johnson’s Cut-off Grade and Luther Pass, then through Hope Valley and Hawley’s Grade.
Thus was established the first passenger service over the summit of the Sierra Nevada, which caused the citizens of Placerville to celebrate loudly with a one-hundred gun salute.
One month later a connection was established at Genoa with a stage line to and from Salt Lake City. What this trip did show that due to its extreme steepness the eastern portion of Johnson’s Cut-off from Johnson’s Summit to lower Lake Valley was not suitable for most uses.
In 1857, using money allocated by Sacramento, Yolo and El Dorado Counties, a new “two mile road not to exceed five percent grade” was constructed from Johnson’s Cut-off into Lake Valley. Because Asa H. Hawley had a roadhouse nearby, this bypass of Johnson’s Grade became known as Hawley’s Grade.