Destroyed by Blue Cut Brush fire in August 2016. Pending rebuild.
Immediately off the
Oak Hill exit of Interstate 15 in Cajon Pass, Oak Hills, California, is the indomitable
Summit Inn Cafe. Steeped in history,
the Summit Inn Cafe has been providing
an archetypal road food experience for
many years. Good food and a friendly
staff punctuate the vintage decor. Although
ostrich burgers are featured, the highlight
of the menu is the cobbler. Apparently making cobbler is chef option. As of November 2009, cobbler is rarely
being made as the current chef declines to make it. The next best dessert is the strawberry short cake,
An incredible view
of the site occurs when traveling up
the mountain from the Victorville side.
The large Summit Inn sign flashes
in neon. A spectacular roadside moment.
The Summit Inn Cafe
is located on a minuscule remnant of
the original Route 66. Most of the original
Route 66 have been overlaid by the interstate
in the immediate vicinity. Going northeast,
the original Route 66 can be found starting
again on "D" street in Victorville,
running through Helendale and ending
in Barstow. Going southwest, the next
section of the original Route 66 runs
starts at the Cleghorn exit of Interstate
15 and runs to Devore and eventually
to Foothill Boulevard.
The Summit Inn at the present location has been in operation since 1952. The original owner was Burt Riley who operated the Summit Inn between 1952 and 1966. Cecil Stevens
owned and operated the Summit Inn between 1966 sand 2016. The Summit Inn was acquired by Katherine Juarez and Otto Recinos in June 2016. The new owner announced restoration plans.
Sadly, the Summit Inn Cafe was destroyed by the Blue Cut brush fire on Aug 16, 2016. The current owners plant to rebuild. As of 2019 reconstruction has not yet begun. The only artifact remaining is the the lower of the two neon signs.
The following status update was posted June 22, 2020 on the Summit Inn Facebook page by RDA Architect Engineering Service:
Three years ago and within months of purchasing the property, the Blue Cut Brush Fire torched much including the new owner's dream of maintaining and expanding the cultural icon at the Pass. While some insurance money was in place, it proved inadequate for clean up alone which included hazardous material abatement. We are told $250K for cleanup. The owner was obligated to clean up what was a public safety issue and he did. Over the last 3 years, other positive steps have occurred including purchasing of the adjacent 1.5 acre parcel to south of Summit Cafe property, making it a potential 3 acre build-able parcel. Prior to Covid 19 and the mystifying year of 2020, we were designing a large 9,000 square foot tribute restaurant for this property, with outdoor terrace, bar, dance floor and route 66 themed restaurant and cultural shops, all with tuck under parking to conform to the mountain grades. An electric charging station and waste water treatment plant is part of the equation, as septic tanks on limited acreage (particularly for high waste generators like restaurants) are not permitted under todays state waste water laws. Many investors have reviewed this property with current ownership and offered their 3 cents, but never bought in. As of this writing, we are told new investors are interested in re building a replica of the Summit Cafe with a Farmers Market to the south side. Actually, a great idea. We are told the former gas station parcel to the north is also interested in seeing the Cafe return. We were told last week, that the 'Summit Sign" was a loss due to vandalism or artificial erosion. Like everyone in the High Desert and beyond, we remain hopeful that financial stability finds its way to the property, which is perhaps the most unique parcel in the High Desert. The terrain, its adjacency to forest and Interstate 15, the lack of utility infrastructure in the vicinity, CEQA considerations, Mariposa Rd widening , etc. make this no cheap buy in. That said, any investors who get past first costs, will enjoy a constant flow of locals and travelers for their benefit and maybe more importantly to some, this regions benefit. Just thoughts.
Additional research has indicated that both commercial and residential septic tanks are permitted in California. There may be specific requirements for new septic tanks.
Cecil Stevens (1932-2021) obituary from the Victorville Daily Press  [Edited for grammar and clarity]
Cecil Stevens was born May 8, 1932, in Dill City, Oklahoma. Stevens left the Sooner State 10 years later with his family, destination: California."It's kind of a 'Grapes of Wrath' story," Lori Schoffstall [Cecil's daughter] said. Stevens grew up near the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego. At 19, he joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Korean War, attaining the rank of sergeant. For more than a decade, Stevens worked for Standard Oil where his family said he acquired experience in leadership and retail management. These skills would come in handy when — already the manager of two gas stations in Victorville — Stevens decided to buy a Chevron station at the top of the Cajon Pass. The purchase was made Friday, Oct, 13, 1966, but there was a catch. Included in the sale were the Summit Inn restaurant and an adjacent eight-room hotel. Stevens told the Daily Press he initially wanted nothing to do with the side orders. He eventually warmed up to the Summit Inn, though, and owned the famous little diner for 50 years. "I've enjoyed every minute of being up here," he said days before selling the Summit Inn in 2016. "From being scared of the place and not wanting it, now I hate to leave it. I've fallen in love with the place. How am I going to leave them? That's really going to hurt me." The Summit Inn was not only famous, it also attracted famous clientele. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and other celebrities were known to have stopped by, according to Stevens' family. Elvis ordered a cheeseburger meal on his way to Vegas. But as "The King" waited, he reportedly kicked the jukebox and stormed off without his meal after observing that none of his songs were included on the play-list. Stevens witnessed it all, and he was always ready for a good conversation if he could have one. "He was just very friendly and gregarious," Lori Schoffstall said. "He loved talking to people." His daughter said people who worked for her father admired him for these qualities, as well. Before Stevens sold the restaurant, his three cooks — who all arrived from Mexico as teenagers — later became U.S. citizens after he filled out the proper paperwork for them. The families of those he helped sponsor later presented him with a honorary gift in November 2016. Bill Van Heest said he first went to work for Stevens at the Chevron in 1987 when Van Heest was about 20 years old. At that time, the gas station had a service garage that was leveled in the early 1990s and replaced with an am-pm that Van Heest managed. Van Heest said his boss was generous, calling him a "good role model" for a young man."He expected you to work real hard and he took care of you if you did," Van Heest said. A 'tremendous joy for life' A little more than a month after Stevens sold the Summit Inn in July 2016, the restaurant was gone. The historic Route 66 diner was one of more than 300 structures destroyed during the Bluecut Fire, burning down on Day 1 of the 37,000-acre blaze that started Aug. 16 and lasted until Aug. 23. Schoffstall said the news shocked her father because many past wildfires had spared his beloved restaurant. "I know that it was hard for him to lose the Summit because he did still like that connection," she said. "He would say how much he missed going up to the Summit, how much he missed having that there." Despite suffering the loss of the restaurant and then his wife two years later in 2018, Schoffstall said her father still had a "tremendous joy for life." Stevens was a member of several groups, including the Al Malaikah Shriners — where he served as potentate. He also volunteered at the Shriners Hospital for Children. An extensive traveler, Stevens saw most of the world, including all of Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand. Despite talks of moving to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico or Idaho, he never seemed able to leave his "home base" in the High Desert, Schoffstall said. He was taken to Desert Valley Hospital on Jan. 28 where staff diagnosed him with pneumonia. Schoffstall said she last spoke to her father at the hospital via Facetime on Feb. 1. He remained optimistic, saying, "I'm going to beat this. I'm going to be out of here." Hours later, he suffered a diabetic episode from which he couldn't seem to recover. He died four days later."He really thought he was going to beat the virus," Schoffstall said. Former employees and family members said Stevens, at the Summit Inn, established a "friendly, warm atmosphere" for both regulars and strangers alike. Whenever the Cajon Pass closed for snow, they said stranded motorists were treated to hot coffee and hot chocolate while they waited for the thaw. Van Heest said the property at the top of the pass was a "beacon" when there were fewer services available for drivers along that stretch of Interstate 15 — something that was in no small part due to the character of the man who owned it."The Summit Inn was a sign that you were home," he said. Stevens died Feb. 5 after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 88.
Visit a travel reference
Visit the California
Route 66 Museum in Victorville when
in the Cajon Pass area.
 Estacio, Martin. "Cecil A. Stevens, Longtime Owner of the Summit Inn at the Top of the Cajon Pass, Dies at 88." VVdailypress.com, Victorville Daily Press, 14 Feb. 2021, www.vvdailypress.com/story/obituaries/2021/02/13/cecil-a-stevens-longtime-owner-summit-inn-top-cajon-pass-dies-88/4472226001/.