James Dean Memorial & Crash Site on Highway 46

Located 20 miles off Highway 101, heading out past the wineries of Paso Robles, is the unfortunate place where James Dean hit another car and died in a fatal car crash. As a beloved movie star even with only three films under his belt, this place is still a highly trafficked spot on the highway. When we were there over a dozen people were paying their respects. We checked out the monument to James Dean and the exact accident spot itself while in the area, here are the details.

James Dean Memorial 8

The Memorial

If you are coming from the west, the first spot you will hit is the memorial to James Dean located right next to the Jack Ranch Cafe, which also has memorabilia on him and his life.

James Dean Memorial 10

The monument is a clean silver bar that is wrapped around the tree and has his name on it.

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There is also a plaque with one of his favorite quotes to the right of the monument which was very hard to read.

James Dean Memorial 1

Along the front, there are two large plaques which tell about the accident and the actor’s life as well. It is a short stop but a good way to get an understanding of the man and his work.

The Crash Site

James Dean Memorial 2

About 900 yards east is the actual site of the crash which also holds an informal memorial to the actor. You have to keep your eyes peeled as you drive past it as there are not any signs.

James Dean Memorial 6

The items here are always changing as people will leave new things and other things will blow away. There is always the headstone that was brought here with his name on it though (in 2017 this was gone too).

James Dean Memorial 3

When I was there everything from a bra to a biography on the actor was present at the small site.

James Dean Memorial 9

There was also a picture showing the crash that eventually claimed his life.

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Video

I returned in 2017 and made the below video, which shows how different it can be.

While I am not very familiar with his work, this is a part of California history, and I enjoyed exploring the pieces that were left here.  Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you have been there to see the monument yourself as well.

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  • May Gancenia Lemque

    I was there just this past Saturday! I took photos also but did not know about the actual crash site….will look closely into it next time we get in that area again….

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you got to stop by recently.

  • May Gancenia Lemque

    Actually, I want to thank you for all your posts! I find so much inspiration from the places you write about on here.

    • No problem, I am glad you enjoy them!!

  • whatever_dude

    That *is* hard to read.

    “What is essential, is invisible to the eye.”

    From The Little Prince, and apparently a quote he often used.

  • JMM

    Had a visit to the site today. Beautiful sunny day. Rather bothered by the fact that people must find it necessary to tear apart numbers to the date of his birth on the monument. PIcked up a gray book of photographs from friend, Sanford (Sandy) Roth who took the last pictures of Jimmy. I was told that there will be a very special 60th anniversary this coming September 30th that I hope to make. Thanks for posting.

    • Thanks for the comment and I agree it is a bummer when people deface memorials like this.

  • JR

    I made that headstone about two years ago and I’m glad that it’s still there. My wife and I placed it there on day of the dead (our one year anniversary). We love visiting the area and exploring the local cemeteries. Thanks for posting a photograph of the headstone. It’s great to see other people’s interest in California’s history.

  • LC

    Have looked for the area twice now, but have not seen it. Read somewhere with the construction, they took everything down? Will check out again soon. Mile marker?

    • It has been a while since I have been there but the crash site was right past the intersection of Highway 46 and 41 on the right-hand side (heading West). Hopefully that helps.

  • David Hutcheson

    I live here in Marion, In where Dean was born and raised then moved to Fairmount, In. about 6 miles south. where a celebration of his life is held every year at the end of September.

    • Thanks for the comment and for letting me know!