Sonora Pass West
Steepest Gradient (%)
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Cycling Sonora Pass, one of our favorite Sierra Nevada bike climbs.
Ride 9.1 miles, gaining 3,426’ to elevation 9,655 at 7% average grade.
This is a short but stout climb in a fairly remote area of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. While we think the sign at the beginning of the climb is an exaggeration (26% grade), this climb will test you in a few spots, including 10%+ grades at the very beginning for 1/2 mile. Miles 0.5 through 3.0 average 10.0%, and there is a 3/4 mile stretch from 6.0-6.75 that averages 12.3%. As can be seen from the YouTube Playlist, the views along this climb of high sierra forest and granite rock faces are spectacular. The climb can be done as an out-and-back two climber by going down the east side of Highway 108, then back up Sonora Pass East.
Historically, Sonora Pass was very important to those passing through the area for both trade and emmigration. The road as it is today travels much the same route as the old Sonora-Mono Toll Road. Highway 108 was finally completed back in 1864, and was in important route for those “trading goods such as obsidian, salt, soapstone, and shell beads.” To this day “obsidian flakes, originally from the Mono Craters area of east of the pass, can be found along Highway 108 west of Sonora Pass.” More on the history and construction of this important pass can be found here.
Highway 108 over Sonora Pass closely follows the old Sonora & Mono Toll Road.
0.6 miles from the start -- steepest ¼ mile (15.4%).
Cyclist riding through steep segment.
Viewpoint at mile 1.1 -- overlooking Kennedy Meadows.
4.5 mile mark -- just after the only descent (.6 miles -1.5%).
Many scenes with interesting rock formations on this climb.
Mile 6.5 - 2.6 miles & 690’ to go at 5.1%.
The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the summit of Sonora Pass East/West.
It’s not unusual to encounter snow in spring and fall (pass closed during winter)
Traffic and Roadway Surface Report: The roadway surface is excellent throughout this ride, and although there is minimal shoulder, traffic is light and this seems to be a safe ride.
We stayed at the Gunn House in Sonora, a modest but decent place to stay, in preparation for our climbs from the east and west to the Sonora Pass.
That’s a wrap!