Sonora Pass West Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

9.1 mi
3,421 ft
7 %



"The west side of Sonora Pass is a difficult and scenic hill that heads east on isolated Route 108 through the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Just before the climb begins you are greeted with a rude warning of a 26% section ahead.  While the actual maximum is not quite that steep, be prepared early.  The steepest section comes almost immediately (very steep), eases briefly at mile 1.0 but then steepens again as the first 3 miles are along double digit grade.  The scenery of rugged terrain is spectacular however throughout the entire climb.  After the steep initial 3 miles the grade eases through a pine forest and includes a descent..." (This quote is presented with the approval of John Summerson, from his book, The Complete Guide to Climbing (by Bike) in California, pg. 110.)
This climb begins immediately - there is no question when you start the climb on this one.  The steepest quarter-mile on this nine mile climb begins at the half-mile mark (after already riding for a good distance at double digit grade) and is a painful 15.4%.  The average for the entire climb is 7.1% (7.6% if we exclude from the gradient calculation the 0.6 mile descent beginning at mile 3.7).  4.5 miles (49.5% of the climb) are in the 5-10% gradient range, 1.6 miles (17.7%) at 10-15%, and 0.4 miles (4.4%) are at 15-20%.  The good news: the grade never goes over 20% . . . 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Excellent.

Traffic:  Minimal.

Parking:  Park near the start of the climb on Kennedy Meadows Road which intersects with Highjway 108 at the beginning of our climb - MapStreet View. 
Provisions:  There is no place to get food or water on this climb. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Cycling both Sonora Pass West and Sonora Pass East is a nice out-and-back at 37.6 miles and 6,950' of climbing - Map.

Though a bit of a drive to get to, Sonora is a great place to stay, and the area has many vacation rental options as well.



Difficulty: Strenuous



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May 25, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
May 25, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 5
road: 5
Ok, Listen. I hate that guy that comments on a hardcore climb and says "Its not THAT hard" But.... as a moderately fit rider who enjoys steep climbs on a pretty regular basis, this climb is.... Not that hard lol. There are two-three stretches that are pretty brutal but, very doable. And each of these stretches empties out into some nice gradual inclines. Dont get me wrong. If you are not used to climbing, this is really tough! But I would think most of the people looking on this website are looking for the steeps. This climb certainly gets steep. There are sections that hit between 13-17% for about a mile or so. much of it is around 10% But just get a little training in and its not too bad. I am riding on a beast of a steel 2013 AWOL and I weigh 220 lbs. If you like climbing, this should not be missed. Absolutely gorgeous scenery. And the downhill has several sections that allow you to get pretty close to max speed. (Get your brakes checked before you ride.....) Top notch!!!

Climb Profile Not Found

Cycling Sonora Pass West - steep grade sign and roadway surrounded by forest

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.

California Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

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.

Before heading out to tackle Sonora Pass, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

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

Highway 108 over Sonora Pass closely follows the old Sonora & Mono Toll Road.


 Climbing by bike Sonora Pass West - highway and little pass between rock formations

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%).

Mile 4.7.


Many scenes with interesting rock formations on this climb.

Mile 6.5 - 2.6 miles & 690’ to go at 5.1%.

                        Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign 

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)

  Cycling Sonora Pass West - Pass sign at top of climb

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.  

Cycling Sonora Pass West - Pass sign at top of climb

That’s a wrap!

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