Sonora Pass West Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

9.1 mi
3,458 ft
7.1 %



"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), 2nd Edition, pg. 133.)
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. 
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.



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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

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

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!