Sonora Pass East Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

9.7 mi
2,882 ft
5.3 %


Page Contributor(s): Dan Razum, Campbell, CA, USA


This is the dry (desert) side of the Sonora Pass bike ride. The climb begins just west of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, near Leavitt Meadows Pack Station.
5.3% average grade (6.9% climb only).  17% of the climb is descent, 27% is at 0-5% grade, 38% is at 5-10%, and 18% is at 10-15% grade.  The steepest quarter-mile is 12.7%, and the steepest mile is 11.1%.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Two lane highway with no shoulder in fair to good condition.

Traffic:  Mild.

Parking:  There are a couple of big open spaces at the start of the climb where you can park (MapStreet View). 
Provisions:  No provisions on the route - nearest food and beverages are in Bridgeport 22 miles southeast on Highway 395 (Map). 

Weather:  We do climb to above 9,000' and the weather can be quite different at the finish than the start, so be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride.
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.
Consider doing this climb along with the quite scenic and challenging Sonora Pass West - 38 miles gaining 6,880' (Map). This climb is also not too far from the Monitor and Ebbetts Pass climbs, which can be assessed on our Markleeville - Death Ride climb page. 



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

Cycling Sonora Pass East.

9.7 miles gaining 2,905’ at 5.3% average grade.

This is the less traveled and less known of the Sonora Pass climbs.  However, this hidden climbing jewel has some serious pop to it.  It is perhaps even more difficult (if you just consider the climb segments and eliminate the 0.6 to 0.7 of flat along the ascent).  The first and last miles of this climb exceed 10% (see elevation grid, below) and there are 5 8+% segments along this bruiser.  

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.

As with the duplicate sign at the beginning of Sonora West, this is not correct.

The steepest grades we experienced were in the 15% range.

The climb begins just west of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center with wide open, but not spectacular views.  However, not too much later we are climbing through thick forest with many open views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that we are climbing towards and over.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

The first road over Sonora Pass was completed in 1865.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

The climb from the east is also a bit easier and includes several brief descents which knocks down its overall average grade to 5.3% -- it is harder than that!

First time we encountered such a sign.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

The climb is in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (6,289,821 acres, est. 1907).

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

Mile 2.5 -- beginning of the steepest mile (11.1%; 7,130’).

Mile 3.2 in the middle of a one mile 11% grade.

Sierra Nevada Mountains and West Walker River.

At the hairpin mile three, view east.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

We ran into a brief obstacle in October 2019.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign

Mile 7.5.

                        The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the summit of Sonora Pass East/West.

Biking Sonora Pass West - Pacific Coast Trail sign   

  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.

This climb can be done as an out and back from Kennedy Meadows (the beginning of U.S. Top 100 Climb #46, Sonora Pass West).  As with Sonora Pass West, the views along this route are very scenic and worth the torture of the climb.  Unlike the southeastern Sierra climbs, there is no long shallow entry to Sonora West or East -- you are challenged immediately and the tone of that introduction continues throughout the climb.

That’s a wrap!!

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