Sierra Nevada Range, California
Tuolumne County, California
Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Mono- COUNTY
State Highway, new pavement east side of summit - PAVEMENT
Numerous, hairpins, steep grades to 26% - CURVES
Cold Springs, Walker, Bridgeport- GAS
Riding Sonora Pass
Quick Ride: Sierra Nevada Mountain pass with thrilling mountain views, endless curves, and dramatic elevation change.
The other day, I transferred all the photos I’ve taken of Highway 108 over the last 20 years into a single folder. I then realized I had taken over 1000 photos of this stretch of road. That’s quite a lot for a 66-mile stretch of road. 15 photos for every mile. Why so many photos? Twice as much as many other roads I’ve photographed over the years for this site.
The answer became apparent when I started to review the folder of Highway 108 photos and separate out the good ones from the mediocre shots, whittling the 1000 down to 100, tossing 90%. While Highway 108 doesn’t have the super-energizing one-lane section of its Highway 4 cousin to the north, Sonora Pass is a very photogenic, intensely scenic mountain pass. This pass reaches nearly 10,000 feet and is seasonally closed due to snow, but our goal has always been to plan a motorcycle tour for early to mid-June when the pass first opens to experience all the snow at the summit. Open and close dates can be easily looked up of the Sierra Passes, and you can also check the CalTrans website by the numerical number of the road you want to check conditions of.
Large vehicles are discouraged due to the very steep grades of 26% and multiple switchbacks, although there are numerous campgrounds which draw many RVs. Despite the traffic, the summit is the draw on this one. The ride at the summit is amazing and must be ridden for those of you who love the Sierra Nevada landscape.
Starting out from Oakdale and riding eastbound towards Nevada, Highway 120 & Highway 108 combine through the Sierra Foothills. Five miles east of Oakdale is Orange Blossom Rd. This quick detour runs on the north side of the Stanislaus River and provides a welcome alternative to the main highway. Orange Blossom Rd has some mild curves and is suited for those looking to stay off the main highway. Orange Blossom Rd runs into Sonora Rd and flows into Knights Ferry.
After checking out Knights Ferry Covered Bridge, it's a fast ride up a four-lane wide main highway as the foothills begin to offer up some rolling hills. The four-lane section lasts for six miles. At the end of the four-lane is La Grange Rd, a southern bound connector that works well to keep you off Highway 49 or Highway 99 and connects south via Snelling Rd all the way to Merced.
Worth noting, Red Hill Rd parallels this section and is paved between La Grange Rd to Chinese Camp. Red Hill Rd is a narrow back road, but it is paved. Highway 120 splits here and continues southeast into Moccasin to The Little Dragon, Old Priest Grade, and into Groveland. Highway 120 is the northern entrance (of three) into Yosemite NP. Note the south end of Wards Ferry Rd pops out at Big Oak Flat near Priest. A lot of fun back roads in this area of the Sierra Foothills, and we use these back roads to extend our Highway 108/Highway 4 loop from about 200 miles to 250 miles for the perfect length day-ride.
Twenty-five miles east of Oakdale, Highway 108 runs up on O’Bryens Ferry Rd. This road connects north across the top of Lake Tulloch into Copperopolis at Highway 4. If you like extreme back roads, this single-lane (paved) road continues as Rock Creek Rd to Salt Spring Valley Reservoir over to Milton. The section from the reservoir to Milton is very old, very patched, and very bumpy.
Jamestown shows up 15 miles later, gas here, along with Railtown 1897- a living history railroad museum and restoration shop that offers rides on its trains during the summer months. Railtown 1897 is also known as the movie railroad and has been utilized in filming many movies as far back as 1929. Recent films like Back to the Future, and numerous episodes of Little House on the Prairie have utilized the rolling stock on site. Tuolumne County has been described as one of the country’s most versatile locations for filming, over 300 film and television series have been made here locally.
Wards Ferry Rd is one of our favorite foothills roads.
South out of Jamestown will put you onto Algerine Rd, a single lane paved ranch road which connects over to Wards Ferry Rd and Graffiti Bridge. If the plan is to head north, you can avoid the congestion that is Sonora and take Rawhide Rd. Rawhide is a twisty shortcut north that avoids Sonora completely and pops out on Highway 49 near Tuttletown. Rawhide Rd is also a shortcut over to Columbia SHP and Parrots Ferry Rd to connect with Highway 4.
It will take about an hour to get from Hwy 99 to Sonora. You can easily bypass Sonora by staying on Highway 108, but taking the exit north onto Highway 49 will take you directly into downtown.
At Southgate Dr along Highway 49 is the Shay steam Locomotive No. 3 parked alongside the highway that will delight any train enthusiast to see one of these trains up close.
For years Stockton Road has been the main western entrance at Bradford Street, and the traffic would then continue into the City on Bradford. This Shay engine was built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1910, Serial No. 2297, Cylinders 12" x 12' Truck, 60' Ton. Number 3 was bought new by Standard Lumber Co., for use on its Sugar Pine Rail Road. The engine lived out its entire working life in Tuolumne County. Originally on display in Standard, it was later moved to its present location. In 1925 the wooden cab was destroyed in a wreck with another engine near Camp Pickering. Workers at the Standard Plant fabricated the steel cab and rebuilt the engine to its present appearance.
Shay Locomotive No. 3 at the entrance to Sonora
The gearing is especially interesting as this locomotive has vertical pistons in the middle of the train, which power long driveshafts extending forward and to the rear of the train turning bevel gears that line the side of the train. These trains were known as geared steam locomotives and built throughout the 1880s. Steam pistons are mounted vertically on the right side of the train, and the boiler was offset left to counterbalance the weight of the pistons. Nearly 3000 of these types of locomotives were built until 1945. Shay Locomotive No. 4 is located nearby in Arnold along Highway 4 at the Sierra Logging Museum, on static display outside the museum to check out any time and a third Shay locomotive can be found nearby at Railtown 1897 in Jamestown.
The gold rush town of Columbia north of Sonora has been turned into a state historic park.
Sonora also has one of the last remaining lumber mills in the state still operating near Chinese Camp. Run by Sierra Pacific Industries, they manage nearly 2 million acres of forest in California and Washington. The local mill is said to employ nearly 1200 people within the local mill and the peripheral industries it supports.
One of the many gold rush towns with a well-preserved downtown area- Sonora has its past rooted in the Mexican miners who settled the area. The town is named after their native region of Sonora, Mexico. If you head north off Highway108 onto Highway 49, this was the original road before the 108 Bypass was built across the south end of town.
Along with the endless antique and nick-knack shops- the main street is much like the majority of the towns along the Highway 49 corridor up to Downieville, full of historic buildings and Gold Rush charm. Sonora is the largest town in the county with a population of about 5000, it is also the only incorporated town in the county, which alludes to how rural Tuolumne County can be. Gold rush era towns like this are often spread out into the surrounding hills, with no clear grid pattern streets like a traditional town.
In the 1850s, the downtown area of Sonora quickly became the center of Tuolumne County, even after the easy gold dried up. One interesting story of Sonora is during The Great Depression in the 1930s, after heavy rains the townspeople panned for gold in the streets after every storm. Many local families survived The Great Depression with the gold they panned in the streets. One can only assume that when the city streets were finally paved, they paved over streets of gold which remain to this day.
The old jail, at 158 W. Bradford St., has been turned into the Tuolumne County Museum and still has the bars on the exterior windows. Nearby at 9 N Washington St in the center of downtown is the Veterans Memorial Building, this is one of the best military museums for miles. It excels by chronicling the various involvement of military branches in wars of the 1900s. Most of the items are donated or on loan from local residents.
A few feet away at 42 Snell Street is St. James Episcopal Church, the oldest Episcopalian church building in California. Built in 1859 in the Carpenter Gothic style, it's known as the Red Church. If you like to photograph old-world buildings, here's your chance since its claim-to-fame is being one of the most photographed buildings of the Mother Lode.
The ride doesn't get started till you leave Sonora. Staying on the Highway 108 bypass around the south side of Sonora makes short work of the town. The road even expands to 4 lanes as you head east out of Sonora and away from the people. Several detours worth mentioning are in East Sonora upon exiting the highway onto Mono Way. Phoenix Lake Rd runs parallel on the north side of the highway and connects to Big Hill Rd. Big Hill is super twisty with moderate to bumpy pavement, but stays at a higher elevation near 4000 feet to keep you above of the heat of summer. The Middle Camp-Big Hill Rd combo is the shortcut we used to connect a clockwise loop of Highway 108 and Highway 4.
Wards Ferry Rd
Southerly destinations, turn south onto Tuolumne Rd, which runs parallel to Highway 108. Continuing uphill on Tuolumne Rd will flow up to Tuolumne (pronounced too-AH-lum-ee). This provides access to the north end of Wards Ferry Rd and the famous Graffiti Bridge over to Highway 120 at Groveland. Wards Ferry Rd is a single lane paved back road with steep switchbacks into the canyon to Graffiti Bridge.
Cherry Lake Loop
Further up the hill at Tuolumne, you'll have access to the Cottonwood Rd-Cherry Lake Loop which connects via Cottonwood Rd to Cherry Lake Reservoir, and then continues south over to Highway 120 at Buck Meadows near the entrance to Yosemite NP.
Tuolumne Rd parallels Highway 108 and connects back with the main highway at Twain Harte. Climbing through the Sierra Foothills while gaining in elevation, there are several residential neighborhoods stuck back in the forest in this stretch. At Sugarpine is the eastern entrance to Middle Camp Rd. This is the turnoff from Highway 108 for a loop of Highway 108 with Highway 4.
Most of the Cherry Lake Loop is open cattle range, some portions were recently repaved
Middle Camp Rd headed downhill runs through a mountain residential neighborhood and requires two rights to stay on the path through two forks in the road. The first Y is at Joaquin Gully Rd and the second Y is at South Fork Rd at the tiny Brentwood Lake. You’ll need to stay right both times if you’re riding downhill. Middle Camp Rd then T-intersects into Phoenix Lake Rd/Big Hill Rd. The turn right/north gets you onto Big Hill Rd to connect over to Columbia SHP and Parrots Ferry Rd. Perfect shortcut to keep you out of Sonora and staying at a higher elevation to avoid the heat of summer in the valley below & connect with Highway 4 for the perfect loop of both mountain passes.
East of Strawberry is Pinecrest Lake and, to the north, Beardsley Reservoir. Above Pinecrest Lake is the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, with a summit of 8200’ and a base elevation at 6600’. Dodge Ridge has 862 skiable acres and 67 different runs dating to the 1950s. The current owners have operated it as a family run privately owned resort since 1976. The ski resort gets up to 42 feet of snow each year.
At a broad sweeping turn is Strawberry. There’s a small general store here and the Strawberry Inn dating to 1939. This is a fun lunch stop as behind the Strawberry Inn is an outdoor two-story gazebo set atop telephone poles high above a rushing river. The sound of the South Fork of the Stanislaus River below while dining is melodious and relaxing. The small inn offers 15 rooms.
Leaving Strawberry and headed uphill is finally where Highway 108 gets started, and it’s 20 miles to Dardanelle, and 34 to the summit upon leaving Strawberry. Curves are smooth, banked and consistent, one after the other with hairpins that can last a mile or more until the ride emerges on top of the ridgeline and flows into several flat meadows. The mountain terrain opens up into a broad pullout at Herring Creek Rd. Forest Rd 4N12 drops off the ridge to Herring Creek and is paved for six miles in.
Highway 108 has smooth curves, great pavement
The Strawberry Inn has an outdoor seating area high above the river below
Bird’s eye view of Donnell Reservoir
Five miles uphill from Strawberry is the Leland Snowplay Park, a snow park open to the public, to take the kids in winter to play in the snow.
Donnell’s Vista, el 6311', provides a bird’s eye view of Donnell Reservoir in the canyon below, fed by the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River and several other creeks. It resembles a miniature Yosemite Valley with steep cliff faces creating the basin for the reservoir.
Built in 1955 at an elevation of 4,893’, the curved arch dam is 291 feet high and 750 feet long. Unfortunately, there is no paved road that heads down to the reservoir. Although, you can camp along the ridges above and hike down to the reservoir to view the sheer vertical cliffs that border the lake.
East of the vista, Highway 108 enters a wide and flat glaciated river valley that’s flanked by 9,000 to 10,000-foot tall peaks.
Donnells Vista provides a broad vista down on the reservoir in the canyon below
As you near Dardanelle at the 5800’ level, you’ll enter a burnt area. The 2018 Donnell Fire burned 36,000 acres, nearly 57 square miles of forest on both sides of Highway 108. The fire swept through the historic resort community of Dardanelle, and burned 135 buildings, the oldest of which were nearly 100 years old. The fire started on the east end of Donnell Lake, and climbed out of the canyon directly into Dardanelle. The Dardanelle Resort was established in 1923 at the convergence of Eagle Creek and the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River.
New owners had purchased the resort only months before the fire. All the cabins burned, but the motel survived. Thankfully, the owners were insured and have been rebuilding the resort, re-opening in 2019. A stand of trees survived at the resort and many RV’s are still utilizing the resort. Burnt trees and forest surround. There is a national forest campground across the highway on the north side still open. The Brightman Forest Service building at the east end of the valley was saved when the wildfire reached within about 50 feet of the building. It’s one of the few structures in the valley that survived the fire.
Column of the Giants
For the hikers in the group, next to Pigeon Flat Campground, 1.5 miles east of the Dardanelle Resort, is the Columns of the Giants Trail. Pigeon Flat Campground is a walk-in campground situated along the banks of the Stanislaus River. The trail provides an easy quarter mile walk, some portions are paved asphalt, to an unusual geologic formation with views of basalt columns, reminiscent of the Devil's Postpile at Mammoth.
The Columns of the Giants are columnar hexagonal basalt rocks polished during ice ages and resemble a tall vertical rock face. The Columns of the Giants were created when molten lava flowed into an ancient riverbed and collected behind a natural dam. As it cooled, it hardened and shrank, splitting into multi-sided, vertical columns. This area was burned in the 2018 Donnell Fire.
Highway 108 clings to the river, weaving a relaxed side to side into Eureka Valley to the High Sierra Institute at Baker Station, an extension of Columbia College. There’s a small collection of cabins here, originally founded as a way station in 1879 for the Sonora and Bodie Stagecoach. While we can ride to Baker Station in about an hour from Sonora, it used to be an all-day journey by stagecoach. As gold strikes in Bodie around 1878 pushed traffic up Sonora Pass, Baker Station soon became a tourist destination as the location set right at the foot of the final climb to Sonora Pass summit.
A group of 12 rustic buildings was first a tourist destination, then transferred to the forest service, then around 2000, the buildings were going to be abandoned until a local college stepped in. Students of Columbia College stay in the cabins as part of their course work and study subjects hands-on. Baker Station is used by the High Sierra Institute in partnership with Yosemite Community College.
Highway 108 reaches the end of the valley along the North Fork of the Stanislaus River and offers one last alternative destination of Kennedy Meadows (not to be confused with Kennedy Meadows on Sherman Pass Rd).
Kennedy Lake and the land around Kennedy Meadows were claimed by Andrew Thomas Kennedy of Knights Ferry and William E. Lutz in the mid-1880s. Kennedy built a cabin, which still stands today, where the resort is now located. Fires through the decades have burned some buildings, while many of the current buildings date to the 1950s.
Kennedy Meadows is surrounded by mountain peaks in every direction. All the camping areas stand next to a rushing river, that alone may present itself as an attractive destination. It’s a single lane road into the resort along the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. This small creek flows right beside the road and there are numerous campsites and cabins on this short mile-long road to Kennedy Meadows. Horse trailers allude to this being a base for trail rides into the surrounding mountains. There is a general store here at Kennedy Meadows, but no gas. Kennedy Meadows is also the perfect destination for lunch, especially if it is hot in the valley below.
Pavement from Donnell Vista on through Dardanelle Valley and up to the summit is new, smooth and outright delicious.
Que de Porka
Sonora Pass begins a steep climb beyond Baker Station, gaining 3000 feet in 9 miles. The ride is deliciously twisty and steep, reaching a 26% grade while passing through the 8000-foot-level, then a short distance later, 9000-foot level. It’s intensely scenic, with mountain views, sheer vertical rock faces, rushing rivers, and snow-capped peaks into July for the years with higher levels of snowfall.
One mile east of Kennedy Meadows, the road squeezes through a narrow cut in the rock face, known as the Que de Porka. There’s a narrow-paved pull-out here barely big enough for a single car on the upside if you’re hunting for another picture to add to the 1000-some photos you already have of Sonora Pass. A rocky hill top offers a chance to climb up the rocks to the summit a short distance away to look down on Kennedy Meadows directly below the Que de Porka.
Steep climb from Kennedy Meadows to the summit
Nancy Kelsey, 1841
“The Sonora Pass is the sentinel post of wilderness, a constant reminder that man is no more than a tenant of the earth. And for travelers who cross in the shadow of Sonora Peak, the memory of this High Sierra road sticks like granite roots of snarled and twisted junipers.” -Ferol Egan
Before the pavement and sign markers, before automobiles, the journey across the Sierra Nevada range was much different. The wilderness was traveled on foot, with horses, oxen, and wagons. The journey that has taken you hours took emigrants weeks to complete.
Imagine you’re Nancy Kelsey, the first female pioneer to travel this route. You’ve just turned eighteen, you’re carrying your baby daughter, and like others you’ve abandoned your wagons and trudge forward with your livestock, and meager belongings. Miserable, it feels like a lifetime since you left Missouri in May 1841.
“We had a difficult time to find our way down the mountains. …Having killed and eaten all our cattle, we were now without provisions. For 2 days I lived on roasted acorns, and walked barefoot until my feet blistered. My husband came near losing his life with cramps.”
Without the help of a map, guidebook, or road, Mrs. Kelsey and 33 others of the Bartleson-Bidwell Party roamed these mountains for 19 days. They followed the Stanislaus River passing within miles of the present-day Sonora Pass and reached safety on November 4. The pioneers are gone, but the mountains remain as sentinels, bearing witness to the stories of those who passed this way: On your trip, you have joined this family of travelers across Sonora Pass.
Passing through the Que de Porka
Scroll to view the 9-mile ride from Baker Station to the Summit
To the east of the Que de Porka, Highway 108 climbs up through two hairpins, the second with a wide pullout and an easy place to park along with an easy walk up a few feet to a rock outcropping with a view of Deadman Creek. As Highway 108 climbs up Deadman Creek into Blue Canyon, the steepest portion of the ride reaches a 26% grade pushing through the 9000 ft level. The road is so steep, take care pulling over to park.
Five miles east of the Kennedy Meadows turnoff is a paved turnout along the side of Deadman Creek. Across the creek can be seen remnants of the old Sonora and Mono Wagon Road, opening in 1864.
Right before the summit, there’s a paved side road up to a small circle of campsites, providing easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail and Sonora Pass Trailhead.
The 9624 ft Ebbetts Summit along Highway 108 is steep and best to park pointing uphill. The summit is often busy with vehicles parking, slowing, or people walking across the highway. On some trips here in mid-June, there’s barely any snow, other trips we played atop 10 feet of snow at the Sonora Pass sign.
Sonora Mono Toll Road: Oldest of the trans-Sierra emigrant trails to California is the spectacular Sonora Pass cross by Highway 108, second highest (9626 feet) of all highway crossings of the range. The Bartleson-Bidwell Party, with mules, horses and oxen, made the first crossing attempt October 18, 1841. This route was not attempted by wagons until 1852. “Grizzly” Adams took the trail over Sonora Pass April 1854, and reported “on all sides lay old axle trees and wheels…melancholy evidence of the last season’s disasters.” The present route first projected in 1862 was finally completed as a toll road, due to the extreme cost, by Mono, Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties in 1865. It was said to take three weeks for a six-horse team to make the round trip between Sonora and Bridgeport.
Scroll to view the descent from the Summit to Leavitt Meadows
The old Sonora and Mono Wagon Road came down the pass, using the same twists and turns as present-day Highway 108. A steady descent through the 9000-foot level on the eastern side of the range leads into Leavitt and Pickel Meadows through two sets of s-curves. The terrain quickly evolves as the elevation drops into more sagebrush and fewer trees as you get further from the summit. There are several sleeper corners in this section, and if you are not paying attention, you may not notice they are signed as 15 mph corners, although the descent here is signed as only a 7% grade. But a bit further is the last descent at a 25% grade into the last set of switchbacks.
Popping out of the trees, reveals a stunning mountain view of Leavitt Meadows, a broad mountain valley ringed in snow capped mountain peaks. The first hairpin is signed at 10 mph, and there is a broad dirt pullout here entering the hairpin that provides an expansive view of Leavitt Meadow. Leavitt Creek meanders lazily bending left, then bending right as if confused on how to exit this broad flat valley floor.
Frosty morning ride past Leavitt Meadows Pack Station
At the base of the range is the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station with horses you can rent to experience a day or multi-day camping trip atop a horse with your pack mule to carry your gear. Leavitt Meadows Pack Station has been in operation for 100 years since the yearly 1900s, and the same family has owned the facility since 1959.
Few bends down the road from the Pack Station is the Leavitt Training Area, and if you are fortunate enough, you’ll get a quick glimpse of the Marines training in a classroom setting here. Although the word classroom to a Marine means a set of bleachers, and a table. Nearby are the ever-present pull up bars.
Those pull up bars always remind me of my time in the Marine Corps and being stationed at Camp Pendleton for Combat Training.
While training for combat, we fired a lot of weapons and had a lot of classes.
Those classes were all outdoor sitting on bleachers with a table, training for the day we would be sent off to practice our combat skills for real. Always nearby were pull up bars, and on every break from class time, our platoon sergeant would make all of us trot over and do pull-ups. Now, growing up on a farm, I was always a pretty strong kid. I ran over during one particular training class on how to use claymore mines and did 65 consecutive pull-ups, ran back over to my platoon sergeant like an eager puppy and announced I’d knocked out 65 pull-ups, a rather impressive number. “Good job Marine,” was all I got in return which was all I really needed. We had been doing them daily for months, and that was the highest number I ever reached. Every time I see those bleachers at Leavitt Meadows, it reminds me of claymore mines & pull-ups.
The home for these Marines is a few miles down the road at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training base with billeting for 1200 Marines. This is where Marines learn their mountain warfare skills. I have been riding past this base for nearly 30 years and there is almost always some sort of activity going on here every day of the week. There is no runway, but it’s common to see Apache, Black Hawk or Super Stallion helicopters parked out on the tarmac near the highway.
Bleachers, Claymore mines and pull up bars
Rows of tracked Sno-Cats are lined up for the winter months of training Marines. These Sno-Cats can operate in temperatures to -50 degrees below zero. The military versions of Sno-Cats are all-terrain vehicles with two modules that articulate in the middle and can carry 11-12 troops. With their wide tracks, they have a ground pressure less than the human foot. While designed to work in deep snow at very low temperatures, they can also traverse muddy terrain, swamp land or even water.
The Mountain Warfare Training Center sits at an elevation of 6700 feet and was established in 1951 preparing troops for combat operations in the Korean War. The Marines have 46,000 acres of the Toiyabe National Forest, the largest forest in the United States outside of Alaska, to play on. The base has recently been used extensively to prepare troops for operations in Afghanistan. 29 miles north on Hwy 395 is a small collection of military housing for troops with families.
Mountain Warfare Training Center
Four miles later along the West Walker River is Sonora Junction, the end of our journey on Highway 108. Sonora Junction is 14 miles south of Walker and 17 miles north from Bridgeport. If you need fuel, Walker is tiny and has a single fuel station (but no 24 hr card lock), several small motels and the famous Mountain BBQ restaurant. Bridgeport was established on a broad, flat mountain plain, and is the nexus for the region. Bridgeport is the largest town (pop. 575) for many miles in the high desert.
Bodie SHP is a can’t miss destination if you have never been there. Further south is the Manzanar War Internment Camp to check out, along with the Bristlecone Pine Forest above 10,000 feet on Highway 168. Highway 395 is a long, straight major highway along the eastern Sierra Nevada range, bordering nearly the length of the California-Nevada border. It would seem Hwy 395 is a long boring road, but it’s intensely scenic with the Sierra Range near feet away. The elevation peaks near Mammoth, where you’ll find Devils Postpile. Devils Postpile at Mammoth is really just an interesting pile of rocks, but it’s only accessed by a steep single lane narrow mountain road.
After you’ve ridden Highway 108 Sonora Pass, you’ll understand why I have more photos of this road than any other mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada Range. While Highway 4 is a super-fun joyride that begs you not to stop anywhere, Highway 108 is the Yin to the Yang. There are countless places along the ride to stop and take in the view, enjoy the expansive meadows below you, the snow-capped peaks above and the highway is a favorite with cruisers for the smooth wide surface throughout. The fresh pavement on the west side of the summit is an added bonus.
Sonora Pass has many steep portions, and the usual oft-repeated cautionary tales of how to park a motorcycle on steep slopes bears repeating. Sonora Pass has more traffic than Highway 4 and there will always be sand in some tight corners. We like to say there are no surprises in riding, so you should expect it to be there.
Devils Postpile National Monument is found nearby at Mammoth.
Highway 108 is easy to combine with Highway 4 for an all-day relaxed two-pass loop, and our preference is a clockwise loop combined with Highway 4. The 66-mile reference comes from Sonora Junction to Sugarpine, our exit point from Highway 108 onto Middle Camp Rd, although it’s worth noting the actual signed Highway 108 continues southeast into the Central Valley to Modesto at the Highway 99 freeway.
Additional mileage can be easily added in the lower elevations by adding some Sierra Foothill rides below Sonora & Columbia. We plan this loop at about 250 miles, which makes for a relaxed day with plenty of time for lunch, tire-kicking breaks and picture stops at overlooks. A quick detour over to Bodie SHP also fits this loop perfectly. Plan a ride here; cross off one of the Sierra Passes, as they can only be experienced firsthand.
No picture can capture the true grandeur of this ride. Not even a 1000.
Highway 108 - Photo Gallery
MORE INFO: Highway 108
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
80 Miles - Sonora to Hwy 395 Junction - LENGTH
Well-maintained, main highway, brand new at summit - PAVEMENT
Steep 26% grade hairpins, numerous - CURVES
Numerous - LODGING
9624 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
37°59′4″N 120°22′54″W - Sonora
38°20′28″N 119°50′02″W - Dardenelle
LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Orange Blossom Rd
Cherry Lake Loop
Middle Camp Rd - Big Hill Rd
USFS - Highway 108 Corridor