The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) removed the winter snow, cleared the debris, made necessary repairs and then opened Sonora Pass at 2:00 pm on Thursday, May 3, 2018, and Ebbetts Pass at noon on Friday the fourth.
Caltrans manages three trans-Sierra passes in the Central Sierra that are closed during winter and generally open in spring: Ebbetts Pass in Alpine County, Sonora Pass in Tuolumne County, and Monitor Pass in Alpine County. Tioga Pass is managed by Yosemite National Park.
Sonora Pass rises to 9,623 feet, making it the second highest pass in the Sierra, and Ebbetts Pass rises to 8,730 feet. Even with low volumes of snow, Sonora Pass and Ebbetts Pass require closure during the winter season. Sonora Pass has grades in excess of 20% and Ebbetts Pass in excess of 23%, both far exceeding typical highway grades of 6%. The steep grades, high elevation, and the narrow road cannot accommodate snow removal equipment and vehicular traffic at the same time.
The local maintenance crews would like to remind everyone to please drive safely over the pass. It’s still freezing at night and there could be icy spots. Also, the crews are patrolling the route regularly to remove rocks and anything else that may have fallen into the roadway as the slopes de-thaw. Please be aware and alert as you never know what could be around that next blind corner.
Travelers are advised that there are minimal services available and limited mobile phone service along the high elevations of Sonora Pass. Visitors are also advised to have a full tank of gas and to carry extra food, water, and clothing to be prepared for any emergencies.
Sonora Pass had been closed since Nov. 22, 2017, and Ebbetts since Nov. 30, 2017.
Tioga Pass Road opened ONLY TO THE PARK SERVICE GATE. This means the road stops at the gate and does not go through the park and into Yosemite Valley. We don’t have any estimate for the official opening the road through the park; we have heard informally that it will be by Memorial Day weekend.
Caltrans crews responsible for the road opening extend their best wishes for safe summer traveling to those who enjoy the recreational opportunities this part of California has to offer.