Sonora Pass Fall Color

A Driving Tour of Autumn Leaves on Sonora Pass

Autumn on Sonora Pass

Trees along Sonora Pass begin to show their fall colors in early September. Higher elevation trees start first and then over the next two months the color spreads down the pass. The best places to find the dazzling bright gold color of aspen trees are along the eastern slopes of the pass. Oaks and other trees on the western side can also present colorful displays.

aspen trees in fall colors at Sardine Meadow on Sonora Pass

When is the best time to go?

Choosing the best time to enjoy the trees in autumn splendor is always a challenge since the changes in leaf color are triggered by shortened days and cooler temperatures. A sudden cold spell can bring dramatic changes to the trees, seemingly overnight. Or a burst of warm weather can delay the transition. A phone call to one of the ranger stations might offer some insights into current conditions.

Plan Your Drive

aspen trees in fall colors

You can easily drive from Sonora over Sonora Pass and back in a single day. Or, if you prefer, you can drive over Sonora Pass going one way and return via Ebbetts or Carson pass. For accommodations along the way, see our suggestions for lodging below. There are several places along the drive where you may want to get out of your car for a better view and to take pictures. Be prepared cool weather, of course.

Driving Hints

Both Sonora Pass and Ebbetts Pass have places along the roads that are steep and somewhat narrow. For those who would rather avoid this type of road, use Carson Pass (or one of the Tahoe area highways) to cross the Sierra and then enjoy the best of the trees on the eastern side of the pass without climbing to the summit of Sonora Pass.

Savvy mountain drivers fill up their gas tanks before heading into the high country. A convenient gas station in Cold Springs (several miles before Pinecrest) is a good place to fill up. On the east side you will find high prices in Bridgeport.

Check road conditions and weather before setting out. Carry chains.

Suggested Fall Color Viewpoints

Of course you can find beautiful fall scenery all along Highway 108 over Sonora Pass. We have three stops that we think are especially worth visiting.

Sardine Meadow

Part was down the eastern slope of Sonora Pass the highway makes a sharp turn near Sardine Meadow where perhaps the most spectacular aspen trees on the pass are found. When the sun is right, the trees seem to glow with sparkling gold and yellow colors. Although there is no official turnout space here, there is room to park along the shoulder.

Leavitt Falls Overlook

The Leavitt Falls Overlook offers views of both the falls and Leavitt Meadow. The West Walker River meanders through the meadow where fall grasses and aspens show off with a range of yellows, golds, and browns. The wooden viewing platform makes a convenient place for taking pictures. Nearby are picnic tables and restrooms. The turnoff to the overlook is a little difficult to spot, so watch for the sign along the highway.

aspen trees in fall colors at Leavitt Meadow on Sonora Pass

Leavitt Meadow Overlook

While similar to the Sardine Falls Overlook, the turnout at the curve in the highway above Leavitt Meadow offers a broader vista of the magnificent valley and surrounding peaks.

map of east side of Sonora Pass showing best places for viewing fall colors.