The West Walker River as it passes through Leavitt Meadow along Highway 108. Photo by Loyd Schutte.
If you’re driving up from L.A. or San Bernadino area on 395 and want to get to Yosemite you’re going to be in a for a shock as Tioga Pass and Highway 120 West into Yosemite will remain closed this holiday weekend. Don’t let it ruin your holiday weekend, though. You can get over the Sierra but it’s going to add about another 3-4 hours to your trip.
Highway 108 has reopened and will get you across the Sierra (no campers over 22′). Here’s how it works:
Stop in Lee Vining and get gas. Make sure your tank is full. Head north on 395 out of Mono Basin and into Bridgeport (cute little town).
The historic Bridgeport Inn along Highway 108 in Bridgeport, California. Photo by Loyd Schutte.
If you’re in a gas guzzler or if you didn’t stop in Lee Vining you need to get gas here as there’s not going to be any for 60 miles or so.
Continue on 395 north out of Bridgeport. About 15 miles north of Bridgeport you’re going to see signs notifying you of a junction with Highway 108 West. Turn left at the junction.
Highway 108 is a narrow road with steep inclines on both sides. Follow 108 up over Sonora Pass. Once you come down the steep west side of Sonora Pass you’ll be at Kennedy Meadows Resort. The road will get nicer and wider.
Leavitt Meadow overlook provides a nice bathroom stop with great scenic views and the opportunity to photograph Leavitt Falls. Photo by Loyd Schutte.
Stay on 108 for another 40 miles to Sonora. When you enter Sonora you’re going to turn right at the first stop light you come to and left at the next light onto the Sonora Bypass. Get gas in Sonora and something to eat. Gas here is much cheaper than in Yosemite. Sonora is a big town with Walmart, Starbucks and every type of restaurant you can imagine.
Head west out of Sonora on 108. About 5 miles after you pass through the little town of Jamestown start looking for signs for Highway 49. Turn left onto Highway 49 south. Follow it until you get to the small town of Chinese Camp. You’ll meet the westbound leg of 49/120. Go left/straight (south) through Chinese Camp, up Priests Grade, through Big Oak Flat, Groveland and in to Yosemite.
Now I want to stop and point out something, there are PLENTY of really cool places to camp along 108 and most are first-come, first-serve. If you don’t have a reservation in Yosemite consider stopping at one of these. The scenery is beautiful, most are close to rivers, streams or lakes, there are usually countless hiking trails nearby and it’s not nearly as crowded. The map below shows some of my favorites.
Some of my favorite places to camp off 108 are: Leavitt Meadow, Pigeon Flat, Clark Fork, Kennedy Meadows, Pigeon Flat, Dardanelles, Mill Creek and for those looking for the more developed, group atmosphere, Pinecrest.
Good luck. Stay safe out there.