Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes

Independence, California 93526

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"This journey travels up the Onion Valley, passing several beautiful lakes, then climbs over windswept Kearsarge Pass and down to the dazzling Kearsarge Lakes.

The rocky trail begins by switchbacking up a sunny slope through sage and scattered pines. After climbing a few of the switchbacks, you can see the trail leading to Golden Trout Lake to the north. Within a mile you enter the John Muir Wilderness, continuing to switchback with views back down to the trailhead and across the Owens Valley to the Inyo Mountains.

Little Pothole Lake has a few campsites and two waterfalls cascading into its still waters. The path resumes switchbacking and reaches the ripples of Gilbert Lake at 1.9 miles. You will find large campsites at this lake. Traveling first along the lake’s north shore, then its west, you pass a side trail to more campsites on its south shore."

More Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"The trail to Kearsarge Pass skirts several lakes that are popular fishing locations and campsites, and then it climbs to timberline for a vista of craggy ridges. From Lone Pine, drive 15 miles north along US 395 to the town of Independence. From the center of Independence take Market Street (Onion Valley Road) 12.5 miles west to its terminus at the Onion Valley Trailhead. Several trails depart from this large parking area, and the Kearsarge Pass Trail is due west, beyond the toilets and the cluster of bear boxes. From the edge of the parking area, you climb an open slope dotted with dry site shrubs, including sagebrush. Except for a brief interlude beneath tall red firs, the trail continues through similar vegetation. Throughout this section, there are views down-canyon to the parking area and beyond." Read more

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Reviews

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Great acclimator for Mt Whitney. The Onion Valley campground sits at over 9000 feet. Kearsarge pass is over 11500 feet. It really helped with our Mt Whitney Ascent. The first day we hiked to Golden Trout lake, but I would not recommend this, as we did not find the lake as the upper trail is hard to find. The second morning we went up the Kearsarge pass trail, my friends stopped and caught brook trout out of lower pothole lake and I went to the pass for acllimation purposes and it was a beautiful walk. So I recommend staying off of the Golden trout trail and stay on the Kearsarge pass trail when you come to that fork in the road.
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Awesome views, a little busy though. The hike goes through a wide variety of alpine environments until it passes above the treeline. I proposed to my wife at the top of Kearsarge Pass and then we camped at the lakes below.
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Only made it to the ridge overlooking all the lakes, but it was incredible. You do climb 2500 feet on this hike, but it's gradual and you pass many lakes. It's really gorgeous and not too hard. All trail, with a bit of loose rock.
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Great view from top, hike is not too hard. We made it to kearsarge lakes on 1st day, and were planning a 7 day trip. However, overnight at the lakes altitude sickness hit. My advise: stay an extra night at onion valley.

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
2,500 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
Best July through October
9,200 feet
Trailhead Elevation
11,700 feet
Top Elevation
Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, Junction of US 395 and SR 136, 2.0 miles south of Lone Pine, CA 93545; (760) 876-6222; walk in wilderness permits and information; Wilderness Permit Office, for reservations only (760) 873- 2483; fs.usda.gov/inyo/. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Hwy., Three Rivers, CA 93271; road and weather conditions, and general information, (559) 565-3341 (24 hours); nps.gov/seki/.
Local Contacts
USGS Kearsarge Peak, Mount Clarence King; USFS John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia - Kings Canyon Wilderness
Local Maps