Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes

Independence, California

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4 Reviews
4 out of 5
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.

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Professional Review and Guide

"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."

Activity Type: Backpacking, Hiking
Nearby City: Independence
Distance: 9.8
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Difficult
Duration: Backpack
Season: Best July through October
Trailhead Elevation: 9,200 feet
Top Elevation: 11,700 feet
Local Contacts: 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 Maps: USGS Kearsarge Peak, Mount Clarence King; USFS John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia - Kings Canyon Wilderness

Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Reviews

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8/3/2009
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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8/15/2008
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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7/28/2008
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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1/30/2004
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.
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Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes Photos