Onion Valley to Gardiner Lake

HARD 6 reviews
#25 of 61 trails in

Onion Valley to Gardiner Lake is a 35.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Independence, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October.

Distance: 35.1 miles Elevation Gain: 11,341 feet Route Type: Out & Back




nature trips

bird watching



wild flowers


no dogs

Starting at the Onion Valley Campgroud just west of Independence, CA, this trail has a huge climb from 9,200 feet to Kearsarge Pass at 11,760 and then back down to Charlotte Lake around 10,300 feet. Views are amazing!

Mon Sep 25 2017

Hiked from Onion Valley Campground to Charlotte Lake in about 5 hours. Reviews below mention it's a 3-4 day trip but that is only if you average about 3 miles per day. We took the high route over bullfrog and kearsarge lakes because the route was less strenuous. Camped at Charlotte Lake and saw a couple bears so make sure you carry you bear canister! Overall it was an amazing hike with breathtaking views

Sun Jun 26 2016

Solo trip. June 26, 2016. I made it to heart lake and set up camp for the night. Be very aware, it is a challenging climb down to the lake, and a exhausting climb back up to the trail, especially with a 45lb pack. After some early morning fishing I resumed my climb and summited Kearsarge pass around noon. The scenery is epic, as good as it gets. The lakes are like aquariums, trout everywhere. Lots of PCT thru hikers and everyone I met was super friendly. A must hike.

Thu Aug 29 2013

This is just about as good as backpacking gets! Start at Onion Valley Campground and follow signs towards Kearsarge Pass. After the pass, there will be a cutoff to a lower/longer route that travels by the lower lakes (Kearsarge and Bullfrog Lakes). Continue on the high route and enjoy the views. Signs will guide you further west. You will cross the PCT intersection and less than a mile after that, you will arrive at Charlotte Lake. This should be broken up into at least 2 days as only a trail runner could do this in a day. I prefer to take 4 days. Night 1: Gilbert or Flower Lake. Night 2: Charlotte Lake. Night 3: Kearsarge Lakes. This is just South East from the Rae Lakes Loop. This is more like 18 miles and don't forget to reserve your wilderness permit. Here is my blog on the trip: http://avenuealife.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/onion-valley-to-charlotte-lake-backpacking/

Fri Mar 18 2011

An absolute must! One of the many pristine backcountry treks in the Eastern Sierra Nevada of CA. Pounding up to Kearsarge Pass is truly breathtaking. I recommend taking a side trip to the Pinnacles and Lakes. Bopping around Bull Frog Lake is quick and fun (no camping allowed) and hitting Charlotte Lake was beyond enjoyable. Charlotte Lake is a really nice Bivouac place.

5 months ago

recorded Charlotte Jx To Rae Lakes

Mon Sep 19 2016