Explore the most popular birding trails near Independence with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Just spent the weekend on this trail. Fishing was amazing at the Kearsage Lakes! Hiking in from onion valley was rough but a huge accomplishment when we reached the top of the pass. The decent into the Kearsage Lakes from the pass is very fast. When we packed out it only took us 3 hours because most of this 11 miles is down hill on the onion valley side. This was my first time backpacking in the Seirras and coming from the east coast this trip was a real eye opener. I would recommend this trail to anyone that thinks they can tough it out. Weather is getting a bit cold this time of year now. Low’s were in the teens at night and there was some snow at about 10,000 feet.

One of my favorite hikes!

Day hike to Kearsarge Lakes after three inches of fresh overnight pow. The trail is super gradual and easy on the knees as you climb to Kearsarge Pass (compared to other high elevation trails in California). Don’t stop at the pass! Descend to the lakes and be treated to the reflection of the mountains towering above you. Definitely in my top three favorite hikes.

We loved this hike!!! My Hubby and I set out for a 5 mile hike so we only went to Flower Lake

outstanding. hard workout

A beautiful hike that rewards you with solitude at Kearsarge lake. Whatever you do, don’t stop at the pass. Keep going until you reach the lake. It’s definitely worth it!

Love this trail. Easy to follow. Challenging enough :-)
Beautiful views of the lakes

This hike is not worth it. The meadow is pretty but nothing spectacular. The initial switchbacks are brutal, and you will want to do them no later than 8 AM because you'll be in the hot sun the whole time. The view is amazing up the switchbacks and the footbridges to cross Bubbs creek are very cool, but after that the hike just isn't worth it. It's also more like 24 miles, not 20. Did it in a day and it was extremely exhausting to say the least, with not that much payoff unfortunately.

Unbelievably beautiful. Lakes, waterfalls and views throughout the entire hike. The upper half of the hike was completely covered in snow (early July) so bring a map and know where you are going! The snow was difficult and made the hike long and challenging, however we were able to slide down the side of the mountain on the way down and felt like we were kids again. The views at the top are very rewarding. This hike took us 7 hours with the snow being a major factor. I was wearing tennis shoes and regretted it. Wear water proof boots if you have them. Lots of snacks and water are a must.

-the boosk

July 6th and 7th, 2018.

Awesome backpacking trip! Camped at Flower Lake the first night, summit Kearsarge Pass the next morning, made it back down to Onion Valley trailhead by noon. Very buggy, so don’t forget to bring your bug balm!

Beautiful trail, clear lakes and springs . The elevational gain isn’t hard per se (est 2.5k) but I saw it sneak up on people.

Hard, and hot! And the bugs are out for blood, be warned, but so beautiful!

Rugged beautiful agree w the hard rating but love it here !

Words can't describe the overwhelming wow factor of reaching the top of Kearsarge Pass and seeing the view that lays beyond. I was so focused on getting up there and stopping to enjoy the wonderful scenery along the way that I didn't think beyond the goal. What awaits is glistening lakes and even more majestic peaks stretching in all directions. Lordy, this region is vast! But backing up... I am a 55+ female in pretty good shape, one knee that annoys and a back that can suffer if I push it. I am experienced with long hikes but rarely do any at elevations above 5000 feet. The drive up to the trailhead was long for my 4 cyclinder Forester but we plodded along using the manual gears. We started the trail at about noon. The parking lot was maybe 60% full. Most of the other hikers were backpackers, many were doing the PCT and came to the trailhead with hopes to find a ride into town to get some supplies (and good luck for that, Independence doesn't have too much in the manner of retail establishments). Anyhow, I had one treking pole and an 8 pound dog and a day pack. The trail was always clear and easy to follow. There were wildflowers along the way and even a wily marmot. I loved seeing all the people (mostly young, but not all!) who told me they were on extended hikes (goes from Mexico to Canada!). Lots of foreigners as well. The trail was challenging for the oxygen supply;) I had planned to reach the top at 3 hours in or so but it took me four. I stopped alot to take pictures and at one point to make a sling from my windbreaker for my little dog to give him a rest. We gladly stepped aside for the backpackers. Hiking alone allowed me to keep a pace that felt comfortable- I am no fan of 'arduous'. The last stretch, however, took a deep sigh of resolve- I had vowed to turn back after 4 hours no matter where I was and I was closing in on that. Huffing a bit, I got to the peak at 3:58 p.m. There were about four people up there and they took my picture for me. I took their picture too, they looked like a Patagonia ad! I literally felt overwhelmed by the beauty of the view on the other side of the pass. For certain the hike up revealed beautiful trees, the bluest sky, colorful rocks, wildflowers, a roaring creek and waterfall, and a couple small lakes with water like a fantasy. I was happy with that, so here was this extra visual reward for having made it. I watched the backbackers head on down towards it all. Dogs aren't allowed at this point so if I were to make this a two day overnight, the dog would have to stay home. Anyhow, I started my descent at about 4:15 and it took me three hours- downhill! Blame the knee for that. It convinced me that two poles is the way to go in the future. If I didn't have the dog I might have jogged a bit on the parts without rocks. Once at the parking lot I gave two backpackers (both well over the age of 60 and on a month long trip) a ride into town. I was wiped out. I camped at Independence Creek campground and slept well.

Update from previous review on May 8, 2018:
2nd attempt. Trail completed on Monday, June 11, 2018, start time 0915 hours, Onion valley campground temperature @ 76°, starting elevation @ approximately 9200 ft. Highest altitude reached per established sign stated 11760 ft, AllTrails (AT) indicated 11878 ft., difference of 118 feet? For story telling purposes I like the sound of AllTrails. End time was at 1700 hours, with an ending temperature at 77°, total miles 11.9.
The scoop in between start and end is very much an individual experience, but this was mine....
This date, the trail was loaded with backpackers both coming in and going out, very few day hikers; it was a constant stop and move out of the way experience from start to finish. At one point I was kind of dreading it- the smell of hard work (sweat) is not the most welcoming and Ew. Little did I realize that fast forwarding a few hours that would be me, I only say that because there was no one else around to blame. The first mile is awesome, lots of elevation gain that the very well maintained switchbacks disguise. The scenery is dramatic! Mile #2, you climb up to approximately 10367 ft., on rocks, this little stretch was not fun, I was not comfortable using my trekking poles and should have put them away. There is a lake you have to stop and check out, very picturesque. Towards the end of mile #2, my heart was ferociously beating and my quads were on fire (again individual experience). Mile #3 is Barron, hot, and dry. It was a gradual but loooong hike up. You see your destination the entire way, and it never felt like I was getting closer! The sound of crashing, falling boulders with a sprinkle of a mini avalanche is -stop you in your tracks frozen scared, kind of terror! I have never witnessed or heard such a terrifying sound before. At around 3.9 miles you come across a beautiful lake, this time around it had a thin layer of frozen ice over it, unbelievably spectacular! According to AT, you are situated at approximately 11466 ft at this point. Mile #4 is long, bare terrain, mentally I felt like I was falling apart. At 4.5 miles you reach the Kearsarge Pass, you can easily identify it by all the hikers resting on this tiny bit of rock space. As a matter of fact, I felt like a walrus trying to move around and among an overcrowded small rock full of other walrus with their trekking poles also. From the pass to the lake valley Mile #6 marker, you have to understand what you hike up or down, you will have to do it again. I was not mentally prepared for this, and only for the playful and God forsaken commentaries of a friend, I knew I had to finish it! And that's where my story ends, the rest was an emotional and physical experience that killed me out there.
I left the valley floor at approximately 1345 hours, with plenty of daylight to burn. For the first time hiker, you got this. For the less conditioned hiker, slow and steady- just keep climbing.
***not sure if jumping in those lakes is permissible, but my fingertips convinced me not to baptize my own self. The lakes are far too inviting!***

I hiked just to the pass yesterday with full camping gear in tow. Trail was very easy to follow to that point, just a few icy patches to navigate. When I got to the top around 3PM, clouds were rolling in, and I was greeted with snow and some thunder. The snow was not sticking, but I decided to turn around anyway because I did not bring much cold weather gear. Even so, the views on this route were stunning and varied. There were clear blue lakes, frozen lakes, and raging waterfalls. There is a constant variation in vegetation, terrain, and forests- it never feels like you are in one biome for too long. And it's all against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks. I highly recommend this hike before all of the snow melts!

Ive done a lot of hikes in my 46 years and did Kearsarge Pass for the first time.....my favorite so far. May 27, trail was mostly clear of snow to the pass with perhaps a dozen snow patches on the trail that were easy to pass through. Just went to the top and back for the 9.4 miles. Love that dogs are allowed. Will bring my lab next time.

Just completed it today May 18.
Amazing view throughout the trail and not just the pass itself. Beautiful lakes and some at higher elevation were still frozen. Most snow has melted and it was very easy to see the trail. Less than a mile of the trail was still under the snow.
We also met some PCT thru hikers on the way to resupply at Independence. The trail just keeps going west and I would love to camp here one day and just keep going. But we still made a beautiful day hike out of it.
Saw a marmot , my first encounter.
It is not an easy trail, but if you are cardio prepared, the reward are the views and entire experience of being out there and going thru snow in May.

Attempt made on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, start time at approximately 11 a.m., (late start)! I'm giving it a 3 only because I completed about 1/4 of it. I lost the trail in the snow and no clear tracks to lead me anywhere. Without hiking experience or reliable GPS in the spotty vicinity, I turned around to a defeat. I would like to state that the little I was able to trek, absolutely stunning views and waterfalls. I will most certainly return to finish this, as it deserves! The only intimidating portion of this area, is the 20 minute drive back down in a sedan. My brakes felt every bit of that descent.

No, dogs are certainly NOT able to use this trail. Past Kearsarge Pass you are hiking in Kings Canyon National Park. National parks do NOT allow dogs on wilderness trails.

Great trail to enter Kings canyon and the JMT. Very well maintained. The views at the pass are amazing. I’ve done a few over nighters and trips to Whitney from here.

Only saw one other car at the trailhead. Great day hike up to the pass and kings canyon boundary. This trail is really well maintained and the switchbacks are well graded.

We went down to Bullfrog Lake, and back up. I was slow coming back up but it was worth the pain, paid off pushing it. Would recommended, so amazingly beautiful. It will work you, but like I said it pays off.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stunning views from Kearsarge Pass, will repeat to go down to lakes next time.

Monday, September 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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tough, beautiful, well kept trail . Very scenic. Ran into several parties that were mid - PCT or beginning a portion of the PCT with interesting tales to tell. Can't wait to return with my family.

An spectacular trail with beautiful views of lakes, forest, cascades and moderately trafficked.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Really nice trail.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We did this trail last week to resupply some people hiking JMT. It was awesome. The trail is very well maintained, lots of resting areas to catch breath if need to. It's def a challenging hike but the three of us were all at different levels as far as experience and were able to do it just fine. We hiked over pass to the lakes on the other side, incredible experience! Views amazing!

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