Explore the most popular lake 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 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.

One of my favorite hikes I did in this area (probably nr.1). It is definitely moderate to strenuous (I hike quite a bit) so be prepared for a steep hike. The gate was closed, so we had to park our car further down the street - which added an extra 2 miles one way to our hike. You can go higher up if you feel like it once you reach Flower like (which is the third lake. The first one is very small, the second one is also beautiful). When we went, in late April, the lakes were still frozen. There were some patches of snow along the way but no need for snowshoes if you only go up to Flower lake. You can go further if you want but would not recommend this time of the year without some experience and the proper gear.

There is lots of space around the lakes to camp at night if you feel like it. Will definitely do this hike again. I loved the views along the way and the frozen lake with the massive mountains in the back as a reward at the top are just majestic.

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.

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

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

We packed up to Gilbert Lake after spending the night at Onion Valley campground (highly recommend site #25) spent one night at gorgeous Gilbert Lake then a short skip to the even more beautiful Flower Lake. Plenty of campsites on the southern side of the lake and plenty of hungry trout to be caught!
This is a challenging uphill trail for anyone except for the most fit hiker. The elevation gain is to be respected and some may be more effected at 10k elevation than others.
Stunningly beautiful scenery and comparatively easy access to the John Muir Wilderness and Eastern Sierras.
Plenty of parking at the Onion Valley trailhead with vault toilets, trash and shared bear lockers.
Bear cans are required for overnight per park services although, most people we ran into didn't carry one.

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.

Really nice trail.

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!

Tough but worth it! This trail required some route finding as the main path is hard to find sometimes. I hiked up to the first a second lakes north of Golden Trout and then came back as I was running out of daylight. The trail is very steep and loose in places. Wear good shoes or boots and take your time.

I did this hike this past Saturday. Absolutely breathtaking views, since there was still snow on the mountains behind the lakes. I'd highly advise you bring trekking poles, otherwise it might be difficult to cross the snow patches you'll see on the hike. They're no big deal, even in trail runners, but just to be safe I'd have the poles.

This is a difficult hike. The hardest part for me was coming back up over the pass from the other side, so pace yourself for that.

This trail is rated correctly as hard, One starts at Lone Pine to obtain the proper permits titled "Kearsarg Trail" then head to Independence, then all the way up Onion Valley. This is a very popular exit point for the PCT and the JMT so pay it forward and pick up some hiker trash.

I modified the route to end at Lake Charlotte which is an additional 3.5 miles past Kearsarg peak. Which goes along the PCT and JMT for a short period. Once at the lake the views are stunning. There is also a ranger station at the lake. Camping is limited to two days only.

Water: from the trail head water can be obtained at the first lake easily. If only going to the pass then three liters will be fine, if continuing water can then be obtained at the Kearsarg lakes I recommend two liters to make Lake Charlotte.

Round trip is roughly 15.5 miles with a start elevation gain of 2369 from Onion Valley then on the return an elevation gain of 1390.

To Each Hiker Is Their Own!

hiking
10 months ago

I hiked this route back in May as a way of testing my hiking abilities in the snow. The route was actually easier because of the conditions and I ascended the snow field, which cut out a lot of switchbacks (my guide notes that the first leg is "strenuous"). I made it up to the first lake with just crampons and a lot of determination, though poles or an axe would've made it easier. After a solitary lunch and a scan of the route up to the next group of lakes, I opted to head back down and save it for another trip. I'll post again after doing it in dry conditions. The best part about the route is the staggering views of the surrounding peaks, as well as a "gun sight" view of the Owens Valley on the way down. I saw no other hikers on the route. Certainly one of the best short hikes in the Eastern Sierra.

Difficult as a first hike of the season. Only made it to First Lake because the Pups were worn out. Beautiful views, plenty of water, stream crossings, snow in July.

Hiked this trail on 7/3/17, the road was closed about a 1/4mi before the campground but there was plenty of parking on the side of the road. The trail was very nice with incredible views of the valley, a few waterfalls, & three lakes on the way to Flower.

Worth the hard work. What an amazing place on this planet!

Great trails and amazing views. Snow made the higher lakes difficult to get to but this year there was a massive amount of snow. All around A++ would recommend.

hiking
Friday, September 23, 2016

Hiked this Trail September 8th thru 11th 2016 hiked to the end of the Kearsarge basin explored JMT Camped our third night Kearsarge Lakes hiked out on 11th perfect weather great experience fantastic doorway to Kings Canyon.

Great first time hike. I'm hooked!

backpacking
Monday, August 22, 2016

Beautiful trail with views of lakes at every level. Obtained permits at Independence visitor center. Parked at Onion Campground trail head. First night camped at Gilbert Lake. Second night at Matlock Lake. This area is busy on the weekend around Gilbert and Flower lake. Definitely recommend this trail with backpacking overnight to experience beautiful scenery and depending where you camp, some solitude. Completed trail to the pass with amazing views into Kings Canyon NP mid August 2016.

hiking
Saturday, August 20, 2016

Used this as a warm-up for Whitney while camping two nights in Onion Valley. Steep-ish trail and a bit of a bushwack until you get to the talus pile. We actually followed a false-trail too far up the talus/scree slope. The trail crosses the stream near the top of the obvious waterfall.

The lake north of Golden Trout lake actually had more fish, my buddy's only catch of the day was on his second cast. The loop portion of this route requires an off-trail class 2/3 scramble down granite with some decent exposure. We were glad the rain started after we got off this section.

Having no luck at Golden Trout Lake and with the rain picking up, we booked it back down to Onion Valley, and were able to out-pace the clouds. Decent little hike to get in some extra elevation and get the heart rate up if your acclimating in the area.

backpacking
Saturday, August 13, 2016

A great trail and pass crossing that will push you but well worth the work and plenty of terrific camp sites around the lakes on the other side.

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