Explore the most popular views 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.

I saw a sign with madlock on it but no flower lake sign. It was a moderate but beautiful hike for me

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!***

Great hike up to Flower Lake, patches of snow on the hills, but trails and campsites are clear. A bit cold at night, no bugs. Saturday night there were a handful of campers but Sunday night had the place to myself. Take a left when you hit the lake and find more secluded campsites on the hill. The lake is clear and green, you can watch the trout swim past your line. I day hiked up to Kearsarge Pass. Fill up on water before you go, it's not as plentiful as you climb. It's also very exposed, a challenging but doable climb. From the top you can dip into the valley below and camp at the Kearsarge Lakes or push on to Charlotte Lake or up to Rae Lakes, both are supposed to be gorgeous.

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.

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.

The road is a long and bumpy ride. We drove in a Toyota Rav and has no issues thankfully but it took us 3 hours each way. I wouldn’t mess around with this, we saw no one out there.

The Grandstand or black rock structure was so awesome. It sticks out on as a stark distance between the playa. We climbed around on the rocks easily, it was very fun. Some bigger lizards too.

The Sailing Stones were my favorite. Unfortunately, a lot of people have vandalized them and you can tell the rocks that made the trails are not the rocks that someone placed there. There are also a lot of trails with no rocks at the beginning or end. It’s disappointing no one has respect for such an awesome phenomenon. There are some legitimate ones but I wish they would keep a better eye on the place.

Follow me on Instagram for pictures of the hikes and other adventures @wildrumpfie

off road driving
5 months ago

Off-road clearance recommended and not really fo cars.
note that the trail is often washboarded and that can really slow you down.
There are a couple of good trails you can explore further (and an alternative out) but those are for experienced off-road drivers only.

Just was up there recently and weather was perfect! Wrote a little trip report too. Definitely be careful driving out there, we did get a flat tire on our way back! Still totally worth going to see this place in person.
http://www.shedreamsofalpine.com/blog/2017/12/6/a-weekend-in-death-valley-visit-the-racetrack-mesquite-flat-sand-dunes-and-badwater-basin

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.

off road driving
8 months ago

Saline Valley Trail was closed, so I took "Saline Valley Road Drive" in, which is mile after mile of boring and monotonous washboard. Lippincott Mine Road was such a welcome change. Took the trail in a 2nd Gen Tacoma DCSB with 3" extended travel suspension, 32" BFGs and high clearance bumpers. Don't need a lot of clearance or anything extreme on this trail, but I wouldn't recommend anything that comes from the factory without a low-range t-case. Never used the locker, but the A-Trac did kick in a little in the front during some of the rockier sections. Gets pretty steep, off-camber and narrow with tight turns in the switch backs. Fun trail, with great views. The trail terminates at Homestake dry camp. If you pass through the camp and follow a rougher track you can find more private camping spots.

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.

I think it is important to experience the history of this place. Very thought-provoking and invokes wrenching emotions. The visitor center has great displays and a compelling documentary in their theater. Walking the site gives you a better impression, but a lot of the beauty has been lost (the gardens and parks). What cannot be taken away is the amazing views of the mountains on either side. The walk is easy - this is not as much about a hike as it is experiencing history.

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

Great easy to moderate trail (at the higher elevations/along side spurs), very scenic. After traveling for a while up a pretty canyon, you end up high in the Inyo Mountains with great views of Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra. Definitely explore some of the spurs off to the west for the best views.

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.

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