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ActivitiesOnion Valley


Overlooking the Eastern Sierra MountainsOnion Valley and the Onion Pass trail is 15 miles west of Independence. You will have passed Fort Independece when you drive up to Mammoth from Southern California. Turn west on Onion Valley road (Market Street in town) at the traffic light in downtown Independence. The road is usually open from May through November.

Begin hiking at the trailhead sign on the north end of the parking lot. Labor up a set of well graded switchbacks through manzanita and pines, reaching the waters of Independence Creek at 1 mile. Continue beside the creek to reach Little Pothole Lake ½ mile later. Another set of switchbacks lead to Gilbert Lake at 2.2 miles. Keep with the main trail to reach Flower Lake a short distance later. The trail then ascends up steep, rocky switchbacks gaining sight of aptly named Heart Lake at 3.5 miles. More switchbacks lead to Big Pothole Lake at 4.2 miles, and your first look at the pass ahead, at 4.8 miles. The view from the pass is spectacular, looking down upon Bullfrog, and Kearsarge Lakes. University Peak is to your left and Mt. Gould to your right. Continue on over the pass for good camping and fishing at Charlotte Lake, just over 3 miles further in Sequoia / Kings National Park.

  Elevation Miles
Trailhead 9,200
Gilbert Lake 10,930 2.2
Kearsarge Pass 11,823 4.8
Charlotte Lake 10,370 8.2

Independence Campgrounds are available on a first-come/first-served basis, some can be reserved online in our campgrounds section such as ONION VALLEY: which has 29 unit family spaces. Piped water, flush toilets. Many walk-in sites. Fee. Usually open late May - late Sept.

LOWER AND UPPER GRAYS MEADOW can be reserved online. 6 miles west of Independence on Onion Valley Road. 52 unit family campground. Piped water, flush toilets. Fee. Open March - October. One night stay limit at each of the camp areas around: Rae Lakes, Sixty Lakes, Charlotte Lake, Dragon Lake, Dollar Lake, Kearsarge Lakes, and that portion of the John Muir Trail from Woods Creek to Glen Pass. Bullfrog Lake is closed to all camping and grazing.

Kearsage Pass Trail

Once an Indian trading route, the Kearsarge Pass trail provides access to a lovely east-side lake basin and the spectacular backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park. Rough trails lead to the high bowls containing Robinson Lake and the Golden Trout Lakes. The Kearsarge Pass trail is extremely popular with day hikers as well as through hikers accessing the John Muir Trail. Bears are very active in this area, hikers camping on the east side of the pass are required to carry bear-resistant food canisters

HIGHEST ELEVATION - 11,823 feet @ Kearsarge Pass
TRAIL DIFFICULTY - The Kearsarge Pass trail is moderate. The Robinson and Golden Trout Lakes trails are infrequently maintained and strenuous.
SEASON - Normally, the trails are free of snow from mid-July to mid-October. Summer days may be quite warm but night temperatures often drop to freezing or below even in summer. Afternoon thunderstorms are common. Snowstorms may occur at anytime.

Contact the Mt. Whitney Ranger District
P.O. Box 8, Lone Pine, CA 93545


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