Kearsarge Pass

Independence Travel Blog

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Southern Sierra mountain range
I wanted to leave on Friday night but work held me back. So, I ended up leaving super early Saturday morning. About 3 1/2 hours northeast of Los Angeles lies the small town of Independence. There’s not much in the town itself, however, it is the starting point to many trails into the Southern Sierras. I picked the Kearsarge Pass trail because the trail book rated it as strenuous, 9.6 miles and had an elevation gain of about 2,500 feet. I figured if I drove out this far, I might as well challenge myself.

The trail starts at the Onion Valley campground which is just west of Independence. From the town head west on Market Street (this important fact is omitted from the trail guide, but I figured it out).
Independence Creek
There’s plenty of parking for hikers and a port-o-potty. Make sure to make use of this because from here on, it’s just the woods.

This is an out and back hike so the first half of the hike is all up hill. From the moment you leave the car, you’ll be gasping for air because the trail starts at 9,2000 feet so the air is a little thinner up there. But it’s worth the effort. The views from the trail are amazing. You can see towering peaks and huge pine trees. After a bunch of switchbacks, the trail starts to follow Independence Creek and you can hear the water rushing down the rocks.

After about a mile and a half, I got to the first lake, Little Pothole Lake. It’s a small lake that has a couple of streams feeding into it. The water was very still so I could see the reflection of the clouds and of some of the Southern Sierra Peaks in the water.
Little Pothole Lake
It’s a great place to take a little break from the hiking. After adjusting the things in my backpack, I was on the trail again. I reached the second lake about 20 minutes later. The trail takes you the bank of Gilbert Lake, which is quite a bit bigger. There were people fishing here but I didn’t stick around to see if they caught anything but it did look very peaceful.

The trail passes two more lakes, Flower Lake and Heart Lake. Both can be seen from the trail but I couldn’t figure out how to get any closer, so I just admired both from afar. This part of the trail was very difficult because, the grade got progressively tougher and the footing got worse, with rocks threatening to break my ankles if I wasn’t careful of where I was stepping. The last mile to the top of the pass is the hardest but with the goal in site, it provides the motivation to push forward until I got to the top.
University Peak


The top of the pass is at 11,760 feet and it’s breath taking. One side of the pass is the trail I just hiked on and Big Pothole Lake with the Kearsarge Pinnacles and the other side had more mountain ranges and more lakes. There aren’t any trees this high up in elevation, it’s barren but the rock formations are incredible, some sitting precariously on one another. I found a flat rock to sit on, soaked in all the beauty, took a well-deserved rest and had a little lunch. I had to cut my stay at the top a little short because I was freezing. Because it’s a pass, the wind here is pretty strong and cold. I have to remember to bring some warm clothes next time.

The way down is obviously a lot easier but the footing is a lot worse. I also got the chance to stop at the sights that I’d missed on the way up. I took my time and enjoyed the scenery. I realized that hiking and being outdoors is very therapeutic for me. It’s a great way to relax (despite the lungs burning) and leave all the stress and headaches behind. It also makes me appreciate the gifts that Mother

TRE69 says:
Sounds like a great hike.
Posted on: Apr 01, 2010
Africancrab says:
Thanks for sharing what a beautiful hiking location. I should like to hike here too.
Posted on: Feb 17, 2010
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Southern Sierra mountain range
Southern Sierra mountain range
Independence Creek
Independence Creek
Little Pothole Lake
Little Pothole Lake
University Peak
University Peak
Kearsarge Pass Trail
Kearsarge Pass Trail
Pine trees
Pine trees
University Peak
University Peak
Little Pot Hole Lake
Little Pot Hole Lake
Gilbert Lake
Gilbert Lake
Flower Lake
Flower Lake
Flower Lake
Flower Lake
Heart Lake
Heart Lake
Dead Tree
Dead Tree
Sierra Mountain range
Sierra Mountain range
Big Pothole Lake
Big Pothole Lake
Kearsarge Pass
Kearsarge Pass
The other side of the Kearsarge Pa…
The other side of the Kearsarge P…
The other side of the Pass
The other side of the Pass
Precarious rock formations
Precarious rock formations
At the top of the Kearsarge Pass
At the top of the Kearsarge Pass
Little critter on the trail eating…
Little critter on the trail eatin…
Gilbert Lake
Gilbert Lake
Little Pothole Lake
Little Pothole Lake
Another critter on the trail
Another critter on the trail
Independence
photo by: breezejen