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Kersarge Pass

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California

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Kersarge Pass

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  • Hikers climbing up the trail switchbacks to Kersarge Pass from Kersarge Lakes.- Kersarge Pass
  • Looking south at University Peak from Kersarge Pass. - Kersarge Pass
  • View of Mount Rixford to the west along the northern shoulder of Mount Gould.- Kersarge Pass
  • Looking up at the sea of talus on the southern slope of Mount Gould.- Kersarge Pass
  • Beginning the descent down to Kersarge Lake below the Kersarge Pinnacles. - Kersarge Pass
  • At the top of Kersarge Pass. Time for a break!- Kersarge Pass
  • The Kersarge Pinnacles stand out as an impressive set of peaks situated on the shores of Kersarge Lakes and Bullfrog Lake.- Kersarge Pass
  • Big Pothole Lake below Kersarge Pass and University Peak. - Kersarge Pass
  • Backpackers trekking up toward the pass from Onion Valley.- Kersarge Pass
  • Stiff down drafts onto Big Pothole Lake. - Kersarge Pass
  • Bullfrog Lake sits further down the valley from Kersarge Lakes. The John Muir Trail runs right along side the lake as it heads south.- Kersarge Pass
  • Backpackers hiking down to Kersarge Lakes for the weekend to resupply John Muir Trail hikers. - Kersarge Pass
  • An unnamed sharp ridge that overlooks Kersarge Lakes. Some awesome scrambling and ridgerunning can be found along the peak. - Kersarge Pass
  • Panorama from Kersarge Pass to the Kersarge Pinnacles.- Kersarge Pass
  • Impressive rock outcroppings near Kersarge Lakes.- Kersarge Pass
  • Backpackers looking for camping options amidst a myriad number of lakes and rock outcroppings. - Kersarge Pass
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Solitude. Ample camping. Side trip options. Alpine lakes.
Cons: 
Pack animals. Some crowds during summer. Permits required.
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Region:
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Highest point: 
11,760.00 ft (3,584.45 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
Yes
Permit reservation URL: 
Recreation.gov
Permit self-issue on site: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
11.90 mi (19.15 km)
Total elevation gain: 
3,375.00 ft (1,028.70 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
9,185.00 ft (2,799.59 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Rising high above the town of Independence, California, is the Onion Valley Trailhead, which provides access to the Golden Trout Lakes, Dragon Peak, Kersarge Pass, and much of the high Sierra beyond. It is a fantastic place to go for a day hike, a quick peak bag, an overnight backpack to alpine lakes, or as a launching point for a bigger objective such as Charlotte Dome.  

From Onion Valley around 9,200 feet, the trail begins a slow switchback climb toward Gilbert Lake (10,400 feet) and Flower Lake. From these lakes, views of the 13,640-foot University Peak dominate the southern skyline, while Mount Gould and the talus slopes leading toward Kersarge Pass are evident to the north and west. A side trail to Matlock Lakes will be visible after passing Gilbert Lake. A quick and dirty side trip to Matlock Lakes is a great addition to a trip if time allows. If you'll be starting up the trail to Kersarge at dusk, then this area is a perfect little campsite.

Past Flower Lake, the trail ascends through a beautiful grove of foxtail pines, which are related to the bristlecone pines but are mostly confined to California in the southern Sierra and toward the Oregon border. The trees are uniquely gnarled and red barked five-needle pines that have exquisite forms while alive and dead, so take a few moments to marvel at these unique organisms and observe the harsh conditions they grow and thrive in.

The trail continues to switchback, but the grade eases off considerably as Heart Lake and Kersarge Pass come into view. At this point, the trail carves through a sea of granite talus on the lower slope of Mount Gould. If time allows, a quick ascent of Mount Gould provides a phenomenal view of the surrounding landscape of the High Sierra including the Kersarge Pinnacles, Dragon Peak, and University Peak.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(16 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(51 within a 30 mile radius)

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6 Adventures Published

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