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.