Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
13,142.00 ft (4,005.68 m)
Trail type
43.00 mi (69.20 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Kings-Kern Divide Loop is a 43-mile route that starts from Onion Valley, west of Independence, CA and a few hours north of Los Angeles. It is a strenuous adventure that circumnavigates some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the Sierra Nevada. It features classic Sierra Nevada scenery, including granite peaks, glacially carved lakes, pine forests, idyllic meadows, and cascading streams. 

The most challenging portion of this loop occurs between East Lake and Lake South America (miles 14-20). In this section the trails are difficult to follow and there is a Class 2 / 3 climb up Harrison Pass (this does not require any special climbing gear, but visitors are advised to take their time and prepare for steep, rocky,  loose terrain). This loop is recommended for experienced backpackers who are familiar with the area and comfortable with off-trail navigation in the Sierra Nevada. 


The Kings-Kern Divide is a 6-mile long, steep ridge that separates the Kings River Basin on the north from the Kern River basin to the south. 


From Roads End, take the Kearsarge Pass Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  

Take the PCT south to the Bubbs Creek Trail and follow Bubbs Creek Trail west to Junction Meadow. 

Head south on the East Lake Trail from Junction Meadow, leaving the Bubbs Creek Trail.

The trail has been well maintained up to this point, however the quality of the trail decreases south of East Lake. 

Head south toward Lake Reflection and turn slightly east to reach Twin Lakes and Harrison Pass. There is an unmaintained trail leading up to Harrison Pass (12,720 ft) that is difficult to follow. The ascent from the north side is rated as Class 2 / 3. The terrain is steep with lots of loose rocks, so take your time. Fortunately, the descent on the south side is much easier and rated Class 1.

Turn your gaze south and walk towards the sparkling waters of Lake South America. Take the Lake South American Trail south to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Follow the PCT north to the Kearsarge Pass Trail and then return to Onion Valley by retracing your steps over Kearsarge Pass. 


The trailhead is located at the Onion Valley Campground (9,185 feet), a high elevation campsite with a first come first serve policy. If you do not plan on staying at the campground, there is ample day use and overnight parking for backpackers and hikers. There are bathrooms, trash cans, and bear lockers in the parking lot. As this is an active bear area, it is imperative to store food properly. For more information about food storage please visit


Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Fees and regulations may vary depending on the time of year (quota season vs. non-quota season).

For updated information about wilderness permits please visit:  To make a permit reservation please visit

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Pristine wilderness. Remote backcountry. Classic Sierra Nevada scenery.


Difficult trail getting over Harrison Pass.

Trailhead Elevation

9,000.00 ft (2,743.20 m)

Highest point

13,148.00 ft (4,007.51 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site




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