Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,375.00 ft (1,028.70 m)
Trail type
11.90 mi (19.15 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.

Rising high above the town of Independence, California, is the Onion Valley Trailhead, which provides access to the Golden Trout Lakes, Dragon Peak, Kearsarge 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 Kearsarge 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 Kearsarge Pass 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 Kearsarge 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 Kearsarge Pinnacles, Dragon Peak, and University Peak.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Solitude. Ample camping. Side trip options. Alpine lakes.


Pack animals. Some crowds during summer. Permits required.

Trailhead Elevation

9,185.00 ft (2,799.59 m)

Highest point

11,760.00 ft (3,584.45 m)


Vault toilet
Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Horseback riding
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site




Fixed. Thanks Em!
The title of this Adventure guide is spelled incorrectly. it should be "Kearsarge Pass." Looks like it needs to be fixed in the body of the post too. Thanks!
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