Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
16,247.00 ft (4,952.09 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
64.20 mi (103.32 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.

Hiking from Onion Valley to South Lake is a 64.2 mile point to point route that will take you on an epic Sierra adventure along one of the most beautiful and epic sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail. Along this route you will hike over five mountain passes, visit numerous alpine lakes, and pass by several pristine Sierra meadows. 

Park your car at Onion Valley and begin your hike on the Kearsarge Pass Trail. The trail ascends for four miles until reaching the pass. At the top of the pass you will be treated to expansive views of jagged peaks and alpine lakes, this marks the entrance into Kings Canyon National Park.

Follow the trail downhill until you reach the Pacific Crest Trail / John Muir Trail (PCT/JMT) junction. 

NOTE: You can take the Bullfrog Lake Trail and enjoy Kearsarge Lakes and Bullfrog Lake or stay on the Kearsarge Pass Trail. Both trails will take you to a junction with the PCT/JMT (however, the Bullfrog Lake Trail will leave you a ½ mile further south than the Kearsarge Trail). 

Hike northbound on the PCT/JMT going over Glen Pass, Pinchot Pass, and Mather Pass.

(WARNING: a wet winter can cause snow to linger throughout the summer on the high mountain passes which may require special winter gear to climb safely. In addition, a wet winter can cause the water levels in the rivers to rise making them more dangerous to cross. Do your research before heading out and contact the ranger station to get more specific information about trail conditions.)

Along your descent you will pass Palisade Lakes and continue down the “Golden Staircase”, a spectacularly scenic and steep set of switchbacks. 

Continue north to Grouse Meadow and give yourself some time to appreciate one of the most beautiful meadows in the Sierra!

From Grouse Meadow you will stay on the PCT/JMT until you reach Le Conte Canyon which is where you will turn right and head east to Bishop Pass. 

The climb out of Le Conte canyon is long, steep, and without shade in some parts, but the views are spectacular! Once you get over the pass on the east side you will have a steady descent, pass several beautiful lakes, and eventually end up at the South Lake parking area. 

LOGISTICS

WILDLIFE

This is an active bear area and bear resistant containers are recommended, and required, in some parts of the route. 

Check with the national park service for specific regulations and for more information: ​​https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_bc.htm

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

4

Pros

Alpine lakes. Granite peaks. Wildflowers. Meadows. Expansive views.

Cons

Some parts may be crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

8,032.00 ft (2,448.15 m)

Highest point

12,093.00 ft (3,685.95 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Fishing
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra, California

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