Copyright Neil Bennett Photography 2016


March 6, 2019

February 5, 2019

November 20, 2018

August 3, 2018

November 29, 2016

Please reload

  • Instagram Social Icon


Kearsage Lakes

November 20, 2018



Trail: Kearsage Pass Trail


GPS statistics:

Mileage: 6.4miles one way

Ascent: 3186ft

Descent: 1247ft

Min elevation: 8940ft

Max elevation: 11808 ft


Directions to trailhead: From Independence, CA turn west toward the Sierra Mountains on W Market St. The road becomes Onion Valley Rd. Drive to the parking lot at the end of the road.


Parking: The road brings you to a large open parking area. If you drive toward the kiosk and bathroom it will continue a little further offering another smaller area to park. A campground is at the very end of the road. 


Permit: A backpackers permit is required for overnight stays. This can be obtained from the Lone Pine Visitor's Center. Day hikers do not require a permit. 

Little Pothole, Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Heart Lake, Big Pothole




Our Adventure:

We haven't been on a trail for 2 months. We hiked this trail July 29-30, 2018. I picked Kearsage Lakes because it is a beautiful hike at a reasonable distance and elevation gain. There are five lakes on the way up the Kearsage Pass: Little Pothole Lake, Gilbert Lake, Flower Lake, Heart Lake and Big Pothole Lake which make for a very pretty hike. This is a moderately trafficked hike for day hikers, people coming off the PCT, people heading to summit Mt. Whitney and other backpackers. 


 Follow the sign toward Kearsage Pass.

There is a kiosk at the trailhead which provide some basic information about the trail and area before heading up the trail toward the left.


At .42 is the Golden Trout Lakes turnoff toward the right . Many day hikers take a detour out and back to these lakes before continuing on to Kearsage Pass.



The trail heads upward immediately at a reasonable slope - not hard. Looking out toward the parking lot just a short way up the trail is already beautiful view toward Owen's Valley.


Today is a beautiful cloud formation day - gorgeous 


Less than a mile on the trail we run across small waterfalls

 The first lake: Little Pothole at 1.7miles 



 The second lake: Gilbert lake at 2.42 miles

 The clouds were amazing!

 Third Lake: Flower Lake 

 Flower Lake

Turnoff for Matlock Lake at 2.7 mile


The distances between the various lakes are short, but the scenery is huge!



Forth Lake: Heart Lake at 3.74 miles


At 4.18 miles the trail opens up and we see a large scree field ahead of us. The trail remains easy to follow - no one step forward two steps back today!


 Fifth Lake: Big Pothole Lake at just over 4 miles. Kearsage pass is just ahead, but the trail back tracks for a ways before another switchback takes us past this lake again and then finally to the pass summit

 Big Pothole is just to the left below. Ahead we can see people at the pass summit

 Kearsage Pass at 5.1 miles . Elevation of 11, 760ft.  Kearsage Lakes beyond.


 Looking up at Gould Peak from Kearsage Pass summit

 A narrow ridge separates each side of the pass


After a series of switchbacks down from the pass at 5.6 miles we reach the Kearsage Lakes turnoff. The sign below has cartoon pictures to accentuate the necessity of following backcountry guidelines such as: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear - Don't Feed the Bears!



At just over 6 miles we take the left turn toward the southern lakes

 Several people are already camped at the first lake so we continue to the second lake and found a campsite with this great view. 

 The Pass and Gould Peak are visible from our campsite. It is cold in the shade - puffy and glove temps!

 The next morning we plan to hike around the lakes. I didn't take the GPS so no GPS tracking of the morning hike. 

 The view looking down the lake where we camped. There are 3 lakes that lead to the bottom of the Kearsage Pinnacles. 

 Neil coming along the trail 


I hiked to the third lake at the bottom of the  great granite peaks then head toward the right  following the trail to this little bowl. Along the way are a few great camping sites. 

I turn around and take this panoramic view with my iphone


After backtracking around the third lake I follow the trail all the way around the third lake toward the west where is flows into another small lake.

 Gorgeous views!


Another view of the same lake as above.

 I just keep lake-hopping until I can't find the trail then head off trail to get to this lower lake

 I followed the stream down to the lower lake part of the way. Here the shot is looking up the stream from the lake toward Kearsage Pinnacles.

 Here's the lower lake. The kids were scoring lots of fish at this lake! 

 After spending much of the morning hiking around I hooked back up with Neil and we tore down camp and headed up the hillside toward the pass. Looking back I can see the 3 lakes in front of Kearsage Pinnacles.

 Neil taking video


The area is absolutely gorgeous in this earlier-day sunshine. It was late afternoon when we hiked over the pass yesterday, which made for lousy pictures into the sun. I find myself turning back to look  at the view often.

 Looking away from the gorgeous lakes toward Kearsage Pass.

 As we ascend we have this great view of multiple Kearsage Lakes below the mountains


Lots of switchbacks leading up to the pass

 After crossing the Kearsage Pass we are too late in the day to summit Gould Peak ..... another day. We head down the slope passing other day hikers heading up.

 Looking down into Owens Valley seems so far away and so small from up here.




 Slowly we make our way down to the trailhead and the road out.  

 After a great weekend on the mountain we're tired, but already looking forward to returning to the Eastern Sierras.





Tags:South fork Big Pine creek to Brainerd lake

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload