Route: Kearsarge Pass Trail out-and-back
Peaks Bagged: none!
High Point Reached: Kearsarge Pass (11,700’)
Mileage: ~10.5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: ~2800’
Time Taken: 7 hours
For our first full day in California acclimating before a Mount Whitney summit attempt, we opted for this hike that began only a few hundred feet from our campsite at Onion Valley. After making breakfast and getting all of our gear set for a day hike, we set off on the trail, which immediately starts climbing on switchbacks. This trail, like many western trails, is graded for stock (i.e. horses), and uses many switchbacks to climb the steep sections. The footing was excellent the entire way aside from one short segment near Gilbert Lake, and the steepness was never excessive. The trail passes a series of scenic lakes tucked into the mountainside, with a couple of camping areas scattered among them. After passing the highest one (Big Pothole Lake) the trail stays above the trees and uses a couple of long switchbacks to reach the pass. The views at the pass are superb, and we spent a solid hour here enjoying the view (as well as getting used to the thin air). The descent was easy with the smooth trail surface, and we were back at camp in seemingly no time.
|Big Pothole Lake|
|Kearsarge Pass - turn around point for the day|
|Bird in tree|
- We actually felt fine during the entire hike, despite having travelled up from sea level (both our homes are under 600 feet above sea level) to 9200 and then hiking up to nearly 12,000 feet in barely over 24 hours. We were huffing and puffing for sure, but we had no signs of altitude sickness.
- While we saw traces of horse travel on the trail, we did not see any. However, a couple days later we noted a group getting ready to go in the parking lot that had 2 pack horses as a part of their party.
- Camping permits are required for this area (CONFIRM???), day hikers need no permits. - We saw many more backpackers than day hikers on this trip. Most were heading over the pass to the lakes beyond, and many were ultimately heading to Mount Whitney along the John Muir Trail. This sounds like an awesome way to spend a week backpacking.