Climb the mountains and get their good tidings—John Muir
October was quickly coming to an end and the weather forecast seemed to know it. Significant weather was moving in signaling that it was time to wrap up our Fall 2022 Eastern Sierra adventures. By the end of the week, we’d be moving on to Southern Nevada. But first, we had two final John Muir Wilderness adventures on our itinerary, including one of my biggest bucket list items of the trip.
Like South Lake that we visited in our previous post, Sabrina Lake is a popular destination west of the the town of Bishop. Past the lake, the Sabrina Lake Trail leads to a series of high alpine meadows and lakes in Sabrina Basin. Typical of other locations along the Sierra Crest, the basin is surrounded by glacier flanked granite peaks. Perhaps the most popular hike in the area is the 6.0 mile roundtrip hike to Blue Lake. We continued past Blue to Emerald Lakes, a trio of small lakes just to the west. Trail traffic was light and the weather was beautiful for this 9.3 mile roundtrip hike with 1,700 feet elevation gain.
Years ago, I saw a YouTube video of a Pacific Crest Trail hiker at the top of Kearsarge Pass. Aside from Yosemite National Park, I knew very little about the Eastern Sierras back then. The images were stunning and I knew I had to go there one day. When I started planning our fall trip, the hike to Kearsarge Pass was at the top of my list.
Since mid-September, we had been making our way south along the Eastern Sierras. The trail to Kearsarge Pass was the southern most trail we planned to hike. By saving it until the end, we were risking early season snow shuting us out, but it had been a beautiful fall and we gambled on the weather holding out for us. In the days leading up to our hike, temperatures along the Sierra Crest plummeted and the forecast starting showing gusting winds and single digit wind chills. We postponed our hike a couple days and scored a nice day in between a big wind storm and the first significant snow storm of the year. Best of all, our new friends Cindy, Sherry, Dakota, and Dory joined us for the adventure!
Beginning at the Onion Valley Trailhead west of Independence, the Kearsarge Pass Trail travels through the John Muir Wilderness to the top of the Sierra Crest. It is a 2,600 foot climb over rocky trail. Along the way, the trail passes five scenic lakes (Little Pothole, Gilbert, Flower, Heart and Big Pothole Lakes) and offers nonstop views of the rugged crags towering above the valley. There were even a few waterfalls along the way, although they were already frozen over. The stunning views helped take our minds off the stiff climb over a seemingly endless series of switchbacks. The final push to the pass was over a treeless landscape and it felt a bit like hiking on the moon.
At Kearsarge Pass, we found ourselves at the back door into Kings Canyon National Park. This is the hardest we had ever worked to enter a National Park! We had breathtaking 360 views of Kearsarge Lakes, Kearsarge Pinnacles, Kings-Kern Divide. Bullfrog Lake, and Big Pothole Lake. We felt like we were on top of the world. It was a spectacular scene and we took a long break there to revel in our accomplishment.
Mileages for this hike vary depending on your exploration of the lakes along the way. We logged 10 miles roundtrip. With the 2,600 foot climb at 9,000-11,000 feet elevation, it is considered a strenuous hike. We only saw a few other hikers on trail that day and one was struggling quite a bit with the effects of the altitude. After six weeks of hiking in the Sierras, we felt good for the hike and it was a day we won’t soon forget. Kearsarge with friends was the perfect finale to our time in the Eastern Sierras.
The Adventure Continues
Join us for our next post as we visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest where some of the trees are over 4,000 years old! And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!