Kearsage Pass

Distance: 9.6 miles (round trip)

John Muir Wilderness Area, Inyo National Forest, near Lone Pine in California's Southeastern Sierra

View of Kearsarge and Bull Frog lakes from the pass

View of Kearsarge and Bull Frog lakes from the pass


The scenic hike to Kearsarge Pass (11,823-ft.) travels by five shimmering lakes and features great views of the rugged crags and peaks along the east side of the Sierra Crest. From the pass breathtaking views encompass the Kearsarge Lakes, the Kearsarge Pinnacles and the Kings-Kern Divide.
See Trail Detail/Full Description

  • Distance: 9.6 miles (round trip) to Kearsarge Pass
  • Elevation: 9,200-ft. at Trailhead
    11,823-ft. at Kearsarge Pass
  • Elevation Gain: 2,623-ft. to Kearsarge Pass
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • More Hikes in:
    Lone Pine / Bishop / California's Southeastern Sierra

Why Hike Kearsage Pass

This popular trail climbs to a high pass on the Sierra Crest with stunning views of the Kearsarge Pinnacles, Kearsage Lakes, Bull Frog Lake and the King-Kern Divide to the west. University Peak (13,589-ft.) and the jagged ridge running south along the Sierra Crest form the scenic backdrop to the cobalt blue Big Pothole Lake, sitting is a deep bowl beneath the pass to the east.

Five scenic lakes, Little Pothole, Gilbert, Flower, Heart and Big Pothole Lakes, and fine views of the rugged peaks and jagged ridges ringing the valley help take your mind off the stiff climb, which at times seems to like an endless series of switchbacks. Much of the hike is along open, exposed slopes that can get quite hot in the mid-day sun. I advise getting an early start to avoid the worst heat of the day.

For backpackers, the pass offers excellent access to the scenic backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park and connects with the John Muir Trail. Favorite overnight destinations to the west of the pass include the Kearsarge Lakes and Rae Lakes. Please keep in mind that this is a popular trailhead with a limited number of backcountry permits. It is best to reserve a permit as early as possible.

Elevation Profile

Kearsage Pass Elevation Profile

Trail Resources

Trail Detail/Full Description / Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Lone Pine / Bishop

Region Information:
California's Southeastern Sierra

Other Hiking Regions in: