• Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    4.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1350 Feet

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

A relatively short overnight trip with the option to either continue into the backcountry for a multi-day trip or a quick one or two nights away when short on time. Easy place for intro backpacking or families. Dogs allowed. 

Make sure to obtain an overnight permit up to 6 months in advance. You will have to pick up your permit at one of the Inyo National Forest Visitor Centers (here) before you begin.

Once you have your permit in hand, drive to the Onion Valley Trailhead (see map), which is about 15 miles west of the town of Independence, CA and sits at an elevation of 9185 feet. Park in the lot, where you can fill up on water and use the toilets. There is even a campground right by the trailhead if you arrive late.

Follow the marked trail toward Kearsarge Pass. You will steadily gain elevation over the 2.3 mile trek. The first lake that you will hike next to is Gilbert Lake around mile 2. This is also a great option for overnight camping. Just explore a bit around the lake to find a pre-existing camp spot. Or take a quick photo/snack break and continue on to Flower Lake, which will be the next lake you see around mile 2.3 (only slightly farther). Again, explore around the lake for a pre-existing campsite. There are lots of options!

Take in the beautiful lake and mountain views while you set up camp and enjoy your dinner. Note that these lakes can be a bit busy on the weekends, as expected. Also, there are no toilets or bear boxes, so be sure to prepare appropriately. 

From Flower Lake there are lots of options. You can stay overnight and head back the next day for a quick trip, or you can continue over Kearsarge Pass to one of the many beautiful lakes on the other side (Charlotte Lake or Rae Lakes to name a few).

Pack List

  • Overnight permit (reserve here and pick up here)
  • Bear canister
  • Map (can pick one up at the visitor center when you pick up your permit)
  • Camping/backpacking gear (tent, sleeping bag, pad, backpack, trekking poles, hiking shoes...etc)
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
  • Camera and gear (you may want to bring your tripod for some starry night shots!)
  • Water and water purifier
  • Food (make sure it all fits with your toiletries in your bear canister)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Sarah Eichstedt

Lover of spontaneous adventures, photography, farm animals, and travel. Outdoor enthusiast by day, ICU nurse by night. Favorite adventures: sailing around the world, bicycling across the US, backpacking through South America and Africa.

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