Kearsarge Peak is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It lies east of the Sierra Crest not far from the Onion Valley/Kearsarge pass Trailhead, which is out of the town of Independence along the 395 highway. It's right at the edge of Owen's Valley, so there are pretty dramatic views up and down the valley. From certain angles, this mountain can resemble a pyramid when viewing from Owen's Valley. The view definitely makes you want to climb it!
This is an easy peak to climb with great views. It can be done in a day from the hiker parking at Onion Valley.
Take the Onion Valley Road out of the town of Independence along the 395 highway. Go 14 miles up the road to the parking area. Continue past the parking area if you plan to car camp and day hike the peak. The campground is very pretty in spring or early summer, as you are camping amongst aspen trees.
For day hiking, you will not need any permits. You'll want to make a campground reservation somewhat in advance to make sure you'll get a spot. It's a small campground and can fill up pretty fast. At the time of this writing, Robinson Lake is a non-quota trail, but it is a popular overnight destination area. However, it is a beautiful lake to set up camp by, if you want to backpack rather than day hike.
Campground reservations can be made here:
When To Climb
May through October is best , but this peak can be climbed year round. Lilley Pass is used by skiers who wish to ski Sardine Canyon. The road would probably be a little sketchy to drive up in the winter.
Camping at Onion Valley is recommended. This is a nice campground and it is probably only 3-4 miles to the summit - max.
Campground reservations can be made here:
From Bob Burd's Web Site (Bob Burd)
"Thomas Keogh wrote that he and his party built the trail up the east side of Kearsarge Pass in the summer of 1864. 'We called the pass "Little Pine Pass," after Little Pine Creek, which heads near the pass.' ('Little Pine Creek' was an early name for Independence Creek.) The rest of our party, who left us soon after we climbed up over Littl Pine Pass, found a gold mine near the pass on their way home which they called the "Cliff Mine." ... it was through this discovery that the pass came to be known as "Kearsarge Pass." ... Our crowd ... were all Union men, and when the news came that the Kearsarge had sunk the Alabama, our boys named the district where the Cliff Mine was the "Kearsarge District" to taunt the Rebels. The little town which grew up ath the mine was called "Kearsarge City," and the pass came to be called the "Kearsarge Pass," and the mountain just to the north of the pass "Kearsarge Mountain."' (SCB 10, no. 3, Jan. 1918: 340, 342.)
The USS Kearsarge was named for Kearsarge Peak in Merrimack County, New Hampshire. Thus, four geographic features of the Sierra Nevada have derived their names from an Appalachian peak via a warship and a mine. (Appalachia 8, no. 4, Dec. 1915: 377; also vol. 1, no. 1, 1876: 152-65,on the origin and/or correctness of 'Kearsarge' or 'Pigwacket.')
'Kearsarge City' was created in 1865 and destroyed by an avalanche in the spring of 1866. The mountain just north of the pass in Mount Gould; Kearsarge Peak, on whose slopes several mines were located, is almost two miles east-northeast of the pass. The lakes were called 'University Lakes' on a 1906 Sequoia National Park map. All the features had their present names on the first Mt. Whitney 30' map, 1907."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada
"After the Confederate raider Alabama sank the Union warship Hatteras off the coast of Texas on Jan 11, 1863, the range north of Owens Lake was named the Alabama Hills by Southern sympathizers. When the Union man-of-war Kearsarge in turn destroyed the Alabama off the coast of France on June 19, 1864, Thomas May and his partners called their claims the Kearsarge mining district (organized Sept. 19, 1864). Kearsarge is mentioned as a stage station on June 23, 1866 (San Francisco Alta California), and Kearsarge Mountains is shown on Hoffmann's map. Since the Union warship was named after Mount Kearsarge, New Hampshire, we have (as with Dunderberg) a California Peak named after an eastern peak via a warship and a mine. The names were applied to the other features by the USGS when the Mount Whitney quadrangle was mapped in 1905."
- Erwin Gudde, California Place Names
Here's another tidbit about Union vs. Southern sympathizers in California during 1964. William Brewer, of the Whitney Survey of California party, was usually quite good about paying for supplies and wares during his travels. On July 30, he was traveling through Owens Valley with a small escort of soldiers who were officially there to protect the party from Indians, but in reality were bored at their post and wanted to accompany Brewer to alleviate the boredom. Brewer, a strong Unionist, often commented on Secessionists in his letters, having given them the general description of "white trash", commenting among other things, that it was always Southerners who took squaws for wives in California, never Northerners.
"We wanted some fresh meat, so two of the boys went out and shot a fine heifer and brought in the beef. They assumed that she belonged to a Secessionist and confiscated her. It is very common here for men traveling to supply themselves with beef from the large herds, but this is the first time that we have ever done it -- in fact, it was the soldiers who did it, but we helped eat the beef, and it answered us a very good turn indeed."
- William Brewer, Up and Down California
- Pictures of May 15, 2004 hike to Kearsarge Peak
I took these pictures when I day hiked from Onion Valley to Kearsarge Peak.