The Kings-Kern Divide is a 6-mile long ridge that runs east-west connecting the Great Western Divide and the main spine of the Sierra Nevada. It separates the Kings River Basin on the north from the Kern River basin to the south and forms the eastern part of the boundary between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
This part of the Sierra is so remote that there are 2 peaks within 200 feet of 14,000 ft., and a third at 13,608, that don’t even have pages on SummitPost.
The scenery in this region is similar to the rest of the Sierra: Towering, light colored granite peaks, open exposed granite slopes, grassy meadows with wild flowers, cascading mountain streams, and unnamed (mostly) glacially carved lakes around every corner. The map of the highest basins of the Kern River shows 78 lakes, only one of which (Lake South America) is named. The north side approaches to the divide tend to be steeper and have more talus than the relatively gentle south slopes.
Peaks and Passes on the Kings-Kern Divide (east to west)
Junction Peak(13,888ft.) On the Sierra spine. Class 3 from Forester Pass.
Forester Pass (13,180 ft.) on the John Muir/ Pacific Crest Trail. This is the only maintained trail that crosses the K/K Divide.
Gregorys Monument (13,950 ft. on the K/K Divide) is the high point of the K/K Divide. , Just off the divide are Mt Stanford (13,973 ft., ¼ mile north), Caltech Peak (13,832 ft., less than 1 mile south), and Deerhorn Mountain (13,265 ft., about 1 mile northwest of Gregorys Monument). Most of the routes to these peaks are class 3 except for Caltech Peak which is class 2 from the south and Deerhorn which has some class 4 routes.
Harrison Pass (12,720 ft) has an unmaintained trail which is difficult to follow on the Class 2/3 north side of the divide. The south side is class 1.
Mt. Ericsson (13,608 ft.) The west ridge is class 2 from Lucy’s Foot Pass, other routes are class 3. Ericsson Crags, immediately north, have many class 4 and 5 routes.
Lucy’s Foot Pass (12,400 ft.) is the low point on the divide immediately west of Mt. Ericsson. It is class one from the south and has a short piece of class 3 on the north side along with a stretch of rough moraine/talus.
The easiest route across the K/K divide in this area is not at a pass but an unnamed route over the top of a small rise in the Divide between Mt. Ericsson and Mt Genevra. It is class 1 from the south and class 2 in the avalanche chute on the north side from Reflection Lake. When approaching this route from the north it is easy to get into the wrong avalanche chute. I recommend scoping out the route by going on the north side of Lake Reflection near where the photo was taken.
Milly’s Foot Pass (12,240 ft.) is the low point on the K/K Divide. It is class 1 from the south, and has a small stretch of class 3 at the top of the northern approach and a stretch of talus further down the descent.
Mt. Genevra (13,055 ft.) is class 1 from the east or west, with class 2 summit rocks. Routes from the north and south are class 3.
Mt.Jordan(13,444 ft.) has a class 4 summit, but is class 3 and 2 from all directions. Mt Jordan’s north face towering 3,300 feet over Lake Reflection is one of the largest lake-side escarpments in the Sierra
Thunder Mountain(13,588 ft.) is where the western end of the K/K Divide connects to the Great Western Divide. It is class 3 from Lake Reflection with a class 4 summit block.
Getting ThereSince the K/K Divide is in such a remote area, there are no short easy ways to get there. The three closest trailheads/routes are:
Roads End Trailhead (5,000 ft.) in Kings Canyon National Park is the quickest access from the west. 14.5 trail miles (past scenic East Lake and very scenic Reflection Lake) and a 1 mile scramble (total climb 7,400 ft.) gets you to the top of Lucy’s foot Pass. The same 14.5 trail miles plus 3 miles off trail (with 7,400 feet of climb) gets you to the foot of Table Mountain at the west end of the K/K Divide. 20 trail miles with 8,200 feet of climb gets you to Forester Pass at the east end of the divide.
Onion Valley Trailhead (9200').
The trail from Onion Valley over Kearsarge Pass is probably the easiest route to the Kings/Kern Divide. 5,900 feet of climb, 2,000 ft. of descent in about 16.5 miles gets you to Forester Pass. 6,700 ft. of climb, 3,500 ft. of descent in about 17.5 miles gets you the top of Lucy’s Foot Pass.
To get to the trailhead, turn west at the only traffic light in Independence, and follow paved Market Street for about 14 miles to the large parking area at the end of the road.
Shepherd Pass Trailhead (6,300 ft.) There are three options to get to the K/K Divide from the Shepherd Pass Trailhead.
1- via Shepherd Pass. 8,500 ft. of climb and 1,600 ft. of descent in about 20 trail miles gets you to Forester Pass. Taking an easy cross-country cutoff around the base of Diamond Mesa will save about 2 miles and about 800 ft. of climb and descent.
2- via Junction Pass. Take the old, unmaintained John Muir Trail from "The Pothole" over Junction Pass into Center Basin, then around Center Peak. 10,400 ft. of climb, 3,200 ft. of descent in about 21 miles gets you to Forester Pass.
3- directly over Junction Peak. Take the old John Muir Trail but go directly up Junction Peak via the class 3/4 northernmost of 2 couloirs on the east side of the peak. Descend the class 3 west ridge to Forester Pass. 8,100 ft. of climb, 1,200 ft. of descent in about 13 miles.
To get to the Shepherd Pass trailhead, drive west from Independence, on Market Street (the only traffic light in town) for 4.2 miles where you turn left (south) onto Foothill Road (gravel). Go 1.3 miles, take the right fork , and continue 1.5 miles, ignoring side roads to a corral and a sign saying "Symmes Creek"; turn left here. After another 0.5 miles, you'll reach a signed junction for the Shepherd Pass trail; turn right here, and follow the road to the trailhead, keeping right at both forks. The road is passable, with some care, to most passenger cars.
Red TapeBear canisters are required, camp at least 100 feet from water, pack out your trash, no wood fires…
West Side Red Tape
There is a $10 fee to enter Sequoia NP from the west. Permits are required for overnight stays in the wilderness. Permits can be obtained from the Park Service at any ranger station. Most convenient is the ranger cabin right at the trailhead at Roads End. They provide both permits and bear canister rentals. Permits may also be reserved in advance by paying a $5/person fee. Information on permit reservations is available from the National Park Servive Website or call (559) 565-3341.
East Side Red Tape
The Eastern Sierra Logistical Center Page has lots of valuable information.
Both the Shepard's Pass trail and Kearsarge Pass trails are subject to quotas. In 2005 the limits for non-commercial parties were 15 and 60 entries per day, respectively, with 9 (Shepard's Pass) and 36 (Kearsarge) being reservable and the remainder available for walk-in. You can check permit availability on the U.S. Forest Service Website The info is usually at least close to up-to-date. In 2005 the Kearsarge Pass trail required bear canisters, Shepard's Pass did not, but they are required in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park.
Permit reservations may be obtained by calling (760) 873-2483, by FAX (call the previous # for the FAX number), or by writing to:
Inyo National Forest
351 Pacu Lane
Bishop, CA 93514
Permits can be picked up in Lone Pine at the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station at:
640 S. Main Street (US 395)
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
or at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop at:
798 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Hours: 8:30 am to 4:30
Open all year
Monday-Friday in winter
A wilderness permit is required for overnight stays in the John Muir Wilderness in Inyo National Forest or Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. You only need to obtain a wilderness permit for your entry point. For example, if you enter in Inyo National forest, you do not need to obtain an additional permit for Kings Canyon National Park. Thus, only one permit is needed per trip.
Etymologyprimary source: Peter Browning's "Place Names of the Sierra Nevada"
Forester Pass was named 1929 after the foresters who discovered the pass.
Gregorys Monument was named after Warren Gregory, who explored this area in 1894.
Mt Stanford was named after Stanford University by Bolton Brown who was the first to climb the peak in 1896. Brown was a fine arts professor at Stanford as well as a technical climbing pioneer and namer of many Sierra features.
Caltech Peak was named in 1961 by a climbing party from the California Institute of technology.
Deerhorn Mountain was named by Joseph LeConte because of it’s double summit resembled a pair of antlers.
Harrison Pass was named after Ben Harrison, a part Indian who herded sheep in the upper Kern basin.
Mt. Ericsson was named after the Civil War engineer John Ericcson who designed the “Monitor”, the Union’s ironclad ship.
Lucy’s Foot Pass was named for Lucy Fletcher Brown who, along with her husband Bolton Brown, was the first to cross this pass in 1896.
Milly’s Foot Pass was named after Mildred Jentsch, who along with Sylvia Kershaw, was the first to cross this pass in1953.
Mt. Genevra was named for Genevra Magee by her companions when they were on the summit of nearby Mt. Brewer in 1899.
Mt Jordan was named for David Starr Jordan who was a president and chancellor of Stanford University and founding member of the Sierra Club. Originally the highest of the Palisades peaks was named Mt. Jordan, but shortly after the name was changed to North Palisade, and this peak was given his name.