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Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

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Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby luckysock » Fri May 14, 2010 2:52 pm

I am planning a two-day car camping/hiking trip for July or August, but I can't decide between Onion Valley (day hike to Kearsarge Pass) and Bishop (day hike from South Lake to Bishop Pass). Which is prettier, more exciting and varied, etc.? Both trails look amazing. I am an experienced hiker (but not backpacker) and like a good mix of mountain, forest and lake. Difficulty of trail not as important as scenery... Any advice appreciated!



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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby Shawn » Fri May 14, 2010 4:01 pm

Hey luckysock, welcome to HST.

While I've never been up Onion Valley (yet), I have been up above South Lake a few times. The views and beauty are certainly worthy of a day hike, regardless of what the other areas behold. The walk to Bishop pass is done with relative ease and would make for a nice day hike with lots of time to spare for exploring around the valley.

Here are a few old photos among others -

http://www.theradioroom.org/Mountains/T ... opPass.htm

Shawn
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby Timberline » Fri May 14, 2010 4:59 pm

Howdy, Luckysock,
While it's been a while now, I've hiked over both passes each way, and each has is own charms and challenges. Bishop Pass trail from South Lake, to me, was a walk in the park. Not as strenuous but interesting and enjoyable, with a number of lakes in a beautiful setting that changes colors along the way in. Ledge Lake, just below the pass , is unusually curious, perched directly above its neighbor. "The expansive views from Bishop Pass to the north/east over the country you just covered are to cherish forever. Dusy Basin lays out before you invitingly, but blocks the deeper view into LeConte Canyon, except for the backdrop of its north/ east-facing wall.

Driving up into the Bishop Creek drainage in the Coyote Embayment of the Sierra can be deeply sensual in that landscape, while the last few miles, arriving at the South Lake trailhead can feel a little intimate on the narrow, winding road, or even claustrophobic in comparison to Onion Valley, which lets you keep the dramatically grand view of Owens Valley all the way up to trailhead. On my first drive to Onion Valley I recall having to wrestle with the tendency to constantly rubberneck the scenery vs. careful attention to the road, Finally, I was compelled to just give in, pull over and stop, and get out to drink in the view. The Keararge trail attacks the pass more directly, and you'll huff and puff at that altitude if not acclimatized. The surrounding peaks are, as Muir would say, sublime, and Potlhole Lake poses its obvious question as you gaze down and march by.

For me, the climax is the view from the Pass over the exceptional landscape of the western slope. Kearsarge Pinnacles and Lakes are in full view down to Bullfrog Lake, You can easily see why Bullfrog was ovuerused and closed to camping so long ago - - located in one of the Sierra's hallmark vistas. The enormous Bubbs Creek drainage and the Brewer Crest with its family of great peaks stands behind. Kind of an epitomy of high sierra sencery without being a steriotype at all. You just want to keep hiking on.

Well, I guess you really can't go wrong with either choice! Happy trails, amigo :nod:
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby luckysock » Fri May 14, 2010 7:48 pm

Very helpful advice. Thanks!
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby hikerchick395 » Sun May 16, 2010 9:51 am

Personally, I think Kearsarge Pass is an easier hike to the pass, but you said that you were not concerned about difficulty and neither route is difficult.

Bishop Pass has the most views along the trail and Kearsarge has the best view, as far as wow factor, from the pass itself, as Bishop Pass is a flat pass. Yes the views back, well before you reach the sign at the border of Kings Canyon, are spectacular, but you do have to walk quite a bit to the south to get good views into the Dusy Basin.

Each of the pass trails travel through varied terrain as you ascend and there are lakes along the way on both.

I dayhike up the Bishop Pass trail several times each summer and backpacked into beautiful Dusy Basin three years in a row ('06,'07,'08)...hope to get back up and over Kearsarge Pass this year.
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby kpeter » Sun May 16, 2010 2:35 pm

The trail to Bishop Pass from South Lake is, in my opinion, more beautiful, although these things are a matter of taste. I love water, and in many places the trail rambles along lake shores. The trail to the top of the pass is quite interesting--an engineering marvel as far as foot trails go.

As previous posters have said, the trail to Kearsarge is more of a direct assault across talus at high elevation. I would never attempt it again unless I was acclimated--which you may be if you are camping at some elevation. I agree that the view over the pass is much more spectacular than the view over Bishop Pass.

The Kearsarge hike would give you the biggest "aha" moment when you look over the other side. The Bishop hike would give you a great many trailside moments along the way.
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby giantbrookie » Sun May 16, 2010 4:49 pm

In terms of scenery, I believe both places are spectacular but the Bishop Creek area has more room to spread out and little cul-de-sacs--more options to hike to and enjoy, in my opinion. The options to the side of the Kearsarge Pass trail are more limited than those to the side of the Bishop Pass trails owing to the fact that the drainage basin in which Kearsarge Pass trail is located is smaller: fewer lakes and fewer nooks and crannies. Once over the top of the passes on the west side, things are a bit more equal with either pass having certain advantages, given one's tastes and priorities.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby richlong8 » Mon May 17, 2010 11:08 am

If fishing is an issue, I think you will find better fishing on the east side of Bishop Pass area than east of Kearsage Pass. I think Kearsage is definitely an easier, shorter way to get to the west side of the crest than Bishop Pass, if you only have a weekend to do it in.
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby LMBSGV » Mon May 17, 2010 9:41 pm

One other factor that favors Bishop is that there are many excellent car camping campgrounds at high elevation. North Lake, Sabrina, Intake, Bishop Park, and Mountain Glen are all above 8,000 feet and all in great locations along a creek. Onion Valley allows reservations so if you know your exact dates, you can see if anything is available. With the Bishop ones if you don't know your exact date, you can usually find a great site even though it's first-come.
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby quentinc » Mon May 17, 2010 9:57 pm

Other than the view at Kearsarge Pass (which is spectacular), in my opinion the Bishop Pass trail is far more scenic. The lakes in the valley below the pass are beautiful, and there are several more lakes easily reachable by side trails. The only good thing I can say about the Kearsarge trail is that it provides quick and easy access to a sublime area, but if you're not going over the pass that won't do you much good. :)
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby js hill » Thu May 20, 2010 9:22 am

I would have to say that I think the Bishop Pass Trail is more scenic. Several beautiful lakes and lots of opportunity for exploring and some cross country treks. The trail to the top of Bishop pass has been rerouted do to a rock slide but still very doable. The "enter at your own risk" sign warning of possible future landslides may be a bit unsettling but what the heck, you only live once. Enjoy, you won't be disappointed in either trail.
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Re: Onion Valley or Bishop Creek?

Postby The Other Tom » Thu May 20, 2010 2:09 pm

js hill wrote: The "enter at your own risk" sign warning of possible future landslides may be a bit unsettling but what the heck, you only live once.

Yeah, but I want to make the "once" last a long time :)
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