GREAT HIKING TRAILS IN THE SOUTHERN SIERRAS
Water recreation is one of the most frequently cited reasons for visiting the Kern River Valley. But many of the "locals" - and an increasing number of visitors - will tell you to go take a hike if you think water is the only attraction. The terrain around the Kern Valley abounds with trails, ranging from easy to very strenuous that will allow a "close up and personal" look at the area's natural resources. Nature trails in the Kern Valley area range from around 4.6 miles round trip, on the Packsaddle trail up the strenuous 39 miles on the Rincon trail, a multi day trek for even experienced hikers.
To make a successful hike, the Forest Service suggests you remember a few simple rules. Always have the proper clothing, because Sierra weather can change rapidly, Wear good, sturdy hiking shoes that have been broken in. Carry a canteen of water, make sure you have a first aid kit and don't forget a good map.
Visitors are allowed to bring pets, and dogs are permitted on the trails. Campfire permits are required and are available from the ranger station. Don't forget one of the cardinal rules of back country travel: Always let someone know when you are leaving, where you are going and, above all, when you will be coming back.
Seventeen nature trails around the Kern Valley have been listed by the Forest Service, and excellent guides to the trails can be obtained from the Cannell Meadow Ranger Station in Kernville.
CANNELL TRAIL - This is the closest trail to Kernville and begins 2 miles north of Kernville on Mountain Highway 99. The 14 miles of trail (round trip) range in altitude from 2,800 to 7,200 feet, making it the highest of the nearby trails. The Forest Service lists the trail as "strenuous," and hikers need to bring their own water. Backpackers will find the gradual climb of the early part of the trail turning quite steep near Pine Flat, but it does afford one of the most spectacular views of the Kern River Valley. Mixed pine and fir forests cover most of the higher part of the hike.
WHISKEY FLAT TRAIL - This trail starts at the end of Burlando Road in Kernville, follows along the Kern River for 14.5 miles one way. There is a moderate change in elevation and occasional steep inclines to hike. Hikers probably will be able to glimpse white water rafters while hiking the riverside through mixed chaparral and occasional pines. Fisherman tell hikers there are many good fishing spots along the trail.
RINCON TRAIL - 10 miles north of Kernville on Mountain. 99, this trail leaves the road across from Ant Canyon, and travels some 19.5 miles along the Rincon Fault. Hiking the Rincon is relatively strenuous with elevations from 4800 to 5600 feet. Hikers will go up and down almost constantly as the trail passes through various drainage's, and will be treated to some fine stands of Jeffrey and Digger Pine, cedar and chaparral. The crossing of Salmon Creek brings an interception with Packsaddle Cave trail, and about 12 miles after that some very nice camping and fishing spots at Durrwood Creek.
FLYNN AND TOBIAS TRAILS - These two trails start at about the same point 16 miles north of Kernville. Flynn starts at the Fairview Foot Bridge, crosses the river, and travels up Flynn Creek, raising in elevation from 3700 to 6000 feet. Listed as a strenuous hike, the visitors to the area will see larkspur, wildrose, gooseberry and brewer's oak. Be warned that poison oak abounds in the area. The Tobias Trail starts just a half mile up the Flynn trail. While the trail is only 9.2 miles round trip, it rises from 3700 to 6000 feet in a short time, and should be considered strenuous. For the first mile and a half, the trail follows the Tobias Creek and offers good fishing along the trail but, according to the Forest Service, be prepared for a hot, dusty hike in the summer.
PACKSADDLE CAVE TRAIL - If you are looking for the unusual along the Kern Valley hiking trail, this is the trail for you. The five and a half mile round trip will take the hiker up a moderate but occasionally steep trail to a nice cave. Although most of the stalactites and stalagmites were removed illegally some years ago, it is still an interesting site. If you take the Packsaddle Cave Trail, be sure to take a flashlight to explore the cave.
RIVER TRAIL - This trail begins some 19 miles north of Kernville on Mountain. 99. For those who would like to really know the surrounding countryside with a relatively easy hike, this 10 mile trek is the one to take. Rising in elevation only 500 feet from its start at the Johnsondale bridge, the trail winds up the Kern River, then climbs to some riverside bluffs, and down again to the riverside terraces. A full spectrum of plants will be found, with digger pine, live oak, incense cedar and manzanita, as well as other species of pine growing along the walkway. For campers, an area of high boulders gives the illusion of camping in mountain caves. This is also one of the few local trails that is occasionally submerged, especially in the spring runoff period
BADGER GAP TRAIL - This trail begins 1 mile north of Oak Flat lookout road on Rancheria Road. The trail descends into and climbs from several seasonal drainage's on moderate grades before a steep descent into Delonegha Creek. Just above Highway 178, the trail connects with the Kern River Trail. The trail traverses oak woodlands and mixed brush and provides some very fine views of lower Kern Canyon.
BULL RUN TRAIL - Starts at the end of Cow Creek road which is on the left at an intersection 1&1/4 miles north of Greenhorn Summit on Forest Highway 90 (Note: four wheel drive is required for the last 1/2 mile of this road). The trail descends Cow Creek to Bull Run Creek and then turns upstream and climbs gently for 1&1/2 miles into Bull Run Basin. A moderate climb up a ridge ends at road 24S35. Pine and oak trees line the creek with bushy slopes above. There is trout fishing in the creek but it is not stocked.
BRIGHT STAR TRAIL - Starts in the Piute Mountains from Road 28S27 near Inspiration Point. This is an historic route which is not maintained and not passable for horses or motorcycles due to loose talus slopes. The route may be difficult to follow in places - a topographic map is required. The lower 1/2 mile is on private land to the end of Erskine Creek Road. Historic evidence of mining can be seen along this route.
CLEAR CREEK TRAIL - This trail begins 1 mile north of the Havilah Work Center. The first two miles are on private land. Please stay on the trail and close fence gates. Climbing through grass, oaks and brush to Clear Creek, then making numerous fords of the creek on a moderate climb through oak woodland and pine forest, the trail ends at Brown Meadow. Spring wildflowers can be good in the lower and middle elevations.
DRY MEADOW TRAIL - Starts at the end of the Steve Spring Road (28S27B) in the Piute Mountains. The trail descends in mixed conifer forest to open pine stands at Woolstalf Meadow, turns north and climbs through pine/oak woodland before descending along a small stream to Dry Meadows.
KERN RIVER TRAIL - Begins at the lowest bridge on Highway 178, just before you enter the canyon. There are gradual elevation changes as the trail parallels the river through open hillsides of grass and oak. The trail ends beyond China Garden. There can be excellent wildflower displays along this trail from mid March to late April.
MILL CREEK TRAIL - Starts 1 1/2 mile east of Hwy. 178 on old Kern Canyon Rd. The trail climbs gradually along Mill Creek for 2 miles, crossing the creek several times. Open oak/grass and riparian woodlands are found here, with fine spring wildflowers. Leaving the creek, moderate to steep grades climb through brush fields to mix conifer forest. The trail ends at a small spur road just north of Squirrel Meadow.
PACIFIC CREST TRAIL - This trail crosses Piute Mountain Road 1 1/2 mile east of Landers Meadow (also crosses at west end of Meadow). This segment has moderate grades as it traverses the southeast corner of the Piute Mountains in Pinyon/Juniper, Ponderosa pine and mixed Conifer forest. A reliable spring (treat before drinking) is located at the old Waterhole mine 1/2 mile south of Landers Meadow. This segment ends at the southern Forest Boundary - the trail is uncompleted south to Hwy. 58.
REMINGTON RIDGE TRAIL - Starts 1 3/4 miles west of Hobo Campground on old Kern Canyon Road. Moderate to steep grades climb from open oak/grass woodland with spring wildflower, through brush fields to pine/oak forest at the O'Brien Spring Road. Views of Isabella Lake, Kern Canyon and Kern Plateau can be seen in the higher portion of the trail.
SUNDAY PEAK TRAIL - Begins at the Girl Scout camp parking area on Forest Hwy. 90 and climbs through mixed conifer forest on a moderate grade to the summit of Sunday Peak. Excellent views of the Kern Valley, the Plateau and high Sierra peaks may be seen on clear days. This trail is a good day hike for families, with picnic lunch on the summit.