Tag Archives: waterfalls

Kern River California

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Lower Kern River Wildflowers in April

Kern River Recreation 

Due east of Bakersfield, CA the Kern Canyon’s massive rock opens to the west with big water. CA 178 Narrow 2-lane highway, lined by tall rock walls, cliffs, curves, few pull-outs and less guardrails. Geologically, the drive is impressive entering the canyon.

A large sign with death toll looms at the entrance, warning you to stay out and stay alive.

The Kern River is a southern flow, draining much of the southern mountains in the Sierra Nevada, including much Mount Whitney snow melt.  Lake Isabella redirects the river westward to the Central Valley, so farmers can grow orchards of fruit. Citrus blossom fragrance fills the air on warm evenings, so be prepared to roll down the windows as you exit suburbia.

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Kern County: Southern Sierra Nevada mountains river canyon, this prized recreation destination is the main attraction for the entire county. Lake levels at Isabella are often low, so know before you go w/ the Dam Task Force web page link and info.

The few oak & pines trees around this river may be the only shade you will find in the summer on the southern end, and this place can get triple digit hot in summer months (so be forewarned). A refreshing dip in the cool Kern River is what you really seek, but this is a real river, a fast river, a dangerous white water river – so take extreme precautions around this river w/ life jackets. Hundreds have died already, as the sign tells us so. Rafters consider whitewater rating a Class V,  for most of the lower Kern section.kernriver3_i

Upper Kern: Main fork of the Kern River is situated along the Rincon Fault line, which become the granite gorge of Kern River Canyon further north; the initial snowmelt and headwaters are located deep in backcountry of the Golden Trout Wilderness. All draining the backside of Mount Whitney and the Great Western Divide.

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This larger,  main river fork parallels the Sierra Hwy north of Kernville, CA with many miles of epic scenery. Plenty of camping for all types, fishing, tubing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking and backpackers trailheads.

NFS Kern Campgrounds; FREE CAMPING @ Kern Flats, also used as picnic areas and raft launch spots.

South fork of the Kern River begins up in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Tulare County. Eastern Sierra @ Olancha Peak. Monache Meadows, Inyo National Forest. The river traverses southward over the Kern plateau, Kennedy Meadows, Dome Land Wilderness. Chimney Peak Wilderness,  Long Valley Campground. At Pilot Knob (6200′ elev) the South Kern turns west to join Lake Isabella.

Lower Kern: West of Lake Isabella, the river continues tumbling down the rocky, oak hills below the Greenhorn Mountains and eventually ends up at Lake Ming, or downtown Bako.

Little Kern River: a smaller, western fork coming down from Quinn Peak (10,168′ elev) on the Great Western Divide in the Golden Trout Wilderness. It joins at the Forks of the Kern near Jerky Meadow.

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella @ Kern Canyon

Kern River Canyon

The whole Kern Canyon region is part of Sequoia National Forest and always under a wildfire threat in the latter part of the year. Kern River is very popular with city dwellers seeking big Sierra water that is close to SoCal.

Wildflowers are incredible in Kern County overall, and the Kern Canyon is no exception. Lower Kern blooms earlier than Upper Kern. Old Kern Canyon Road is a scenic drive that parallels the highway where you can find flora blooming March – May. Above Kernville the wildflower showing may be short, but sweet. Large river Lupine can be found at almost every campground, while Golden Poppies and Owls Clover line meadows near the main highway.

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Upper Kern Wildflowers – Owls Clover

SEQUOIA kern map

 

Sequoia National Forest
Lake Isabella
USFS Headquarters ranger

Ranger Station
760-379-5236

Backpacking & Hiking Kern Canyon

A variety of terrain in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains will have you puzzled where to start. From cedar forests to Sequoia groves, mountain peaks to fishing creeks, granite domes to granite gorges, wildflowers to waterfalls, hot springs to hot summers, Kern County has it.

Winter backpacking is quite popular here, as snow levels do not drop as drastically as in other mountain locations. Elevations from 1000′ – 4000′ are often ideal for winter hiking trips. Summer is usually best in the higher elevations, above 5000′

Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight stays.

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PCT HIKING TRAIL – The Pacific Crest Trail passes over the Kern Plateau from Walker Pass @ 178 to Kennedy Meadows @ J41.

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trail steps

All Kern Campgrounds

Sequoia NF, BLM & Private Camps

On Kern River; North of Lake Isabellacamp

HEADQUARTERS Campground
CAMP 3 Campground
HOSPITAL FLAT Campground
GOLD LEDGE Campground
FAIRVIEW Campground
FRANDY Campground
Camp Kernville

On Kern River; West of Lake Isabella

KEYESVILLE Camping
KERN BLM Camping & OHV
HOBO Campground (CLOSED 2018-2019)
SANDY FLAT Campground

On or Near Lake Isabella

LIVE OAK Campground
TILLIE CREEK Campground
BOULDER GULCH Campground
CAMP 9 Campground
HUNGRY GULCH Camp
OLD ISABELLA Camping
PIONEER POINT Campground
PARADISE COVE Camping
SOUTH FORK Camping
Lake Isabella RV Resort
Lake Isabella Kern River KOA

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More on Kern Canyon Camping

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open campingFree camping, boondocking and primitive camping options are found near small streams and along the backroads of the neighboring Sequoia National Forest areas. Most secluded camps can be found 25+ miles north of Kernville, well away from the Kern River on the feeder creeks that flow into the big river. Dirt road driving may be required to find the most secluded camp spot. See more on Sequoia dispersed camping on back roads.

campfireCampfire Permits are required for back roads primitive camping in this tinder-box region. More often than not, fire restrictions prohibit campfires during dry conditions. Hot summers, even lasting well into autumn. Obtain a free fire permit online or from the local rangers and be sure to find out if any restrictions are currently in place. USFS Ranger stations are located in downtown Kernville and at Lake Isabella. kerncampground

Towns along Kern River:

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rustic lodging near Kern River Canyon

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Golden Trout Trail Map

Maps for Kern Canyon Region


Tule River California

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Tule River

Southern Sierra Nevada Foothills
Great Western Divide

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One of the smallest rivers in the Sierra Nevada, the Tule River has three forks and is located within Tulare County. Tule drains the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Great Western Divide, part of the Sierra Nevada range. California Highway 190 connects the upper elevations of the Giant Sequoia to the farm town of Porterville. Tule River parallels this main Sierra highway as it flows west into the Central Valley.

Inside Mountain Home State Forest – Hidden Falls & Moses Gulch Campgrounds, both have small waterfalls & swimming holes. Dirt roads access these back woods camp spots, but they are both popular among the locals in summer months. Off season is best for minimal crowds. Mosquitoes can be fierce; bring the repellent or a screen room.

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Clear, cold, snowmelt water, flowing west – out of the Golden Trout Wilderness. Deep within the Western Sierra Nevada, lined with granite cliffs and neighboring the oldest Sequoia groves, the north fork of the Tule River descends down the forested canyons to meet the oak-land foothills at Springville, CA.

hidden falls
hidden falls

Tule River Camping

Campgrounds along Tule River:camp

 (South Fork)

  • Coy Flat Campground
  • Onion Meadow @ Western Divide
    Forest Road #21N93 – Giant Sequoia NM
  • Tule River Tribal Lands (private)
  • Tule Recreation Area @ Success Lake

(Middle Fork)

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SEQUOIA NF MAP

(North Fork)

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Forests, Lakes & Parks along Tule River:

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Tule River in town: Springville, California

Towns & communities along this River:

Camp Nelson, CA
Pierpoint Springs, CA
Springville, CA
Tule River Tribe (South Fork)
Porterville, CA

springville gazebo
Springville, CA

Maps along the Tule River:

Golden Trout Maps
Sequoia National Forest Map
Sequoia Forest Atlas

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Golden Trout Trail Map

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Golden Trout Wilderness

backpacking, hiking, horse packing, fishing in the Great Western Divide

Mountaineering routes and hiking in Tule River Canyons

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Mountain Home Sequoia

Mountain Home State Forest
Mountain Home Sequoias

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North of the Giant Sequoia, above the Western Divide Highway (CA 190) sits a little known Sequoia Park called Mountain Home. This lush forested area separates the Sequoia National Park (to the north) from the Giant Sequoia National Monument  (to the south).

Mountain Home is just up the mountain from the river town of Springville, CA

Western Sierra Nevada

In part of the vast Sequoia National Forest, lies a hidden gem of State Forest land worth visiting. Waterfalls, the Tule River, fishing ponds, campgrounds and easy access to Golden Trout Wilderness trails.

MHDSF

The official name of this forest: Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest is quite a mouth full, so most just call it “Mountain Home”. In short MHDSF is managed by Cal-Fire and the California State Park system.

the Largest old growth Sequoias in the state!

Numerous awesome Campgrounds can be found near the Sequoia groves, the Tule River, hiking trailheads, fishing, waterfalls. Balch Park is the County Park, listed below.

    • Sequoia Backpacking
    • Sequoia Backroads
    • Sequoia Campgrounds
    • Sequoia Groves
    • Hiking
    • Tule River
    • Waterfalls
    • Wilderness

Balch Park Sequoia
located within the Mountain Home State Forest is a popular destination for the locals and families. Balch Park Campground is paved and RV accessible. 71 campsites, on first come basis.

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Small pond fishing near Balch Park

Meadows, mountain peaks, streams, waterfalls, huge granite rocks & cliffs are all over. Plus some secluded groves of Giant Sequoia trees. Mosquitos can be annoying in these parts, so bring the chemical warfare and the screen room tent.snow

Roads Open: May – October
Forest mountain roads close annually, due to winter snow

meadows

SEQUOIA_map
SEQUOIA NF MAP

Area activities include:

Backpacking
Back Road Exploration
Campground Camping
Fishing
Hiking
Horseback Riding
Meadows
Mountain Biking
Picnic
Sequoia Groves
Swimming Holes
Tule River (North Fork)
Golden Trout Wilderness

USDA Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are many dirt roads & numerous trails. Minimal cell phone signal inside these dense forests and large granite river canyons. GPS even has trouble getting connected, due to the immense canopy of trees.

Mountain Home Backpacking

hikerShake Camp – Best hiking trail access to Golden Trout Wilderness

In the backcountry, tent camping is allowed any place on soil 100 feet from trail or water. No camping on meadows. Ground fires are very allowed with fire permit. Use existing camp site when available. Check with the correct ranger district for all back country camping rules. Wilderness permits are needed for backpackers and horse packers staying overnight in the wilderness area.

Local Ranger Stations:

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Golden Trout Trail Maps

Sequoia USFS Headquarters
Porterville, CA
559-784-1500

Tule River Ranger District
Springville, CA
559-539-2607

Mountain Home Backroads

Dirt back roads are so narrow they cannot accommodate the large motorhome or RV traveler.  Trucks pulling horse trailers are common, with very few options for a pull-out to pass.

This forested area is filled with old logging roads that lead to lush Sequoia groves & meadows.  The whole network of forest roads back here either –  loop back to each other, or deal end, often at a trailhead parking area. No roads connect through to any other portion of the Sierra range. Golden Trout Wilderness is a road-less area of the Southern Sierra Nevada.

Signs Not Reflective

The old skool, painted, wooden road signs do not READ well at night, so avoid arriving in the dark.

When it’s dark outside, it is best to STOP: Shut off the vehicle, get out and take a stretch break,  find the north star; Get your bearing straight, look at the real map with a flashlight – before driving miles to an unknown destination, just to turn around.

Be very aware of the Forest Service signage, use your trip meter for clocking mileage. Have a good map on hand. See MAP ABOVE.  It is very easy to get lost in this forest and you may end up driving for hours, maybe in circles. I swear this intersection looks familiar.

Road Signs

Mountain Home Campgrounds 

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Balch and Frazier are the two larger, developed campgrounds; all others are smaller camps w/ primitive facilities.

NOTE: all the Campgrounds in this forest now charge an overnight fee for camping. (Decades ago they were free, but not anymore.)

Balch Park Campground
Frazier Mill Campground
Hedrick Pond Camp

Hidden Falls Campground
Moses Gulch Campground
Shake Camp

campground elev. spots toilet water nearby comments
Moses Gulch 5500′ 10 pit river Tule River no trailers
Hidden Falls 6150′ 8 pit river Tule River no trailers
Shake Camp 6490′ 11 pit piped Golden Trout
Wilderness
backpack & horse trailhead
Hedrick Pond 6200′ 14 vault piped fishing pond RV ok; no hookups
Frazier Mill 6150′ 46 pit piped Sequoia Grove RV ok; no hookups
Balch Park 6000′ 71 flush piped fishing pond Tulare County Park

Frasier Mill Campground is spelled w/ a Z (like Frazier)on many printed maps and inside some camping books, but the proper spelling (on a sign at the campground) is actually Frasier w/ an S. This camp is located at the site of an old lumber mill.

Decent signage leads to smaller, secluded campgrounds and hiking trail heads. Dirt road driving will be required. See BACKROADS (above heading) for tips on back road driving and night time arrivals.

Plenty of trails for horses back in these parts, most of them lead to Golden Trout Wilderness. Watch out for oncoming vehicles with horse trailers!

No primitive camping outside of developed campgrounds. Due to fire dangers around these majestic Sequoia trees. You must camp within the designated campground, or HOOF IT into the the wilderness for backpacking.

Mountain Home Hiking

Numerous trails around each campground area will lead to the waters edge @ Tule River; into the Golden Trout Wilderness (for longer day hikes), along creeks w/ wildflowers, near lush meadows  or through Giant Sequoia Groves.

Deer Ridge & Bogus Meadow Hike

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Cold Swimming Hole

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Nearby towns:

Camp Nelson, CA
Ponderosa, CA
Porterville, CA
Springville, CA