Kern River Trail: Kern County

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” – Norman Maclean

*Originally hiked: March 25-26, 2022

Location Mileage Elevation Gain Type
Kern County 8.91 miles  741 feet Out-and-Back

Permits, Directions & Weather

Permits: Permits are not required on this trail for overnight use.  I would recommend making sure you tell at least 2 people where you are going and giving your itinerary to them. 

Directions: The trailhead begins at the Johnsondale Bridge, east side of the river.  Take the stairs down and there will be a sign showing the trail and notable sites to watch for. 

Weather: The weather in the Kern Valley in the summers is very hot, make sure you check the weather before leaving as the area can have crazy winter conditions. 

Johnsondale ~4,900 feet: National Weather Service weather

*map at the trailhead showing where camps, rapids, waterfalls, creeks are located. 

Maps, Books and Gear Recommendations

  1. Kern River Sierra Outdoor Recreation Topo – this map includes a lot of the area as well, which is why I recommend it.  There is an app that now has the full map in digital form on Avenza: get it here.
  2. BeFree Katadyn Water Filter – The only water in the area is obviously the river and I recommend always filtering the water.  
  3. Garmin inReach Mini2 – there is no service here, good to have some source in case of emergency.
  4. PackTowl Luxe Microfiber Towel – there are safe areas that you can get into the water but be careful as the waters are very dangerous here.

Hike Stats


We set out on Friday with puppy in toe to be able to get into the backcountry a little further.  Unfortunately, the weather was much warmer than we anticipated, and we cut the trip short by coming out on Saturday. 

muggy water, dry weather

We woke up early on Friday with everything packed and headed out for the short 3.5-hour drive from home to the trailhead.  I say short drive because we drive up to 5-6 hours just to get a good weekend backpacking trip in.  It was early spring and opted for the river trail, hoping it would be much crisper than it ended up being.  I think we started around 11:00am, which is not the best time to start a hike as it is getting into the time of the highest heat of the day.  

The water didn’t look as clear as we had seen on other trips on this trail, and it was running quite quickly, probably due to the storms that had just past a day or so before.  At the trailhead there isn’t much parking especially at the time we arrived during summer months, but since it was spring and a Friday, we hit the jackpot and had no issues.  

figuring out where to camp

We took several breaks along the river when there were nice sandy spots to do so.  Summit our puppy was breathing heavily from the heat, so we made sure that we gave him all the water he needed!  Early on just about a mile in there were some great campsites that you can drop down close to the water, even some nice sandy spots.  There are several sites along the trail that are notable to look for: 7 teacups for instance.  About 4 miles down the trail, check out Dry Meadow Creek where the waterfall and 7 teacups joins the Kern River.  This is probably one of the best spots for swimming holes and fishing; it sure is a beautiful site.

We scurried on after this wonderous spot to go find a campsite for the night.  After the 7 teacups the spots become scarcer, but before the turn up to the Rincon Trail we found a nice sandy area with shade and access to the water.  We found a nice spot for the night and as soon as we arrived, we set up camp and relaxed in our REI backpacking chairs: Flexlite Air Chair (best buy in the world).  

deciding to head back out the next day

I must say sleeping by a creek having that white noise, we slept pretty awesome.  It was a quiet night other than when we heard some hikers passing by in the wee hours of the morning.  All in all, we decided to head out a day early instead of doing the whole loop knowing that we weren’t going to be near a water source.  We arrived at our car before 11am and couldn’t decide whether to camp another night at one of the campsites by the river or just head back home.  After driving up almost all the way to Sherman Pass and a nice little lunch with a view, we headed back on the short drive home. 

Other Writeups to read with more information

The Kern River Sierra’s River Trail @Johnsondale Bridge

California’s Wanderland: Kern River Trail in Sequoia National Forest

I hope you enjoyed this write up and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to write comments below. Happy Adventures! Annette


One thought on “Kern River Trail: Kern County

  1. That looks a really nice area to walk.

    Love the pup and the name! Is it going to be big enough to join in all your adventures though? Aren’t they short-legged dogs?

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