Kernville is a small river town about a three hour drive north of Los Angeles, and situated on the Kern River in the Southern Sierra Mountains of California. Kernville is very small, but does include a grocery store, small specialty shops, a few motels, and a couple of restaurants. Ewings on the River is a notable eatery, as it sits on the hillside overlooking the Kern River. Diners, looking down on the river from their table, may see kayakers and river rafters as they travel down Ewings Rapid below. Ewings has a bar, live country music and dancing, too. This is a fun place to be, but note that this is a meat-lovers restaurant and there are very few options for vegetarians. Here’s their website showing their menu and entertainment schedule: Ewings on the Kern
The Kernville Chamber of Commerce considers Kernville to be the “Gateway to the Sequoias” because the Trail of 100 Giants is located north of town in Giant Sequoia National Monument. This trail is flat, shaded, and about a half mile long. It’s a self-guided interpretive trail with signs along the way. Click here for more details about this trail. Trail of 100 Giants The road on which the Trail of 100 Giants is located is closed in winter months. Here is the Forest Service phone number to check for road closures. (559) 539-2607 or (760) 376-3781. Here’s a link to road conditions, including directions from the Los Angeles area to Kernville. Kernville Road Conditions
Camping in the Kern River area is plentiful! There are many Forest Service Campgrounds by the river. You will find a list of them at this link. Forest Service Campgrounds on the Upper Kern In addition, there are many pullouts and dirt roads leading to free camp/bivy spots if you’re into that sort of thing.
A little warning. You are advised to not view the river as a fun place by your campsite to just jump in and cool off. Water is incredibly high this year and people who are inexperienced with currents and rapids don’t always see the danger in this river. It is essential that the water is calm and shallow before going for a dip! There are some spots, just be mindful of the dangers.
Alder Creek Waterslide:
Alder Creek is this little waterway that is accessed by a .75 mile hike on a closed-to-vehicles, un-marked dirt forest service road. The waterslide is a natural, slippery, bumpy ride in mountain water, that spits you out into a cold plunge pool under pine trees. Best to go on a hot day, as this water can be very cold!
To find the waterslide, travel north of Kernville to Johnsondale. 1/2 mile past, turn right and take the Lloyd Meadow Road, 22S82, north just past the cut-off to the Great Western Divide Highway (22S83). The un-marked, closed, hike-able dirt road to get to the waterslide at Alder Creek is on your left, before Peppermint Creek Campground. Park across the street and hike up the road, watching for a little trail to the waterslides down to your right.
There are a lot of hiking trails in the area, but we were on the Forks of the Kern Trail one a couple of weeks ago, so this is fresh information.
The Forks of the Kern Trailhead begins in a parking area in Lloyd Meadow and takes you to where the Little Kern meets the Kern River. To find the parking area for the trailhead, drive past Kernville, up-river, through Johnsondale. Shortly past Johnsondale, turn right and take the Lloyd Meadow Rd. (22S82) for 15 miles. Turn right again at the dirt road (20S67) marked “Forks of the Kern” and proceed to the end of the road (approx. 3-miles) to the Forks Trailhead. There is a pit toilet, trailhead sign, and a lot of parking, here.
The trail is extremely scenic, and, as it winds around the hillside, offers expansive views down river over the trees, and drops down into a canyon at the Forks of the Kern River. A couple of weeks ago, the water was too high to cross, so reaching the river was the end of the two mile hike for us. The river can be crossed when there is less water and the trail continues for another 10 miles or so. We explored around the river banks and hiked back up the two mile trail on the fairly steep trail to the parking area. It was a very enjoyable day hike. Also in smaller water, this spot is where river guides take Class V river tours and fisher people do a lot of fishing.
Let’s talk about the weather in this area for a minute. It can get VERY hot in the Kern River area in the summer. And, when I say, “Hot,” I mean 100’s. The neat part is that the road following the Kern River, heading towards the Needles and Ponderosa, climbs in elevation, so it cools off the further you travel up river from Kernville, so it can be comfortable, particularly in the shade, once you reach Dome Rock or the Needles. Here’s a link to the National Weather Service’s current weather report for Kernville. Kernville Weather
WHITE WATER RAFTING & KAYAKING:
Sierra South is the longest running local kayaking school in Kernville. They offer private instruction and classes. Here is a link to their class information. Sierra South Kayaking Instruction
White water rafting is prime on the Kern River. Runs range from a mild Class II to raging Class V. Guided trips on the river range from one to two days long on stretches of the upper and lower Kern River. Raft trips generally run between May and September on the Kern. To choose a white water rafting guide service, select from this list of outfitters guiding in the area:
ROCK CLIMBING DOME ROCK & THE NEEDLES:
The Needles are large granite rock formations that offer long, traditional rock climbing routes. The walk-in is about three miles on a dirt road when the paved road is open. Here is more info about climbing at the Needles from rockclimbing.com. Climbing at The Needles
Dome Rock is accessed from the road via a short dirt road that leads to a parking area at the top of the rock. Climbers need only to hike down around the rock with harness and shoes on to the bottom of the routes and climb to top out, practically at the parking area. Here is rockclimbing.com’s beta on Dome Rock. Climbing at Dome Rock
The Ponderosa is a convenient place to stop after rock climbing at Dome Rock or The Needles. This establishment includes a small store and cafe.
I’m not a fisher person, so I will defer to this link to fly fishing information in the Kern River area. It looks as if they know what they are talking about. Kern River Fly Fishing
McNally’s Fairview Lodge on the Kern River is a good place to know about. They provide a lodge, restaurant, and store. Take a look at their website for more about what they offer. Mc Nally’s
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