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Baker Pt Lookout

Baker Point Trail

Features: This short but scenic trail takes you to an old Forest Service fire lookout on Baker Point, overlooking the spectacular canyon of the North Fork Kern Wild & Scenic River and the town of Kernville, more than 5,000 feet below. Baker Point dominates the Stormy Canyon roadless area, which encompasses the entire western slope of the North Fork canyon. Across the canyon is the Cannell Peak roadless area, another rugged chunk of wild land. These roadless areas and the North Fork tributaries that flow through them contribute to the high biotic integrity of the North Fork Kern, which was protected as a National Wild & Scenic River in 1986 by Congress. In addition to the deep canyon below you, the point provides dramatic views northward to The Needles in the Giant Sequoia National Monument and on a clear day, keen-eyed hikers pick out Mt. Whitney and Mt. Langley to the northeast.

The granite buttress of Baker Point tops out at 7,754 feet. It not only provides awe-inspiring views, about 780 acres of this rock formation is protected as the Baker Point Botanical Area. The Sequoia National Forest is one of the most diverse botanical regions in California, supporting more than one quarter of the state’s species of flora. The Baker Point Botanical Area contains many “rock-loving” plants, including three species considered sensitive. Some of the endemic flowers found here and nowhere else except in the southern Sierra Nevada include the Kern Swertia (Swertia tubulosa) and Coville’s mule-ears (Agnorhiza invenusta). Baker Point also supports a diverse forest of sugar pine, Jeffrey pine, and white fir, which has weathered recent wildfires in apparent good health.

The Stormy Canyon roadless area surrounds Baker Point. CalWild and other conservation organizations are urging the Forest Service to recommend wilderness protection for approximately 32,000 acres of this area in the supplemental draft Sequoia Forest Plan. The roadless area provides a scenic backdrop to the popular recreation areas along the North Fork Kern and it includes Bull Run Creek, Stormy Canyon, Ant Canyon, and other tributaries that contribute clean water to the river. The area includes ecosystems under-represented in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Bakers Point Trail and the fire lookout are cherry-stemmed out of the proposed wilderness to allow for maintenance and repair of the lookout. The lookout is no longer in active use by the Forest Service but it remains in good shape.

Trail Directions: Looking east from the trailhead, you can see the lookout on top of Baker Point, but once you start hiking, it won’t become visible until you reach the top. The trail itself is hidden in newly grown post-wildfire sage on your right but it becomes clear after about 100 feet.

The Bakers Point Trail is a relatively easy 2-3 mile round-trip hike. The trailhead parking area is at 7,500 feet, so theoretically hikers climb only 254 feet to reach the fire lookout. But the trail tends to dip up and down to avoid rock formations and steep slopes, so be prepared to put some effort into what looks like a short and easy hike. Chinquepin, sage, penstemon, and other high elevation shrubs line the trail through open rocky areas and scattered forest. Hikers should be prepared for intense sun on this waterless and often rocky trail.

Driving Directions:Getting there is perhaps the most difficult part of this hiking adventure. The simplest route is to take Highway 155 to Greenhorn Summit and drive north on Road 24S15 (a relatively well-maintained dirt and gravel road) for about eight miles to its junction with Road 23S16 at Portuguese Pass. Turn right on paved Road 23S16 and continue north about six miles to the junction with Road 24S24 on the left and Road 24S02 on the right. Turn right on Road 24S02 (the fiberglass wand indicating Road 24S02 was missing one of its numbers, so be sure you have the right road) and proceed slowly east on this bumpier dirt road past a junction with Road 24S80 on the right. In about ½ mile, turn right at a second road junction in a small meadow and proceed west about ¾ mile to the trailhead turn-around. I was glad I was driving a high clearance vehicle but someone in a Honda Fit made it to the trailhead after me, so careful driving can get you there regardless of your vehicle.

Due to downed trees, seasonal snow pack, and occasional storm damage, the Forest Service fairly frequently close Roads 24S15 and 23S16 to public use. So it’s prudent to call the Western Divide Ranger District for current road conditions. Their phone number is (559) 539-2607.

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Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.