Whiskey Flat Trail- North Kern Wild and Scenic RiverWhiskey Flat Trail- North Kern Wild and Scenic River https://www.calwild.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Whiskey-Flat-Trail-Sign-864x1024.jpeg 864 1024 CalWild CalWild https://www.calwild.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Whiskey-Flat-Trail-Sign-864x1024.jpeg
Hike Name: Whiskey Flat – North Kern Wild and Scenic River
Name of area/general location: Sequoia National Forest
Land Acknowledgement: This public land and trail are ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Tübatulabal people. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca
AllTrails Hike Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/whiskey-flat-trail–3
Trail rating: Moderate, due to a lot of up and down through various drainages.
Trail mileage: The Whiskey Flat Trail on the Sequoia National Forest parallels the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River in the southern Sierra Nevada. The trail stretches 12.4 miles north from Kernville to a pedestrian/bicycle bridge that crosses the river at McNalley’s Fairview Lodge. Most of the trail is located within the vast undeveloped west slopes of the North Fork Canyon, which rises from the river to 7,754-foot-high Baker’s Point and the higher elevations of the Greenhorn Mountains. The equally undeveloped proposed Cannell Peak Wilderness is visible to the east across the canyon. The trail itself varies between 2,700 to 3,000 feet elevation, but there is a lot of short-term climbing as the trail goes in and out of various drainages that flow down to the North Fork, which makes it a moderately strenuous hike.
Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail:
The trail provides spectacular views of both proposed wilderness areas. The 32,000-acre proposed Stormy Canyon Wilderness provides a scenic backdrop to the thousands of visitors who boat, swim, hike, camp, fish, and hunt along the North Fork Kern Wild and Scenic River. The area includes lower elevation ecosystems under-represented in the National Wilderness Preservation System. This is important, because one of the goals of the System is to include a good representation of native ecosystems.
The 30,910-acre proposed Cannell Peak Wilderness encompass the east slopes of the North Fork canyon. The area supports an incredible diversity of plants and animals. Boundaries of these proposed Wilderness areas have been drawn by conservationists to avoid conflicts with popular mountain bike trails, including segments of the Whiskey Flat, Tobias, Bull Run, Rincon, and Cannell Meadow trails.
Salmon and Bull Run Creeks, and other major tributaries of the North Fork, flow through both areas, adding to the flow, water quality, and ecological health of the Kern. In response to lobbying by CalWild, the Forest Service found 10.9 miles of Salmon Creek from its source near Sirretta Peak to the North Fork to be eligible for Wild and Scenic River protection due to its outstanding scenery, recreation, wildlife, botany, history, and Indigenous cultural values. The Forest Service also found 12.4 miles of Bull Run Creek from its source near Tobias Peak to the North Fork, to be eligible in recognition of its outstanding geology, history, and Indigenous cultural values.
The Whiskey Flat Trail is a very popular with mountain bikers, even though the trail can be difficult and demanding. Spring and Fall weekdays are the ideal time to hike this trail. Spring hikers and bikers can be rewarded with a beautiful wildflower display. The trail can be quite wet and muddy in the winter and hot and sandy in the summer. There is little shade along the trail, but the river and its tributaries offer great opportunities to swim and cool down.
Visitors may hike the trail north from Kernville or south from McNally’s. But since most of the mountain bike action is in the lower 5-6 miles of the trail near Kernville, the best option is to hike downstream from McNally’s. If you have two vehicles, you can hike the entire trail one way with a car shuttle.
How to Get There: From Kernville: Drive east from Bakersfield on Highway 178 to Lake Isabella. Follow the signs to Kernville. Drive two miles on Burlando Road north from Kernville to the where the road dead-ends (except for some gated driveways) at the Whiskey Flat Trailhead. From McNalley’s: Take Sierra Way (a.k.a. Kernville Road) north from Kernville. The road parallels the North Fork Kern on your right. McNalley’s Fairview Lodge is 15 miles north of Kernville on your right. Park in the public parking lot just past McNalley’s, walk through the lodge’s cabins and trailers to the trail bridge that crosses the river. Cross the river and proceed south on the upper Whiskey Flat Trail. Trailhead parking fills up fast on holidays and weekends, so get an early start!
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.
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