Beyond Kennedy Meadows – the Kern Plateau and wonderful meadows, camping, trails, peaks

updated 4/2/17      I can answer questions about this area via email at

SNOW ABOVE 9000 ft.   Freezing at night above 8000 ft.    Blackrock CLOSED.  KM campground ? call the Store but no water. 

PCT hikers – it’s gonna be grim for you through at least August!  There is so much snow now above 9000 ft, and will be you won’t be able to see the trail!  Snow will probably remain on the high passes all summer!!  Be sure to have a paper map (your cell phone won’t work in the Sierra), compass, GPS that doesn’t need cell service.  Best thing for contacting the outside world is a Garmin InReach – works on Iridium satellites, and you can send and receive text messages.  See REI.  Subscription costs, but THEY WORK.  SPOTs work, but you have no ability to make special messages – all they do is signal for help.  the InReach is so much more versatile!!  You will be walking on snow A LOT.  Stream crossings are going to be awful all summer – good news is that there will be plenty of water, bad news is the larger stream crossings will be HUGE until probably late August.  Getting out is going to be difficult until mid July – Whitney switchbacks won’t be snow free until well into July, Horseshoe meadows road blocked at the moment, who knows about Reds Meadow Road – still tons of snow up there.  It’s just going to be DIFFICULT once you get past Kennedy Meadows about a day.  Then you hit snow, and it’s not going to go away any time soon.  Tahoe has even more snow than Mammoth.  This snow pack is a historical HIGH record.  The trees are loving it.  The streams and lakes and reservoirs are now all full.  But hiking – is going to be difficult!!

Fishing season closed, but don’t count on fishing up here.  Last summer the streams dried up completely – Troy, Monache, even the Kern River at the bridge didn’t run for the summer!  Doubt there would be many fish left – they don’t hike well.  Go to the Owens Valley to fish – those streams are all OK.  This summer, 2017, there will be tons of water through July – snow pack is amazing!

Farther along the Sherman Pass road in summer are green meadows, more campgrounds, more fishing, hiking, horse trails, OHV trails, mountain lookouts, etc.   The main road is paved all the way, but side roads are all dirt.  THEY OPEN AS SOON AS THE SNOW MELTS – and are CLOSED DUE TO SNOW NOW.  Check back in early May.  HOWEVER, SNOWMOBILES ARE ALLOWED ON THE PAVED ROAD CORRIDORS.  There is NO warming hut at Paloma any more.  Most trails will be groomed. No bathrooms.  No help!

Another 10 miles beyond the Kennedy Meadows store takes you into “true” Southern Sierra mountain country with streams and green meadows and summer wildflowers. Fish Creek Campground is on Fish Creek, as is Troy Meadows Campground. Troy is often used as a base for OHV exploring the area. Motorcycles are allowed on certain of the southern Sequoia National Forest trails. Ask at Blackrock Station for maps and other information, woodcutting and wilderness permits, etc. This area is also great for firewood cutting – get permits and chain saw inspection at Blackrock or in Kernville.

ALL roads up here were put in for logging.  Most are still usable but some have been water-bared closed. Respect the closures – there are plenty of open dirt roads to explore!!  Get a USFS map at Blackrock so you understand the numbering system.

**In 2012 the USFS was supposed to be installing those lovely vault toilets like Troy CG has.  NO toilets at Powell, Granite Knob, Bonita. Paloma has a pit toilet.   Nice new one on top of Sherman pass and in Troy CG.

Note:  street-legal green-sticker motorcycles ARE allowed on designated trails on the Kern Plateau. (This is the ONLY forest where this is allowed!) Horses are encouraged to use other trails, or stay in the Wilderness areas where motorcycles can’t go.  Horse people use Beach Meadow and Paloma Meadow and motorcycles are asked to stay away from those areas.

West from Blackrock (straight ahead at the intersection) 5 miles is beautiful Beach Meadows, a popular place for horse people (motorcycles not welcomed if horses present).  Camping and toilets. The road continues to Lion Meadows.

North from Blackrock (turn right at intersection)  8 miles at the end of the road at Blackrock are trails into the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. (get permit at Blackrock!!)  It is a lovely 2 mile hike into beautiful Casa Vieja Meadows, and another 3 miles down to Jordan Hot Springs. The resort is gone, but the hot pools are still there.  About 5 miles in on the main road is also access to the Monache Jeep Road – 4x4 and high clearance definitely required!  , and Powell and Granite Knob Meadows.  A dirt road leads to beautiful Osa Meadow.   Lots of hiking trails! Lots of Motorcycle trails as well.  The Monache road is for rugged 4x4’s only, not really good for Subarus or RAV’s – there are some serious rock-crawling places and in Monache, some deep stream crossings.  Great for Jeeps.  The road is narrow – “dulies” will scrape fenders on the trees near the top.  It’s a JEEP road. Motorcycles work too, of course, but it’s really rugged!  Great deer hunting in season!  Fishing  (not this year) in the Kern River.  Huge sand dune area.  Lots to explore if you can get there!

South from Blackrock (turn left at the intersection) the road continues past some lovely meadows – Bonita, Paloma, (horse corrals, toilet)  all the way to Sherman Pass and down into the North Fork of the Kern River; south to Kernville or west to Johnsondale and over into the Central Valley via California Hot Springs or Camp Nelson!!   You could get to Sequoia National Park by going through California Hot Springs or Camp Nelson, but it’d take FOREVER.  Much quicker and much more pleasant roads to go to Sequoia NP by way of Bakersfield, Porterville, and Springville.  See map.

There are many dirt roads heading off into “the woods”.  Most have only USFS signs with numbers on them – you’ll need a USFS map to make sense of all this.  Get at Blackrock Info station or in Kernville.   Dispersed camping IS allowed in the forest.  Obtain a fire permit at Blackrock and understand the regulations and closures – but other than that,  enjoy the forest!

Motorized vehicles and mountain bikes ARE allowed on the trails on the Plateau.

Sherman Pass is about 90 miles from Ridgecrest, 2.5 hrs. whether you get there via 9 Mile Road or come up from Kernville.  This makes a great loop trip in summer and fall, but is closed by snow all winter.  Open to snowmobiles! 

6 miles south of Blackrock on the Sherman Pass Road, take the dirt road to the east 2 miles up onto Bald Mountain. Park and hike the rest of the way up to the fire lookout tower. It’s 40 feet up off the rocks, but what a view!! – north to Mt. Langley and Mt. Whitney, west to the Kaweahs, east to Red Mountain, south to the Piutes. Visitors are welcome from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bald Mountain itself has interesting geology – metasedimentary seafloor rocks, not Sierra granite, and as a result is very different botanically. A “botanical reserve” has been set aside to protect the flora here, which includes 5 kinds of pine trees, 2 fir trees, the western juniper, and a host of endemic plants.  You may climb the 40 ft. high fire lookout tower 8-5 and visit with the fire watcher person there. The views from Bald Mountain are outstanding!!  2 miles of narrow dirt road, park at the gate and walk .3 mi. up to the top of the mountain.  No water available.

Pit toilets and drinking water only at the campgrounds and at Blackrock Station.  Pit toilets at some of the meadows, water and toilets at most campgrounds.

Sherman Pass Road is NOT a shortcut (time-wise) to Sequoia National Park, nor can you see Sequoia trees on this road on the Kern Plateau- they’re over on the other side of the Sierra and on Hwy 190. There are nice 20 ft. diameter trees at “Trail of 100 Giants” on Hwy 190 out of Johnsondale, and these roads are open.   Get to Sequoia National Park through Bakersfield and Porterville, NOT this way!

On the west side of Sherman Pass is the Cherry Hill road which leads to even more lovely meadows and campgrounds.

Wilderness Areas – Domelands Wilderness is south of the road, there are oodles of rounded granite domes, lovely meadows, etc. – hiking trails abound, but best in spring or fall.  Watch for rattlesnakes!!  South Sierra Wilderness is north of the road and the PCT goes through it from Kennedy Meadows Campground.  Great meadows, streams, etc.  And the gem of all – the Golden Trout Wilderness area, north of Blackrock roadhead, including Jordan Hot Springs, Rock Creek Lakes, etc.  Great fishing for California’s state fish, the Golden Trout.

Summer: Your puppy is welcome on trails unless marked otherwise – on a leash, of course. Mountain Bikes OK on trails unless marked otherwise. Camping in the forest OK, unless marked otherwise. Fires only in “Fire Safe” areas and only with a permit, but if the weather cooperates, you can do that too. (That’s what makes a forest different from a Park). Enjoy!!

If you see something squishy, or rocky, or nasty or white- STOP before you get stuck!! It’s not going to get any better farther ahead.  Cell phones don’t work. You’re stuck!
BE CAREFUL!! getting AAA up there to haul you out will cost your retirement! (IF you can get them to come at all) Remember that cell phones don’t work. SPOT or the new DeLorme InReach will because they use satellites, not cell phone towers like OnStar.

Did you get a shiny new satellite GPS for Christmas? Or your car has GPS Nav? Don’t rely on it anywhere in the mountains!! (If it’s a cell-phone GPS app, it may not work at all) They are GREAT in cities, but in wild places (ie. anything between cities, and especially in the desert and mountains) the maps can mislead you! They don’t know which roads are closed by snow in winter. They don’t know which roads may be too rocky or 4x4 is needed. Usually they show roads that don’t even exist anymore. PLEASE USE SOME COMMON SENSE WHEN FOLLOWING YOUR GPS out in the wild places! ACTUALLY, TURN IT OFF AND GET A REAL USFS MAP. They don’t tell you to keep driving until you get stuck in deep snow or deep sand. TURN AROUND if it doesn’t seem right!!!!! Actually, DON’T TRUST GPS ROAD MAPS FOR ANY DIRT ROADS!  Get a USFS map that shows the USFS numbering system (the roads don’t have names, just numbers). Blackrock sells maps.
Please remember that cell phones don’t always work well in wild places either- like probably not. Technology is great, BUT…. If cell phones don’t work, your “On Star” and GPS app, or any app, won’t work either unless it’s a satellite connection.   SPOT and Delorme devices that hook to satellites DO work.

FISHING SEASON opens the last Saturday of April until Nov. 16. However, stocking places have changed. See DFG website. South Fork of Kern River, Kennedy Meadows, is among those not being stocked anymore.  Has to do with hybrid Golden Trout.

Hunting Seasons vary – see Cal Fish & Game for dates and permits.  Deer, bear, quail and chuckar, etc.

No motels, no B&B, no rentals of any kind available on the Kern Plateau. Camp overnight, or else head home.  There is a motel on the North Fork road down in the canyon, but that’s it.

Dispersed camping is allowed in the forest. Get a fire permit at Blackrock Station.  Know fire restrictions! They’re tight right now – very, very dry up there!  Might not be able to even have a cook stove or lantern, it’s that bad!


There is gas on the hill at the General Store. . Suggest you fill up at Pearsonville and Kernville…come up the hill with full tanks.    Sorry to repeat that again, but folks come to the Store wanting to rent a motel.  Nope.

Note – Marijuana farms have been found all over the eastern Sierra – even in roadless areas, and in most of the Sierra canyons. Be VERY careful!!  They rounded up a whole bunch in OUR area last July.  egad.


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