Golden Trout Wilderness
Highlights: The hike to Grey Meadow is a moderate to strenuous backpack of 5 miles (one-way) that leads to a beautiful alpine meadow, with a delightful campsite that features picnic tables, outhouses, and a piped-in spring that delivers water just a few feet from camp.
Directions: The drive takes about 2½ hours from Bakersfield.
- Drive up Highway 178 to Lake Isabella and take the Kernville exit.
- Follow the road back over the freeway and then on up to Kernville. Turn left on the road to Johnsondale just after crossing the river bridge on the far side of town.
- Continue along the river then up the hill for 35 miles, passing Johnsondale on the way, and turn right on Lloyd Meadows Road (Forest Service Road 22S82).
- Follow Lloyd Meadows Road for 23 miles to the Jerkey parking lot at the end of the road. Near the beginning of this road you pass Camp Whitsett, a BSA summer camp. Pyles Boys Camp is a few miles before the end of the raod.
Trailhead: The trail begins on the west side of the parking lot and switchbacks steeply for 2 miles to a 4-way trail junction at the top of a long ridge. The trail to the left (west) goes uphill to Lewis Camp, and the trail to the right (east) leads along the ridge to Jug Spring and a stockbridge on the Little Kern River that serves as a gateway to Trout Meadow. Our trail is goes straight across (north) and downhill a steep mile to a stream crossing at Fishcreek. Camp can be made here, but the hardy will continue on. To reach Grey Meadow continue ½ mile or so up a steep hill on the far side of the stream crossing. For another mile, the trail drops down a short hill, flattens out a bit, then passes a couple of small meadows before reaching a fence on the south side of Grey Meadow. A little further, a couple of cabins are encountered at Cow Camp. The Grey Meadow backpacker camp sits at an elevation of 6152 ft about 100 yards past the cabins.
Maps: Camp Nelson and Hockett Peak 7½-minute topographic quadrangles
- Bears are known to frequent Grey Meadow and the usual precautions need to be taken to keep them from stealing your food supplies.
- Please do not wash dishes in the spring that supplies water to the camp, and try to keep the pipe that delivers the water suspended above the mud.
- Water levels are generally high in the spring, and you will probably not be able to continue your backpack in May or June by going north or east of Grey Meadow if the route requires a stream crossing of the Little Kern River.
- A National Forest Service fire permit (free) and Wildernss permit (free) are required (maximum group size is 15 campers). These can be obtained at the Ranger Station in Kernville (760-376-3781).
- There are nice views of the Needles fire lookout perched on a spectacular ridge off to your left, as you climb up the initial hill above the Jerkey parking lot.
- Once on the high ridge above, don't miss the beautiful views of pyramid-shaped Mt. Florence (12,432') on the horizon to the north. The ridge that Mt. Florence straddles is the south boundary of Sequoia National Park, and the obvious pass to the left of the peak is Farewell Gap, a high pass that connects the Golden Trout Wilderness with the Mineral King area of the park.
- A couple of cabins at the south end of the meadow are used by a rancher who leases the meadow to run cattle. One of these structures was built in 1914, and is sometimes used by backcountry rangers in the summer. A side trail passes between the cabins and leads east 3 miles to the stockbridge on the Little Kern River. You can use this trail to join the Grey Meadow Backpack with the Jug Spring/Little Kern Stockbridge backpack to make a 13-mile loop.
- Just north of the picnic tables, on the north side of a small creek, there is a trail junction. One trail leads east along the edge of the meadow about ¾ mile to the Little Kern River. The other trail heads north about 1½ miles to a nice campsite at the junction of the Little Kern River with Alpine Creek.