Sequoia National Forest Campgrounds
Kern River, Southern Sierra Nevada
All the developed campgrounds listed below charge an overnight fee. Some are open year round, while others close for winter. Few are walking distance to the market, some may have piped running water, and garbage collection. Most have paved loop driveways and can accommodate large RVs. All campgrounds have bathroom facilities.
No day use parking lot inside the campgrounds. Park outside the camping grounds for recreation: fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting or wildflowers.
This entire canyon is dedicated to outdoor recreation w/ very few residential streets. Southern Sierra Nevada mountains – the whole Kern River area draws a lot of traffic from its proximity to Southern California.
The Mt Pinos Recreation Area is located on the border of Southern and Central California, inside Los Padres National Forest. After passing Frazier Park, the winding, paved, mountain road starts atop Cuddy Valley and is approximately 12 miles from Interstate 5 @ Tejon Pass. The 8831′ peak is the tallest in Kern County and is a popular spot for both summer and winter recreation: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking. The snow gates often close during heavy snow.
Mount Pinos Road starts atop Cuddy Valley Rd, at the “Y” – where it intersects with Mil Potrero Highway, which heads out to Pine Mountain Club, California.
One mile up the Mount Pinos route, you will find McGill trailhead on the right side (it is popular w/ mountain bikers) and then the first snow gate at Burbank Rd. Another 4 miles up hill, you come to the only set of dirt roads accessible on this range. A left turn will take you winding thru pine forest to the valley below. 4×4 is not required, but a National Forest map could be very handy. Unfortunately all the private properties at the bottom have locked gates & no thru access to Cuddy Valley is allowed. Although it is an awesome drive to just go exploring in the woods, there is no way out (once you get down the hill), so you must return the same way you came.
Back on the main route, shortly after the dirt roads is McGill Campground on the right side & another snow gate. In another mile and a half you will reach Mt Pinos Campground on the left side; the entrance is easy to miss. From here you are less than 2 miles from the end of the main road.
Mountain Bike, Hike, Backpack, Camp, XC Ski, Snow Sled
Darkest Skies for Stargazing in Southern California
The huge paved parking lot is the dead end (2 miles from the peak of Pinos) – very popular with astronomers, mountain bikers, plus the families and snow sledders in winter (if the gates are open). A National Ski Patrol’s Nordic Base, the only building you will see up this way. At 8300′ elevation, the large parking area is perfect overnight spot for amateur astronomers, so be considerate when visiting night. New moon (no moon) weekends APR-OCT are optimal viewing months. In busy summer months you can often find motorhome campers all set up with expensive equipment tracking the heavens all night long. Please be respectful of their hobby & eyes; Turn off headlights when you approach the parking area at night.
ROAD CONDITIONS to Mount Pinos, call the rangers 661-245-3731
Pinos – Peak to Peak Hike
The trailhead for Pinos Summit starts at this parking lot. It is a 2 mile moderate, but steep hike on an old fire road. The neighboring peak to the west is called Mount Abel @ 8286′ elevation (aka Cerro Noroeste). The infamous peak to peak hike along the ridge line from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel is 6.5 miles one way – and very popular in summer months. This hike requires 4-6 hours & a car shuttle should be arranged in advance. The Chumash Wilderness sits between Mount Pinos and the tiny community of Pine Mountain, which can be seen below on many places along the hike.
There are 3 developed campgrounds in the Mount Pinos Recreation Area:
A little bit of high altitude, alpine forests in Southern Cal. Mount Pinos campgrounds are the ones on the way up to Mt Pinos 8831′ on the paved route to the top parking lot, Mount Pinos Road. Only 2 campgrounds take reservations & can be busy in summer months. Chula Vista Camp (at the top parking lot, short walk on trail) has an amazing wildflower meadow w/ group camp area. Drum circles are common on summer weekends.
sledding & snow play
Mount Pinos parking lot is well known among RVers, astronomers & cross country skiers. If the 2 snow gates are open, you’ll find RVs camping out here until winter officially starts. The peak to peak trail from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel 8243′ starts at this parking area & trail head. Cool ski hut that no Forest Personnel every seems to be operating. Portable toilets available.
In the mid-winter, snow is almost guaranteed up here. Families & sledders flock to this region for snow play causing major traffic jams & parking problems. On the busiest of weekends w/ a recent snow storm, you may find several miles of vehicles, backed up from Pinos to the freeway (causing 10 miles of traffic jam in the mountains). It is not uncommon to see CHP managing traffic flow on the weekend. Snow play areas are located at the top on Pinos, if the gates are open.
If not the “Y” – where Cuddy Valley meets Mil Potrero Hwy. is the main snow-play destination. This is a very busy intersection at all times of the year, as it is the main route entering Pine Mountain Club, located 5 miles to the west. Be considerate! Do not litter and please park OFF THE PAVEMENT; keep kiddies, sleds & BBQs out of the road ways.
The pinyon pine forests surrounding Mount Pinos Recreation Area is Los Padres National Forest, where there is every kinda camping imaginable. Outdoor resorts such as Pine Mountain Club & Mil Potrero Campground all the way over to rugged backpacking, or back road motorcycle 4×4 camps – with maybe one camp fire ring (still intact). Windwolves Preserve, Quatal Canyon, Cerro Noroeste, Lockwood & Cuyama Valley.
Frazier Park and neighboring towns, like freeway-close Lebec and Gorman, is where the Los Angeles hills meet the Kern County mountains. Mojave Desert meets to Coastal Range. EXIT I-5 @ Tejon Pass (elev 4144′)
Wildflower hills, seasonal creeks, forested peaks, high desert canyons. Bike trails, hike trails, off road routes. High elevation backpacking, hang gliding, mountain biking and camping in every direction.
High desert washes, oak creeks, pinyon pine forests, mountain meadows and numerous peaks – Frazier Peak, Reyes Peak, Alamo Mountain, Mount Pinos, Mount Abel (Cerro Noroeste) and north facing San Emigdio ridge.
Many dirt roads are gated seasonally for wet weather or snow. Call rangers to find out which routes are open before you plan your weekend. Or have a plan B and C camp site ready if route is closed. Flashfloods, thunderstorms, and erosion means you may all-of-a-sudden need to use your 4WD. This is the mountains after all. UNpredictable weather is common.
Sherman’s Pass, Sequoia National Forest
Big Meadow borders Dome Land Wilderness
in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains
There are many large and gorgeous meadows inside Sequoia National Forest, but none compare in ‘grandeur’ to this southern Sierra public pasture. BIG MEADOW KERN
Find your way north of Kernville and the river really comes into view. Up close, right there! Stop, get out of the vehicle for a stretch break and breathe; take it all in. This is only the start of the adventure. Gorgeous Big Meadow is located up on the Kern Plateau, 3000′ above the river on the eastern ridges. Only accessible half the year due to snow, this meadow is a must see for those exploring the eastern side of the Kern River.
Sherman’s Pass Road #22S05 is a hard right turn after the Johnsondale Bridge. It is well signed and still easy to miss. Climb out of the dryness and into the dense forests and meadows of higher altitudes. Driving this southern Sierra-crossing route, Sherman’s Pass Rd. will require all of your concentration. Steep, curvy road without guard rails. Plus epic, scenic views (NOT to die for).
At this point – Rock slides, snow gates and road closure are typical in winter months. Check w/ rangers in Kernville about road conditions (before you head up this way).
The partially paved road will lead south a few miles, then becomes GRADED DIRT and ventures another 15+ miles – way, way out into dead-end territories. Not one road connects down to Lake Isabella!
Spur roads (all one lane, dirt roads) lead out to various places like – Cherry Hill, Big Meadow, Horse Meadow Campground, Dome Land Wilderness Trailheads, Manter Meadow, Salmon Creek Falls, Cannel Meadows, dozens of trails and spurs. Plenty of primitive camping back in these forest areas. A high clearance rig may be required the further back you go. Mud and snow are quite common in spring and fall.
BIG MEADOW is a favorite camp area among –
equestrian (horse campers)
Or perhaps this is not the Big Meadow near Sequoia that you are seeking. The scenic, giant, public horse pasture listed above is not to be confused with #14S11 Big Meadows Road, also in National Forest land, located in between popular Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. (100 miles north of here)
Terrain consists of high mountain peaks, badlands of Quatal Canyon Wash & Lockwood Valley; Steep slopes of forests, rock outcroppings, sparse forest areas, on border of Kern County & Ventura County. This area is sacred to the native California Chumash tribe.
The Peak to Peak Hike is a 7 mile, high elevation, ridge line day hike that traversed 2 of the tallest peaks in Kern County – Mt Pinos (elevation 8831′) and Mt Abel (8286′). Day hikes, equestrian trails, backpacking, mountain biking areas nearby. Steep, granite, chaparral, lightly forested w/ ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. From this ridge trail you have a 360 degree view over the entire region. The cabin community of Pine Mountain Club is to the north side (and IF the skies are really clear, you can see the Sierra Nevada mountain range too); Lockwood Valley & Ozena Valley are located to the south; Cuyama Valley to the west and the Tejon Pass w/ Frazier Park to the east.
Off road use 4×4, dirt bikes, ATVs, and quads are common in Quatal Canyon, Apache Canyon, East Dry Canyon leading up to the wilderness edge. Rangers will ticket if they find you on the Chumash side of Quatal wash. The secluded yet inviting, wide, white sandy washes are just too tempting for some bad boys.
Chumash trailheads are located –
about a mile before Camp-O-Alto Campground (Mount Abel)
along lower end of Quatal Canyon Wash (OHV areas parallel)
Tejon is the largest and oldest privately owned ranch land in California. It spans from the northern slopes of the great central valley to the tops of the oak sided mountains. The Tejon Pass 4144′ elevation, is Interstate 5. The golden state freeway zooms by connecting north Los Angeles to the Central Valley…. at 80mph. Watch for CHP near here. It’s easy to go down hill at 90 and not even realize it.
Angeles National Forest is on the east side of the freeway w/ Castiac Lake and Los PadresNational Forest is on the west side, with Pyramid Lake. Back roads camping and total seclusion is prime pickins in this region, if you have a decent map and are willing to drive a little
Family campgrounds, RV astronomy sites, 4×4 camps on dirt roads, off road parks, walk in campground to alpine meadows, ridge line forest camps, backpacking, horsepacking, mountain biking, hiking. Numerous campgrounds can easily be found by driving 30 minutes from the “Frazier Park Mountain Road” exit off the freeway. Most folks aim for Mount Pinos, but the whole Los Padres forest is devine.
The fort location was established by the U.S. Army in 1854 and was designed to protect Native Americans. Restored adobes and museum feature exhibits on military life and local history. They also hold living history events performed by volunteers in costume. The park has a number of 400 year-old valley oak trees. Mister Peter Lebeck was killed by a grizzly here and there is even a tree to prove it.
Tejon Industrial Complex: This is the first large scale development in a master planned laid out by the privately owned Tejon Ranch Corporation. Another trucker stop on the opposite side of the freeway is already underway. In-N-Out Burger, Starbucks, McDonalds, IKEA distribution center, gasoline @ the bottom of the Grapevine. 30 miles south of Bakersfield & just down the hill from Lebec.