Sherman’s Pass Road: J41 Mojave to Kern River, Sequoia Forest Rd# 22S05
Sequoia National Forest
This paved Southern Sierra highway (aka J41, off US 395) is a paved route thru the eastern portion of the Sequoia National Forest. A curvy mountain corridor which crosses over the South Fork of the Kern River, and skirts the Domeland Wilderness & the South Sierra Wilderness. East side of Sequoia National Forest, the Kern Plateau meets the Mojave desert w/ BLM Camping & Inyo National Forest.
The Sherman route connects the Kern River, near Fairview to Kennedy Meadows & closes for snow in winter months. There are plenty seasonal creeks, meadows & forests in this region. Elevations range from 4000′ near the Kern River to 8000′ at Black Rock Station.
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.
A decent list of California Lakes, Reservoirs and Ponds, in the Sequoia region of the Southern Sierra mountains ….spanning from the Kern River to the Kings River. Some are well known recreation lakes with boating available, while others are secluded lakes or small ponds. Enjoy nature – it’s free!
All the hikes listed here are to super remote alpine lakes w/ granite mountain peaks all around. The Sierra gems are located in the steep, granite, high altitudes, that require hours of strenuous hiking and backcountry skills. These are not paved granny trails by any means. They are the total opposite.
Long, steep trails, with the freshest thin air. Know your physical conditioning (or lack thereof) before taking on a 10 mile day hike. It will wipe you out!!! Backpackers should obtain a wilderness permit before venturing overnight into the back country.
Southern Sierra mountains and the Giant Sequoias, inside Sequoia National Forest. In the Camp Nelson area, south of the busy National Parks.
GIANT SEQUOIA HWY 190 – Western Divide Highway is the 7000′ ridge line that separates the Upper Kern River from the great Central Valley to the west.
From the San Joaquin Valley – get to Porterville or Springville, continue up the mountain on the main highway, to the paved road turn off (Road #22S94) on the right side of the highway;
After Pierpoint Springs and before Camp Nelson. This quiet campground is located off the highway more than a mile, so traffic noise will not be an issue for the light sleepers. (Unless of course, a loud 4×4 rig screams by at midnight headed to the backwoods, or a horse trailer cruises by at 5am). This camp does border the Tule River Indian Reservation.
Western Divide Highway 190
Giant Sequoia Campground
Sequoia Road #22S94 is a loop road leading to many forest meadows, groves, primitive camps and trailhead destinations. Bear Creek and Coy Creek flow near CoyFlat Campground, which both merge north into the Middle Fork of the Tule River @ the highway.
Belknap Grove is nearby, with Black Mountain Grove a few miles further on the dirt back road (Road #22S94) as it continues to Bateman Ridge and Road #21S12, near the Tule Indian lands. Mountain biking, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking all great in this region.
22S94 continues in forest to 8500′ elevation @ Windy Gap, where the Summit National Recreation Trail intersects road. Popular trail among horse riders. 22S94 connects back to Western Divide Highway, in between Ponderosa and Trail of 100 Giants. Awesome loop drive for those seeking seclusion on the dirt roads, away from the tourists and RVs. Call ahead to make sure that the dirt roads and gates are open, before you plan a weekend vacation around it.
• Elevation: 5,000′
• Number of Sites: 19
• Sites Available: First come, First serve
• Vehicle Accessibility: Vehicle 22 ft. max.
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Water: Piped; Seasonal creek nearby
• Toilet: Vault
• Season: Closed for winter months
• Fee: Yes
• Operated By: National Forest Service
• Closest Town: Camp Nelson, Califronia
Sequoia National Forest
Giant Sequoia Ranger Station
Due to the spread of invasive insects, firewood from outside the area is not permitted. Help protect our forests by purchasing or collecting firewood at or near your camping destination and burning it on-site.
East of Lake Isabella and west of Walker Pass, there is a small community called Canebrake along Highway 178 Canebrake Road, a graded dirt road climbs up into pinyon pine forests. Lamont Peak (aka Lamont Pinnacles) is a decent hike & rock climbers dig it too.
Chimney Creek Campground is along the main road and has RV access (28′ max), for the motorhomes who do not mind a little dirt road driving. Easy trail access to numerous area hikes. The PCT is routed close by.
Long Valley Campground is tucked way back in the boonies with trailhead leading into the granite Dome Lands; Fishing and river access to the South Fork of the Kern.
Long Valley Loop Road circles the Chimney Peak Wilderness, which skirts the Domeland Wilderness. THE LOOP is washed out and ROAD is NOW CLOSED in one portion. See BLM web site for up to date info.
Just south of Olancha, off US Hwy 395 is a dirt road that takes you 5 miles up to an oak canyon lined with rocks. There are several primitive camp sites along the Walker Creek. A high clearance vehicle may be needed in some sections, but 4×4 is not required. Small RVs might attempt this, but if the first mile frightens you, turn around while you’re ahead.
This private, shaded, creek area is perfect for those traveling Highway 395, looking for a quick and free camp spot near Olancha, CA
Shady picnic or camp spots above 4000′ elevation.
Hiking trails at the end of the road lead deep into the mountains. One on the right takes you to waterfalls. The trail on the left will take you to meet up with the Sage Flat Trail, which leads up to Olancha Pass, Summit Meadows & a small lake, in the South Sierra Wilderness. The Pacific Crest Trail runs the ridges here, just west of Monache Meadows, which is at 8000′ elevation, way above here – up on top.
US 395 highway – the dirt road turn off is very close to a gas station, and it maybe be signed, or not. The gas stop may be in business, or perhaps not. This is rural California, wide open desert and things come and go quickly.
On a good topo map, located Olancha Creek and Summit Creek to the south. Walker Creek is the canyon in between those two, just so know where you are going and can visualize. This one is an easy-to-miss dirt road turn off – especially if you are going over 50 mph.
Open Camping in Sequoia National Forest – Forest Road Camping
Seeking secluded campsites? This is one of the best areas to camp in pine forest w/ privacy, relatively close to Southern California. Plenty of primitive car camping on the dirt roads throughout this whole Sequoia & Kern River area.
No facilities. No picnic tables, no toilet, no fees. Just a rock campfire ring & a clearing. Previously used sites have already been established usually near streams. Try to use these first, if at all possible. It takes a bit of exploring but you will find the perfect spot. Don’t even attempt to try to find these kinds of camp spots at night. They are often buried deep in the forest with no visible markers what-so-ever. But in trade, you will be lulled to sleep by your own private mini waterfall & no RV generators. Many of these back roads are closed & gated during winter months due to snow & rock slides.
No amenities are available in this neck of the woods, but plenty of seclusion & wilderness. Check official Wilderness rules for proper knowledge of the area restrictions. You must get a free camp fire permit from the ranger station in order to build a fire outside of a developed campground. A large shovel, plus bucket w/ water are a bare minimum for the privilege of camping like this. Certain dry seasons (summers into autumn) have very strict camp fire restrictions. Check with the ranger to see the latest on building campfires on the back roads.
A Sequoia Forest Service Map is highly advised for this area. There are so many dirt roads for dispersed primitive camping on the back roads. Due to weather & erosion, some roads may require 4×4 or high clearance, so come prepared with a plan B.
Camping Checklist to make sure you’ll have what you need. The drive up from the Los Angeles area averages 3-4 hours and is well worth the trip. Once you’ve found that perfect spot, take detailed note of it, for the next time you visit the area. Then, you will be able to get there easily in the middle of the night, if need be.
Backroad Camping Sequoia: Follow the forest road numbers with your Sequoia map to discover amazing back road camping options. Your own private stream or meadow. Secluded campsites with your own mini waterfall.
If you are looking for more than a leisurely Sunday drive or a self guided back road tour, listed below are areas to “tear it up” on dirt w/ your motor bikes, machines & off road toys. Camping is common in certain spots.
CAMPS: Please be respectful of other campers and hikers; do not ride circles around camp sites, stir up dust or rev up engines at night. Choose a camp away from main roadways and access trails for a more enjoyable experience. Equestrian campers often use these same areas for meadow camping and horseback riding. A campfire permit is required.
Just looking for some dirt roads to explore – at a more leisurely pace?
Check out DanaMite’s Sequoia Back Roads list, where you can find awesome unpaved roads throughout the Sequoia Forest & Kern Canyon region. Some of these secluded routes lead to great primitive camping sites, waterfalls, fishing holes, or amazing view points, but are not necessarily popular ATV routes.
Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the right fork off the main highway, which goes deep into Kern River Gorge. This narrow & winding paved road skirts the Upper Kern River Gorge & the impressive Rincon Fault. Numerous primitive camp site can be found on dirt roads off this paved route. The pavement dead ends at Jerky Meadow trail head, which accesses the Golden Trout Wilderness & the Great Western Divide. Backpackers can get to the high country Sierra Nevada & Mineral King in Sequoia National Park from these trails.
Boy Scout Camp Whitsett is one of the first places you pass, near Sentinel Peak.
The Western Divide Hwy runs parallel to road 22S82; way up above it @ 7000′ elevation – with destinations like Dome Rock & the Needles (2 very cool granite features) that overlook this Kern Gorge. The small community of Ponderosa, CA is also up there, along with the quaking aspen groves & the Trail of 100 Giants. Forest Rd# 22S02 connects paved route 22S82 to the Giant Sequoia highway above.
There are many primitive camp areas way above Kern River Gorge – all located on the right side of this road 22S82. Look for small signs for CAMP AREA #1-6. Camps 1-3 are great for RV campers with creeks & dense forests. Long Meadow Creek is one of the first of many streams, you will cross as driving this paved, winding, canyon route. Camp areas #4, 5, & 6 are the best bet for seclusion, plus awesome hiking trails to falls, granite pools & the impressive Kern gorge. Swimming holes are plentiful. Fishing can be decent at times. Many waterfalls can be found in this region as the tributary streams fall towards the deep granite gorge in the Sierra Nevada range. All roads off of 22S82 are dirt roads & most are passenger car accessible. Wetter months could be challenging. Some routes back here are considered to be 4×4 routes tho, so know your vehicles limitations. High clearance is needed to reach some camp sites. Summers can be busy.
This area was burnt from recent wildfires in 2002-2005, but the primitive, dispersed campsites near the streams are full of vegetation & making a nice comeback. Alder Creek runs down from the Sequoias, into Dry Meadow Creek nearby.
Lower Peppermint Campground @ 5300′ elevation, on the west side of the road, is the only developed camp ground on this main forest road. Lower Peppermint has 17 spots, piped water, & picnic tables. Peppermint Meadows & Peppermint Creek are adjacent to the camp area.
Lloyd Meadows @ Sequoia Forest Road# 20S67 – is the Forks of the Kern Trailhead & the dirt road that accesses it, is very popular among equestrian campers. Freeman Creek joins Lloyd Meadows Creek near Pyles Camp. There is a small developed campground called “Forks of the Kern”. Steep trail leads down to the granite gorge where Little Kern River meets the main Kern River; Rattlesnake Creek & Ninemile Creek also join the Kern River in this 10 mile stretch. Kern Hot Springs requires a backpacking trip.
Southern Sierra Nevada Mountain / Domeland / Dome Lands
Kern Plateau, Sequoia National Forest
Dome Land Wilderness
55 miles of trails (hiking & horseback)
Located at the southern end of the Kern Plateau about 20 miles east of Kernville, granite domes give this area its name. Domeland Wilderness is a unique geologic area with semi-arid to arid mountainous regions. Elevations ranging from 3,000′ to 9,730′ – it is surrounded by National Forest, where the Sierra mountains meet the North Mojave Desert. The Wilderness is the southernmost habitat for the Golden Trout. The South Fork of the Kern and tributary streams attract many fishermen. Vegetation is mostly mixed conifer and piñon (pinyon pine).
The Domeland Wilderness is located at the southern end of the Kern Plateau. This land was first protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964 as a 62,695 acre wilderness and was later expanded to 130,081 acres in 1984 to include the delicate transition ecosystems that meet to the east, south, and north of the original wilderness. These new additions, now jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Sequoia National Forest, are rugged and dry.
Though it is considered within the Sierra range, the Domeland Wilderness includes the overlap of several ecosystems to form unique plant and animal communities. The banks of the South Fork of the Kern River offer important riparian habitats of cottonwoods and meadows which stand in sharp contrast against the characteristic smooth domes and bold granite outcroppings. Domes that range from the size of a cottage to football fields across and spear-like jagged spires can be found in the Domeland. This range is one of the driest in the Sierra with the semi-arid mountains of the north and east crumbling into desert.
East side access near Rockhouse Meadow and at the Long Valley Campground (BLM). Access is via Nine Mile Canyon Road (J41) from US Highway 395 or Chimney Peak Road (graded dirt road) via State Highway 178 , the main route that passes Lake Isabella.
West side trailheads are at Big Meadow and Taylor Meadow. Two trails from Big Meadow can be reached from Kernville via Tulare County Road M99, Sherman Pass, and Cherry Hill Roads. Leading to Manter Meadow, the upper Big Meadow Trail is a rugged hike while the lower Big Meadow Trail follows more gentle terrain. The trail from Taylor Meadow (southeast of Big Meadow) also leads to Manter Meadow. North side access is available from the Blackrock/ Sherman Pass Road via the Dark Canyon and Woodpecker trails.
Manter Meadow is popular along with other camp sites located at Little Manter Meadow, Woodpecker Meadow, Rockhouse Meadow, and in the Bartolas Country at the south end of the Wilderness.