Mountain Bike Rides in the Kern River Valley and Southern Sierra Clear Creek Trail

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Shuttle this in the Fall after rain for a glimpse of MTB Heaven.

After Rain
Dreamy singletrack in the heart of the Piute Mountains.
 

Black Diamond

THE STATS

*12 Miles.
*275 feet of climbing.
*5000 feet of drop.

*Elevation: 8,000ft to 3,000ft
*One Way Shuttle Ride.
(Loop possible on upper section.)
*Start: Piute Mountains
*End:
Havilah
*Warning:
Private Property Issues (see below)

 


Fall on the Clear Creek Trail  

UPDATE!

Fall 2016: Trail is completely clear!


10/29/16: Great trail condition top to bottom.

Only one log down that partially blocks the view of an important turn at Burton Mill Site.

10/31/16 The area received even more rain, not yet sure how the trail was affected...

 

A lucky rider shares nature's fall canvas of colors.    

The Ride

With great dirt in a lush canyon, waterfalls, and a 5,000 foot singletrack descent through a shady forest, Clear Creek Trail is destined to be a mountain bike classic.

Midway down the trail
Riding above Clear Creek; mid-trail.

This loamy trail is simply amazing in the fall after a little rain. Despite Private Property issues, the very long arduous shuttle, and a ridiculous amount of creek crossings, this is one of the best mountain bike trails in the Kern River Sierra.

And there's a bonus: it's well-maintained for such a remote ride.


Cold Springs & Clear Creek Trails

This multi-use (motorized) route actually starts on Cold Springs Trail, which merges into Clear Creek Trail at Brown Meadow.

The initial 3-4 miles are pure fast flowing singletrack, and may remind some bikers of the top mile on Mill Creek Trail. Pure loamy goodness.

As the canyon narrows, the scenery intensifies as the trail becomes more unpredictable. There are a few sudden turns (sometimes abruptly up), and some amazingly steep descents, with fun technical sections above the creek.

Alternating between easy riding in the forest, and riding on the metamorphic and granite banks, the trail encounters 29 creek crossings in the middle section of the ride.

Clear Creek singletrack!

Fast, Fun, Flow...

This presents the greatest challenge of the ride, and it may be tedious for some people.

Many of the crossings are very ridable, but they often have very steep (but short) exits and require a quick dismount. When the creek is low (summer & fall), it's easy to keep your feet dry. It's not recommended to ride this trail in the spring or after a lot of rain (see flash flood photo below).

After a short gradual climb out of the canyon, the trail traverses rolling oak forest and grassy hillsides above a scenic bedrock section of the canyon. It then transforms back into a smooth flowy ride again as it nears Havilah. There are private property issues at the bottom; see below.

Overall, the ride consists of a ton of downhill with very minimal climbing, yet there are countless short steep uphills along the way. Expect to get off your bike a lot, but only for short spurts.

Clear Creek Trail in the Fall Carving Turns on Cold Springs Trail
Left: At one of the many creek crossings. Above: Instant bliss at the start of the ride.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

The Details

Flying down Cold Springs Trail
Flying down Cold Springs Trail, before it turns into Clear Creek Trail.

The route has seen continual use since first gold miners came to the Piutes. Even with a full history of human use, the relatively pristine trail shows minimal scars from logging, fire, and mining.

Most recently it is utilized and maintained by dirt bikers, who ride various loops on the upper half of trail, and some local hikers who use the lower section.

Ride Start

From the intersection of Saddle Springs Road and road 22S18, turn right and start riding down 22S18. (See Trailhead Directions below.) Pass an unmarked singletrack on the right, called Middle Trail, and turn right on the next trail, Cold Springs Trail 33E68. This about 1/4 - 1/3 mile depending on where you parked.

Cold Springs Trail

Shred this super fun trail for about 1.6 miles, where it merges back onto the dirt road for less than 1/4 mile.

Steepness
Descending to the creek on one of the steepest sections of trail encountered.

Soon it arrives at Brown Meadow and the signed Clear Creek Trail, 33E45. The official USFS signs warn "Unmaintained" and "Dead End." The trail ends on private property fenced with barbed wire and no trespassing signs.

Brown Meadow Trailhead
Brown Meadow.

Clear Creek Trail

The adventure begins here! Once you start descending, there is no easy way back up. The awesome singletrack continues down the ever deepening canyon.

Soon,you may notice another trail popping in on the left; that is Brown Peak Trail which is often looped by motos.

Farther down (roughly 2.7 miles into the ride), the unofficial Middle Trail veers off and climbs back up (600+ ft in elevation).

Clear Creek Trail
Some technical riding after passing the Burton Mill trail split.

Burton Mill Split

After riding about 3.3 miles, there is an important split that's easy to miss. A log is blocking the visibility of the main trail which veers left. The majority of dirt bikers seem to turn right here, near the unmarked site of old Burton Mill.

The trail climbs about 500 ft+ to Saddle Springs Rd in less than a mile. This is the best available option to loop the upper section of this ride.

Go left to stay on Clear Creek Trail.

Below this point, the ride is very committing and there is no easy way out of the canyon.

After an abrupt uphill, the trail gradually features steeper and more technical riding. Some of the best scenery is ahead, along with all those creek crossings.

Valley View Turnoff
Mining Equipment. The righthand fork leads to private property at Valley View mine. Clear Creek Trail stays left here.

Valley View Split

At about 5.3 miles or so, the ride comes up on some old mining artifacts and the steep trail to Valley View, the last connector to Saddle Springs Rd. Clear Creek Trail continues to the left.

Above Clear Creek Canyon

The trail eventually rises high above the creek; at roughly 6.7 miles. There is a short pleasant climb and traverse on good trail. Don't miss the views of the granite bedrock water slides are down below. Easy riding through oaks and the grassy slope continues, as the fun factor increases for the rest of the ride.

Lower Clear Creek Trail
Traversing above the Clear Creek canyon.

Private Property Gate

At about 9.3 miles, the trail comes to the private property fence. There is no indication that the property owners are trying to close access here. There is a Forest Service sign attached that says "Please close gate." From this point on, be respectful of private property and leave no trace. There may be active cattle grazing in the area.

The next 2.2 miles of trail is really enjoyable through here!

End of the Ride

Just before the ride ends at Caliente Bodfish Road, at almost 11.5 miles, the trail turns across a hill before it switchbacks down to the flats. It's a good idea to stop here and scout the fence where the original gate and USFS sign posts are (the trail sign is gone, but posts are still standing.) This is where the original trail comes out, and all bikers should exit here and move along.

Lower Trail section on Clear Creek
The lower section of trail.

The main trail seems to disappear right before the fence, and it's best to not have wandering mountain bikers all over the private property. (See photos below and discussion on Private Property below).

At the end of the ride, turn left and bike up the pavement 1/2 mile to the public Havilah Museum and picnic area and celebrate the ride!

Private Property

A previous owner of the land fenced off the access and removed the forest service signs. Barbed wire was installed with plenty of "No Trespassing" signs, and few people used the lower section of trail since. There is a new owner, and there appears to be no new signs or attempts to shut down the trail any further. There seems to be a "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy.

Although the private property section of the trail is not shown on the previous editions of the Kern River Sierra topo map, this is a well established historic route with a very strong case for prescriptive easement.

Private gate  

This is the private property boundary. There is no indication that anyone is trying to block this access here. Please respect the sign and close the gate. There is still plenty of fun trail left to ride!

 

Parts of this trail are marked with triangle tree blazes, the oldest in the Sequoia National Forest. This trail has been utilized during 3 separate centuries.

Clear Creek Trail is featured on official maps and published in several guidebooks, such as John Frank's "Southern Sierra Mountain Bike Trails", "Self Propelled in the Southern Sierra" by J.C. Jenkins, "Exploring the Southern Sierra: West Side" by Ruby Jenkins.


Thoughts

Here are some guidelines that may help reestablish this as a mountain bike trail, or at least keep conflict from happening. (This does not reflect the opinions of the USFS or the landowner, and has no authority whatsoever.)

  • Be discrete! Pass through quickly and quietly.
  • Leave no trace, and don't disturb the barbed wire, fencing or signs.
  • Stay on the original trail only. (See above description).
  • Use the public Havilah Museum and picnic area 1/2 mile up the road to park, rather than out in front of the private property.
  • Don't ask, don't tell.
  • No Motos on private land! Motos should loop back on one of the many connector trails.
Private Property Signs at original trailhead

The end of the trail is here at the original Clear Creek Trailhead in Havilah.

Private Property signs adorn the barbed wire fence. The post on the right used to have the USFS Trailhead sign.

Please do not disturb the fence or anything on private property, which could jeopardize this ride. Be invisible!


Options

  • Ride a loop on the upper section with Saddle Springs Road and Burton Mill Trail, and/or combine with Leibel Peak Trail loop.

Directions & Trailheads

The Lower Trailhead:

Havilah
Havilah. Park here for the end of the ride.

Leave a shuttle car in Havilah at the historic Kern County Courthouse Museum and adjacent picnic area. This is less than 1/2 mile south of the trailhead.

Havilah is 20 miles south of Kernville, and 9 miles South of lake Isabella.

From Lake Isabella, take Lake Isabella drive south and continue on Caliente Bodfish Road to Havilah.

Or if coming from the south, take Borel Rd from Hwy 178, and turn left on Kern Canyon Rd. In Bodfish turn right on Caliente Bodfish Rd, and continue about 7 miles.

The Upper Trailhead:

From Havilah, drive back north on Caliente Bodfish Road 4+ miles, and turn right on Saddle Springs Road. Continue on this very rough dirt road for almost 15 miles and park either at the high point before Road 28S18 or turn right on 28S18 and park on the side of the road.

This takes awhile - at least an hour from Havilah!

Flash Flood on Clear Creek   Shredding Clear Creek Trail
Flash Flood! Fortunately, this came through while we were at the highest point above the creek.
  Clear Creek Trail radness.

 

Don't Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

This trail and optional routes are depicted on the local adventure map:

Amazon.com

Buy Locally

Map Details