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

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The King of all-mountain rides in the Sierra & a 2014 IMBA Epic.

Cannell Plunge
Airplane views of Lake Isabella, near the top of The Plunge.

Black Diamond

THE STATS:

  • IMBA Epic.
  • 26 miles.
  • 1,900 ft up.
  • 8,000 ft down.
  • Shuttle Ride.

May 2017 Update: The upper trail is still under snow, and Sherman Pass Road is still closed due to snow above 8,000 feet. Cherry Hill Road may open soon, providing lower access.

Cannell Trail

Cannell Meadow Trail photo
Riding through Cannell Meadow.

"The flow and speed on cannell plunge is unreal... I'm blown away every time I ride this trail..." Eric Carter, Pro BMX, Mountain X, Downhill Legend

The Cannell Trail (a.k.a. Cannell Meadow Trail) is a big alpine cross-country ride that ends with a bonus 5,000 foot downhill called "The Plunge."

Most people don't even believe it when they hear that Kernville has a ride with less than 2,000 feet of climbing, but 8,000 feet of total drop - right here in California! Epic.

On the trail...

As you pedal to almost 10,000 feet and eventually drop to 2,600 feet, you'll pass through an amazing variety of ecological zones and an assortment of trail scenery and conditions. The weather and air temperature can also be as diverse as the ride.

Cannell Meadow Trail
Passing by some awesome granite boulders in the Pine Flat area.

Prepare for some steeper high-altitude climbs, a lot of pedalling, and very long rugged downhill sections - sometimes smooth and flowy, sometimes quite rocky and technical.

This ride is remote and often takes riders much longer than they expect. We've seen it turn into an all-day epic for some, and less than 3 hours for hyper mega-lung people with power gel flowing through their veins.

It's almost all singletrack, although you cross a few dirt roads as it traverses along the Kern Plateau.  One of the hardest climbs is in the first few miles of the ride, but it gives way to an rippin' descent. At Big Meadow, most riders depart from the Cannell Trail for an easier climb up the dirt road to the obvious saddle.  For those out of water, there is a spring along the side of the road just above Big Meadow (supposedly no one gets sick).  Keep in mind that half the ride is yet to come: after more climbing, a fast rocky downhill leads riders to the ultra scenic Cannell Meadow. And then there's The Plunge....

Elevation Profile

Cannell Trail Elevation Profile

Cannell Plunge.
Cannell Plunge flowy-ness.

Ride Variations

Its possible to substitute the descent into Big Meadow with a ride down Deadwood Trail to either Cherry Hill Road or farther down into Horse Meadow to ride the Salmon Creek Trails back to Big Meadow. This option adds mileage and additional climbing and descent.

Another option is to ride up to Sherman Peak and back before riding the Cannell Trail. Known as the "bonus," the Sherman Peak Trail ascends near the parking at Sherman Pass.

If you are a road biker or elite cross country racer, the climb up to Sherman Pass Road consistently is voted a top 10 climb in California.

Cannell Trail in the early summer.
Cannell Meadow in the early summer.

About the Pronunciation of "Cannell"

Everyone seems to say something different and asks about the correct pronunciation. Many people who have ridden here throughout the years say "cuh-nell," while most of locals say "Can-uhl."

The USFS District Ranger and USFS Trail manager, who has lived here his entire life, also say "Can-uhl." Either way, it's similar and everyone knows what trail you're talking about!

 

Cannell Trail downhills
One of the many rough downhill sections of trail.
  Cannell Trail in the Snow
This is what happens if you go too early in the season. At 9600 ft.
  Biking Cannell TrailEnroute.

Cannell Trail in the Fall
Fall riding is awesome!

Nearby Activities on the Kern Plateau


Cannell Trail in Decline Magazine
Cannell Trail as featured in Decline Magazine, May 2011 (Full 6-page article here)

Cannell Trail with Big Meadow and Cannell Peak
After the first big descent, riders cruise along Big Meadow with Cannell Peak behind.

Trailheads

one of the meadows on cannell trail
Lushy green in the early summer.

The lower trailhead is located a couple miles north of Kernville on Mtn 99.

The start of the ride is an hour + further up the road (up Mtn 99, then turn right before the Johnsondale Bridge) at Sherman Pass Rd, northeast of Kernville. While at Sherman Pass, don't miss the view across the Sierra to Mt Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous USA.



Be prepared: this ride can take much longer than expected. Many folks have come out in the dark.
Don't Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

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

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Map Details