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

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Singletrack rolling along the Greenhorn foothills above the Kern River.

Kern Canyon Trail
Feeling the flow on the Kern Canyon Trail.

Black Diamond

THE STATS

From Keyesville:

21 Miles.
2800 feet of climbing.
3500 feet of drop.

One-Way.


From Freeway Ridge Trailhead:

12 Miles.
1600 feet of climbing.
2200 feet of drop.

One-Way.

 

Spring on the Kern Canyon Trail
Spring wildflowers lining the singletrack.

On the trail...

With over 20 miles of fast, flowy, smooth singletrack, the Kern Canyon Trail makes for an awesome cross-country ride.

While enjoying vast mountain views and occasional glimpses of the river, riders will pass some small creeks, meadows and oak groves along this rolling trail.

Several climbs throughout the ride will certainly get the quads burning and the heart pumping.

Although there are several variations of the ride, the longest ride starts from Keyesville (Near Lake Isabella) and roughly contours the rolling oak-covered mountains above the lower Kern River to Delonegha Bridge on Hwy 178.


Kern Canyon Trail Climbing
Reaching the top of the long climb
after the Freeway Bridge Trailhead.
 

The Ride

The ride begins on a section of the Keyesville Classic cross country race course and then splits off to contour the foothills of the Greenhorn Mountains for the next 21 miles. Most of the ride is smooth singletrack with lots of ups and downs, and ends with a nice rolling descent.

If you shuttle (highly recommended) you'll climb a demanding 2800 feet up and drop 3400. Despite the shuttle, keep in mind that this is not a downhill trail, but a very pedally cross-country ride.

For those wanting a shorter ride, the Freeway Ridge Trailhead is a great option and a popular place to start a quality 12 mile ride. Some of the best and most fun singletrack is found in this second half of the trail.

Cooling off after the ride Kern Canyon Trail near Keyesville
Jumping in the lower Kern River after a
hot summer ride.

Riding in reverse up the Kern Canyon
Trail back to Keyesville.


 

Kern Canyon Trail near Badger Gap Trail

Near the Badger Gap Trail split & rest area.

 

When to go

While the trail is ridden year round, some seasons are far more enjoyable.

Kern Canyon Trail goes off in the spring! The dirt is epic, grass green with wildflowers scattered throughout.

The trail also sees a lot of mountain bike traffic in the winter, and the trail conditions are usually good.

Although the trail is still ridden, Summer and Fall can be very hot and exposed. The trail conditions can change for the worse if the cows have been tramping around the drier dirt. And sometimes they leave fresh brown goodies to steam up the trail.

Watch out for both cows and weekend dirt bikers!

Note: Some photos and descriptions are adapted from The Mud Blog.

 

Kern Canyon Trail in the winter Kern Canyon Trail near Greenhorn Creek

Winter riding on the Kern Canyon Trail.

Riding through the limestone from the Greenhorn Creek cave complex.

 


Elevation Profile for lower Kern Canyon Trail (from Freeway Ridge)Lower Kern Canyon Trail

Trailhead

Kern Canyon Trail Snake
Lookout for snakes in the summer!

Kern Canyon Trail is close to Lake Isabella and about 15 minutes south of Kernville.

From Keyesville: The Keyesville entrance is located just north of the town of Lake Isabella. From Hwy 155, go west on Keyesville Road. Drive almost .7 miles and park on the left in the large dirt open area near the restrooms. This is known at the main Keyesville Staging Area. Follow the directions to the Keyesville Classic, and turn RIGHT onto Kern Canyon Trail approximately 3.5 miles from the staging area.

Freeway Bridge Trailhead: The trailhead parking is on the north side of the 178 at Freeway Ridge 4X4 Road. Look for a dirt parking area with an unlocked gate about 3 miles southwest of of Borel Road or 4.5 miles northeast of the Delonegha Bridge.

From the parking area head up the 4x4 road for a couple hundred feet and turn left on the Kern Canyon Trail.

Delonegha Bridge Lower Trailhead: IF you are driving from Bakersfield, the Delonegha Bridge Parking area is 22 miles up canyon from the HWY 184/178 junction. After Hwy 178 widens into a 4-lane freeway, watch for the parking turnoff on the right just before the bridge. Park at the large parking area by the river. The trail is on the other side of the river, so you have to do a little scrambling and cross the bridge.

Dont Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

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

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Map Details