By Paul Armes
20.3 miles roundtrip
5108 feet elevation gain
Getting to the trailhead from Kernville: Drive north on Mountain 99 about a mile. Trailhead will be marked in the turnout on the right, just after Camp Owens and before Kern Powerhouse #3. There is a Forest Service sign with trail info and a registry.
This trail is great for tons of different activities like hiking, mountain biking, horse riding and running. We used it to train for Mt. Whitney since it’s about the same length and you gain a lot of elevation, but you’re at 7,000 ft. not 14,000, so you can breathe!!
Trail starts off going uphill for maybe 1/2 mile then you flatten out a little, not too hard— gets the blood flowing. At least for me, the first mile always sucks on any hike, Mile 2 is getting better and by Mile 3 I feel nothing and can go forever haha. Anyway, now you’re on an easy path heading uphill toward the first goal; we’ll call it Gate 2. A little bit after a mile you’ll come to a fork in the trail at the bottom of the hill. Right is longer with less incline, and left is straight up. I’ve never seen the right, but the left is fun and your legs will love it.
After a couple hundred yards you’ll see the gate. This is about 1.3 miles in, I think. This is a turnaround spot for a lot of people. If you want more, keep going. Now you start heading up the creek valley and soon you’ll get to the switchbacks at Mile 2.5. Gets a little bit tougher here but still an easy trail to walk on. At Mile 3 there’s a huge rock and a great view overlooking Cannell Creek. This is a good stopping point before you wrap around the backside and a total of 6 miles!
Now is a good time to talk about hiking poles. I love ’em. Basically, you turn into a 4wd beast— and amazing for your knees going down. Local shops in town carry them.
Moving on to a little after Mile 4, you’ll reach the fork for Powers Peak. Turn right for that, we’ll go over that one next time. Amazing hike that overlooks Kernville. But we’re going left and continuing up toward Cannell Meadow. From here you can see the lake and our valley as you head up. The scenery starts to change as well, getting into that forest mountain look instead of bushes. Running out of room! Lol. You’ll eventually leave our valley to head over the top and come into the amazing Cannell Meadow. You can take this trail longer to Cannell Peak or all the way to Sherman Pass. But the beauty of this trail is you can go as far and make it as tough as you want. There’s a lot more to this trail, so go out and see it!
Remember, Leave No Trace!!