Pacific Crest Trail to the South Fork of the Kern River
For those with an itch to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), this is a great starter. The moderate trail goes 11 miles from the Kennedy Meadows Campground to a major crossing with the South Fork of the Kern River with a legendary steel bridge. The trail starts at the campground and winds gently downward to the first bridge that crosses the Kern. I'd never seen native lavender before, and was captivated by the lush deep color of the bushes along the trail.
The trail then climbs up through a dramatically burned area filled with wildflowers, crosses the brush-filled Crag Creek before ascending to a saddle with your first peeks at the Sierra Mountains - so close. The trail winds through the shade next to Clover Meadow for several miles, ascends to another saddle, then winds on the east side of Beck Meadow before turning a hill and treating you the beautiful view of the South Fork of the Kern winding through the broad valley with the Sierra Mountain peeking over the hills in the distance. The bridge is hidden until you are right upon it, eclipsed by a ridge of trees which marks the location of the popular campsite. Take off your shoes and have a swim in the shallow warm water as you watch the swallows flit and soar around the bridge. As you enjoy a fire at your campsite, you might even get a chance to chat with one of the many people hiking the PCT and hear the stories of their two month journey to this location.
Take Hwy 395 to Pearsonville. Turn west onto the road marked for Kennedy Meadows. The smooth road climbs steeply for 9 miles, then winds through the high plateau to the Kennedy Meadows Store. Take the signed road north (right ) up to the campground. The trail starts at the back of the campground behind the pit toilet!
The length would make this difficult for the young hiker set, but for a budding backpacker, it might be just the ticket!