Sierra Nevada Adventures - Golden Trout Loop

in hiking •  last year  (edited)


Welcome back to California Mountain Adventures!

This next adventure is an awesome backpacking trip in the Golden Trout Wilderness in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains!


Coming along on this trip was my mom and my two kiddos (my dogs)! We drove up route 395 and then up 9 Mile Canyon road. We headed up into the mountains passed Kennedy Meadows all the way to the Blackrock trailhead where we began our adventure. The hike started through thick forest and after a few miles it opened up to beautiful Casa Vieja meadow. We made our way around the meadow checking out all the grazing cattle along the way. From there we headed north on the trail to Lost Trout creek, Long Canyon creek, and then Beer Keg meadow where we stopped and took our lunch. From there it was another easy 4 miles to our destination for the day, Redrock Meadows. We got there and scoped it all out and found a perfect spot to setup our first camp.

Small Meadows along the start of the trail

Grazing cattle at Casa Vieja Meadow

Hiking around Casa Vieja

Crossing Long Canyon Creek

Break time at Beer Keg Meadow

Views from the trail

The rock outcrop known as "Indian Head" which towers over Redrock Meadows

Old cabin ruins

Exploring Redrock Meadows

Redrock creek

Our first camp

Cotton candy sunset

Early the next morning, before packing up, we decided to make the short but fun class 3-4 climb up onto the Indian Head! After enjoying the view we headed back down to the meadow and packed up camp. From there we began the steep climb up to Toowa pass. This section was full of huge Red Firs which provided nice shade cover for the climb. Once up on the pass we dropped most our gear minus a small day pack and climbed cross country up above the tree line to the summit of Kern Peak(11,510') the highest point of our trip!!

Climbing up Indian Head

Mom standing on Indian Head

Views from near Toowa pass, with Indian Head in the lower left

Approaching Kern Peak

Leaving the trees

Views from the summit of Kern Peak including ruins from the old fire lookout

Looking north from Kern Peak, overlooking many of the awesome places we'll be exploring over the next couple days

Looking East from Kern peak, with Olancha peak towering over Templeton mountain and Templeton meadows, the second largest meadow in the Sierra Nevada

After enjoying all the amazing views from the summit we started our decent back to Toowa pass. We picked up all our gear and headed down the other side of the pass. After a couple steep miles we arrived at Templeton meadows and the South fork of the Kern River. We found a nice spot and got camp setup. Then I was off to explore the meadow to try some trout fishing before dark!

Descending from the peak

View of Olancha peak from the north side of Toowa pass

Arriving at Templeton Meadows

Templeton mountain sits in the center of the massive Templeton meadow

Exploring the meadow

Evening in the meadow

The next day we headed north to Ramshaw meadow. Another huge meadow. Here we turned east and headed along the south side of the meadow. Eventually leaving the South Fork Kern drainage and entering the Golden Trout creek drainage. We dropped into the drainage and pretty quick we arrived at the Malpais volcanic field. We got to Groundhog meadow and then dropped our gear there to make the climb up to the top of Cinder Cone. Which as the name implies is a huge cinder cone caused by volcanic activity in the area.

Sunrise at Templeton Meadows

Pup getting a drink at Ramshaw meadow

Overlooking Ramshaw meadow

Kern peak from Ramshaw meadow


Climbing Cinder Cone

On top of Cinder Cone

Overlooking Volcano meadow from Cinder Cone

Mom checking the map while we rest on top, Kern peak towering over us in the background

After a nice break to enjoy the view we headed back down Cinder Cone across the Malpais and back to the trail. We picked up our gear and continued down the trail along the northern edge of Malpais to Little Whitney meadow where we stopped and made camp. Then I headed out for some trout fishing in Golden Trout creek. Golden trout creek is actually quite special. It's the only place where you can find pure native Golden trout. The 3 massive tiers of Volcano falls down on the lower parts of the creek have kept any other trout species from being able to get upstream to interbreed with them. So while they usually aren't very big, it was really special to get to see these beautiful and rare fish.

Golden Trout Creek

Little Whitney Meadow

Little Whitney Meadow

Little Whitney Meadow

Native Golden Trout

Native Golden Trout

The next morning we packed up and headed down the trail through the last of the Malpais volcanic fields, across the natural bridge, and down to Volcano falls. We dropped down off the trail to get some better views of the falls. After checking out all the falls, we continued down into Kern canyon all the way to the bottom at the Kern river. We crossed the river on the bridge there and headed down river passed Kern lake to Little Kern lake where we stopped and setup camp. There was a great spot to camp by the lake and not far from that was a 20ft tall rock at the edge of the lake which was perfect for jumping off into the lake. After doing some swimming I headed out again for some trout fishing around the lake and in the river.

Views from the upper part of the trail

Upper Volcano falls

Middle Volcano falls

Lower Volcano falls(bottom right)

Passing a Columnar Basalt outcrop

Tower Rock

Crossing the Kern River

Kern river

Kern river

Kern lake

Camping at Little Kern lake

Rainbow trout from the river

Sunset at Little Kern lake

The next day we continued down river, down the Devils Staircase and across Grasshopper flat to the Hole in the Ground junction. There we dropped our packs and made the side trip a couple miles down to check out Hole in the Ground, an equestrian camp by a nice swimming hole in the river. We took a little break there and then headed back up to the junction and picked up our packs. From there we began to climb up away from the river around the southern tip of the Great Western Divide through Willow meadow to Trout meadows. It took us awhile to find a spot to camp there, but we finally found a really nice spot on the southeastern side of the meadow. There are also some small cabins by the meadow that were being used by some equestrians who were letting their beautiful horses graze out in the meadow.

Kern river by Hole in the Ground

Looking up Kern Canyon

Willow meadow

Trout meadows

The cabins at Trout meadows

Horses in the meadow

Horses in the meadow

The next day we had a pretty easy day. We got up and hit the trail. From the meadow we climbed up over Flatiron ridge and then dropped all the way back down to the Kern river at Kern flats. From there we headed up river to the equestrian camp at Nine Mile creek. We got there early in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day swimming, fishing, and just relaxing by the river. And no equestrians came to use the camp so we had the place all to ourselves!

The horses in Trout meadow in the morning

Hiking through big Incense Cedars on Flatiron ridge

Back at the Kern river

Hiking up the Kern river

Equestrian camp on the Kern river by Nine Mile creek


In the morning before packing up we decided to spend the morning exploring up the river to the 'Falls of the Kern' where the whole Kern river roars over a 40 foot falls!! We explored all around this really impressive section of the river before heading back. Once back from our morning excursion we packed up camp and headed up Nine Mile creek.

Overlooking Kern Canyon in the morning

Bedrock mortars

Kern river above the falls

Looking off the Falls of the Kern

Kern river

Kern river

Nine Mile creek also had some awesome waterfalls for us. We climbed up passed the 60 foot lower falls, crossed the creek and climbed up a bunch of switchbacks over Soda Flats to the second creek crossing. But before crossing we made another side trip down stream to the upper falls which dramatically drops 200 feet into a deep gorge! After taking a break to enjoy the falls we continued up the trail to Jordan Hot Springs. We found a spot by the springs to setup our final camp of the trip. We explored the meadows and checked out all the cool old cabins and stuff from the old resort that used to exist at Jordan Hot springs. Then we spent the rest of the day soaking in the hot springs talking about what an awesome trip this was!

Lower Nine Mile Falls

Soda flats

Crossing Nine Mile creek

Upper Nine Mile falls

Approaching Jordan Hot springs

Old Cabins at Jordan Hot springs

Old Cabins at Jordan Hot springs

Old Cabins at Jordan Hot springs

Old Cabins at Jordan Hot springs

Meadows around Jordan Hot springs

Hot springs

Hot springs

Hot tub

Our final camp of the trip

Sunset glow above the hot tub

Senset from the hot tub

This was our final day of the trip. Bittersweet as expected. We packed up our gear and headed up Nine Mile creek, crossing multiple times before arriving back at Casa Vieja meadows! No cows there this time. From there it was just a few more miles back out to the Blackrock trailhead where we began this trip a week earlier!

Hiking up Nine Mile creek

Some interesting fungi

Back at Casa Vieja Meadows




*All photos by @derekrichardson

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Hiya, just swinging by to let you know you're being featured in today's Travel Digest #315. Please drop by to check out all the rest of today's great posts and consider upvoting the Travel Digest if you like what we're doing.

Thanks @steemitworldmap! I'll go check it out right now and give it a resteem. You know I already upvote EVERY travel digest. lol. I love you guys!

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That was a great trip! one of my favorites and we didn't get snowed on, ha ha.
Looking forward to many more fabulous back country trips with you, my son. Age is only a number it how you take care of the body that maters. I'm still hiking with strong hiker friends 10-15 years older then me.

Wow, that's California?? Amazingly beautiful.... thank you for sharing.

Yep! A lot of people think California is all just like Hollywood, but the Sierra Nevada is a whole other world!

This trip looks incredible! Great pictures... Hot springs at the end, a great way to soak it all out too. Doggies also help carry a few things :)

Thanks! Ya, when I planned the trip I knew the hot springs would be a perfect way to end the trip. Soak our muscles after all the hiking. And the doggies had a blast!

WHAT a great hike!
I especially loved the old cabin at Jordan Hot springs! That would be a cool place to spend a weekend off-grid.

Thanks @goldendawne! It was a great one. All the old cabins and artifacts from the old resort at Jordan was so dang cool. I could just imagine how cool it must have been 100 years ago when it was in full swing.

Hi derekrichardson,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

Whoohoo! Winner winner trout for dinner! lol. Thanks @curie. Thats to cool!

Great adventure indeed!
Lots of beautiful views.
Thanks for sharing pictures!

Was that a 1 day hike? I guess I didn't read fully the text and got excited scrolling down with those beautiful photos. lol

Thanks @ronel! Haha, nah. It was a 7 day trip. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

Really enjoyed watching the photos. Much more in the actual site definitely.
I was actually suppose to say that was a week hike but I just leave my comment and ignore editing it lol
Anyways, hoping to see more photos on your next adventure.
See yah!

What an amazing trip! Epic photography. The way you scale those peaks makes you kind of a John Muir figure.

Thanks @creationofcare! I had a buddy who used to call me "Derek Ansel Muir" mixing my name with Ansel Adams and John Muir. lol. Both of them were really amazing people, but actually Norman Clyde has always been my favorite Sierra Nevada legend. The man was just incredible.

Wow, so many stunning pictures! Looks like you had a very interesting trip to say the least! That's a great amount of effort you must've put into writing this post.

Really like the landscapes, I really don't see anything like it where I live.

Thanks @daan! There was tons of interesting stuff to see on this trip. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

Looking at your wonderful photos and reading your post brought back some old memories. We used to camp when I was younger but not any more. It's nice to see some people are still doing these activities, I have a great respect for them. Congratulations, you did a great job with this post!

Thanks a lot @erikah! I live for being out in the mountains. Camping, hiking, climbing, fishing... I love it all!

That's a very healthy thinking and lifestyle as well. Good luck and stay safe!

wow! what an amazing way to spend a few days in nature! Where do you find all these places? Thanks for sharing, it was a lovely virtual trip.

Thank you @livinguktaiwan, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

The photos are soooooo stunning @derekrichardson! I absolutely love the Cotton candy sunset and the Sunset from the hot tub. I love sunsets and sunrises! This must have been one of the most amazing back packing trips! And it is really lovely that you got to do it with your family (and dog) :). The mountains are beautiful. I like how rustic the cabin look. You really brought us together in your journey. Thank you!

Thanks @marblely! It was an amazing trip for sure! And I was especially happy to get to bring the dogs. With the 'no dogs on trails' rule in the national parks a lot of my backpacking trips I have to leave them at home. So on this trip we stayed just outside the National Park boundaries.

Ooo your dogs must have been so happy! Hope you get to have more trips like this again with your family and the dogs! :)

We have countryside over here and lovely scenery for anybody wanting to cam out. What comes across from your trip and what you have is the sheer wilderness of the area. It's so large that you really can get away from everyone and everything if that's what you are looking for.

I've always been drawn to the country rather than cities and can really appreciate getting out there. Beautiful photo's. They can really give us a feel for what it's like out there.

The Sierra Nevada mountain range is huge. Some areas go many many years in between human visitors! I love it out there. Thanks for checking out my post!

No worries. I really enjoyed the whole range of photos that you put up withe the post. I suppose that being so large, it contains a variety of landscapes and terrains.

Oh ya, absolutely. And this is just one small section of the range. It's incredible the variety of scenery that's available in the Sierra Nevada.

I remember my dad had an old Merle Haggard album and the title song was Kern River. I always wondered if it was real and now I know! Simply fabulous photos and congrats on the well-deserved @curie vote!

Yep, it's real! lol. I've heard that song before. It's all about the Sierra Nevada. Thanks @melinda010100!!

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What a beautiful place to hike. Camp a little and do everything on your own speed. The dogs must love this as well right? Do they sleep outside at night? No wildlife etc?

The dogs love it! And I spoil them, they sleep in the tent with me. They even had their own sleeping bag! lol. We didn't have any issues with wildlife.



Wow, simply amazing beauty! I've been to many mountains just never those. Roughly how big is Kern Peak?

Ya, the Sierras never cease to amaze me. If you're ever in California put route 395 and the eastern Sierra on your to do list, you won't be disappointed! Kern peak is 11,510 feet. It's pretty big, but not huge by Sierra standards where many of the peaks are over 13,000' and some even over 14,000'!

Definitely feel the air up there!

Amazing pictures and an amazing trip!

Thanks! It was an amazing trip for sure.

howdy there derekrichardson! oh my gosh can you get any more beautiful scenery than on this trip? wow impressive, loved the views, that one shot from the top of Indian Head was stunning! I saw that the dogs had packs on them, that's a great idea that I hadn't thought of.

Do you guys train for big hikes like this one or do you do them often enough that the hikes themselves keep you in shape?
wonderful post!

Howdy @janton! I'm glad you enjoyed the scenery! The Sierra Nevada mountains have a seemingly never ending supply of stunning views. The dogs carry packs because... well because dog food is heavy! lol. They do their part and carry a lot of it. They like the packs too, it makes them feel important I think. I don't do much training besides hiking, my mom does though. We both hike pretty regularly though so we don't ever really get out of shape. If anything before a long backpacking trip like this I might try to do a day hike or two in the week prior to it, just so my body has a little warm up. Work out any kinks. lol.

well howdy again derekrichardson! oh that's interesting, I didn't think about dog they are carrying their own food, great idea! and they climb up wherever you guys go with no danger to them, they don't go ahead of you and get into any trouble?

hey what about winter time? I mean the hiking provides wonderful posting material but obviously you won't be out in the snow storms!

I'm lucky. My dogs are very well behaved. Not really any training I did or anything like that. Just naturally good dogs. They always stay right with me.

Well.. winter time is a great time for desert adventures!! And I do actually like to get out in the snow a bit too! If you're prepared it can be lots of fun.

oh of course the desert! duh..well that makes sense and sounds like a blast!

Congratulations! This post has been chosen as one of the daily Whistle Stops for The STEEM Engine!

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Awesome!! Thank you @thesteemengine!

You have amazing photos of nature there. It looks like an exciting adventure! And your mom is still very strong and active, huh! That is brave of her to be hiking that intense and far. I wonder how old she is.

Thanks @macoolette! It was a great adventure! My mom (@doverland) is still very strong and active, she's 59, but she hikes even more than me!! Two years ago she thru hiked the entire Colorado trail, a 500 mile hike!!

Hike for 52 days?!? Oh my... I wonder if I can even hike a quarter that far.

There is that "You can die. It is your decision point" notice yet they continued. Really wow, your mom is quite an inspiration! And a cool country girl too. :)

I like the background music Rocky Mountain High from John Denver.

Hi Derek, thank you for taking to Sierra Nevada, it looks like national park with such untouched wildness, I really like the place of your first picnic, very open sunny area, you can just lay down adn sun a bit. Also that Indian head looks amazing, I think I know why it is called so becuase of red color of rocks.

The little golden trouts are so cute and the color is real beauty, what did you do with them, I do not think you eat them, or...?
The rainbaw trout might be one for your dinner, tehy look heavy, might be about 4kg.

I love the collection of photographs that you took, it is almost like a diary in old time but now it is enough just to get everything documented in photographs. , Thank you for sharing your experince,

Cheers, from Art-supporting blog @art-venture

Thanks @art-venture! The Golden Trout wilderness is just outside of Sequoia national park, so basically the same kind of untouched wilderness, but no rules against bringing my dogs like in the NP. The golden trout were all catch and release on barbless flies, the rainbow trout I caught on spinning lures... they were delicious! lol.

@derekrichardson, A wonderful journey! I gladly went this route With you with The help of your photos. Such stunning scenery. You've come a long but interesting way. Golden trout is something new to me. Great story. I wish You success!

Thanks @madlenfox! I'm glad you enjoyed the scenery!

These views are breathtaking! Thanks for sharing so many great pictures. I bet the dogs absolutely love adventures like that. Do they ever get tired or injured along the way?
They must be very well behaved dogs not to go off chasing something.

The dogs love it! They do get tired sometimes, as they've gotten older I've had to keep the daily miles limited for them. They've had a few minor injuries, but never anything really serious. They are so well behaved! I got lucky. I didn't really do any training, they're just naturally good dogs I guess.

You really are lucky with the dogs then. I am sure they encounter plenty of temptation along the way. I know I would likely get into mischief my own self after a few miles lol

Man that looks like QUITE the adventure trek. That is some very scenic landscapes all throughout. And nice catch! Hit me up on Discord

It was a good one! I'll dm you.

I seriously have to get to the ptc and do at least a little of it - preferably sooner than later. Great photos and story @derekrichardson . I'm not all that familiar with the west coast hiking terrain but had the op to do 700 miles of the AT on the east coast. Hate to say this, but I'm kind of happy that more folks prefer to stay at home :0) Maybe I'm just selfish

Wow, now that was a great hike, and a lot of beautiful pictures. The hot springs looked pretty cool, but I really loved the cotton candy sunset. I'm just a sunset/sunrise type guy. The trout fishing reminded me of fishing for natives around here, you basically have to get way back in the woods, and they are some of the hardest fish to catch. You almost have to crawl up to the creek banks, if they see or hear you they are gone and not going to bite. They are usually about the size of the golden trout you caught but they are gray/brown speckled trout. If you catch one the size of your hand it's a big one.
It looked like you and your dogs had a blast.

Thanks! It was a great hike. And the dogs definitely had a blast. And I know what you mean about those native trout, you really gotta sneak up on 'em!

All I can say is that is some beautiful country and your mother must be in great shape for her age. That looked like some steep areas and thin air at 11,000 feet.
Nice photos and the fish, the fish, oh the fish.

The Sierra Nevada mountains have some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen! Everyday is breathtaking up there. My mom @doverland will be 60 soon (oops did I say that. lol!) but is in excellent shape. Running, bike riding, long distance backpacking (longer than I've done even), a hike leader in her hiking club in AZ. And that just scratches the surface. She's incredible and has been a huge inspiration in my life. The fishing was lots of fun especially catching those native goldens. Eventhough the rainbows in the river were bigger the pure goldens were really special. Those were of course all catch/release on barbless flies/lures, but we did keep and grill up some of the rainbows from the river. Give 'em a little Wild Rivers Trout Seasoning... Mmmmm that's the stuff.