A large sequoia on the Trail of 100 Giants.
The area around Kernville, some 30 miles south, is billed as the gateway to the Trail of 100 Giants, and the beautiful drive north is worth it.
The trail is in the middle of the Sequoia National Forest and the 100 giants refer to the massive namesake trees that dominate. The Forest Service says there are about 125 sequoias (some as old as 1,500 years) with a base diameter of over 10 feet in Long Meadow Grove, and this easy 1.4-mile flat trail snakes within feet of many of them.
You can pick up a brochure to guide you through some of the sites in the parking lot across the road ($5 fee per car), and while the trail officially opens in May, it can be accessible a bit earlier. When I went in late April, the trail was open and we had a great time sloshing through melting snow, including dodging snowballs dropped from the branches of the trees.
Kern River on Whiskey Flat Trail
The great thing about the Whiskey Flat Trail, which begins just outside the wonderful little town of Kernville, is that is can be as hard or easy, as quick or lengthy, as leisurely or demanding as you want it to be.
The first portion leading away from the town skirts just out of sight of the Kern River, through scorched black trees that fell victim to the Bull Fire in 2010.
After picking over a partially downed bridge over Bull Run Creek, we cut through a field to get some river views and finally stumbled across the water at the confluence of some of the rapids the Kern is known for and the gentle entrance of a smaller fork of the river, which was a great place to sit and watch the river and a couple of fishermen trying their luck on the east bank.
That’s where we turned around to head back (the Trail of 100 Giants to the north was calling) – after relaxing by the river. While we only did about 1.2 miles in and back, the entire trail stretches for 15 miles and ups and downs, ending at a footbridge across the Kern at Fairview. This site has a great detailed write-up of the full 15 miles; it’s geared toward mountain bikers, but hikers can take the same route.