The Sierra wilderness is a region of contrasts. Naked granite and deep forests. Powerful cascades and gentle meadow streams. Desolate terrain and areas teaming with wildlife. This trip encompasses all of these. First, you will experience the abundant wildlife, long meadows, and solitude of the Golden Trout Wilderness. We camp near the three creeks that comprise the native habitat of the golden trout, providing ample opportunity for anglers to catch these beautiful fish. Leaving the Kern Plateau, we drop 2,000’ through ancient lava flows into Kern Canyon, entering Sequoia National Park. Dense forests and lush meadows are framed by streams cascading down steep canyon walls to join the Kern River. We eventually leave the tranquility of this remote area as we climb up to the John Muir Trail, to travel below the tall granite peaks of the Sierra Crest including Mount Whitney and beautiful Miter Basin.
Permits: The pack station takes care of all permits required for the trip.
Arrive at Cottonwood Pack Station by 7:00 AM where your gear will be weighed and you will be served breakfast. Your personal vehicles will be left in the Cottonwood Pack Station parking area.
You should acclimate to 8,000’ to 10,000’ for 1-3 days prior to the trip.
Distance: 69.3 miles, 9,173’ total gain and loss on moving day
Day 1:Horseshoe Meadows to Tunnel Meadows
Guests meet at Cottonwood Pack Station for gear drop off, breakfast and trip orientation. After breakfast our crew will introduce you to your surefooted riding animal (horse or mule) and teach you how to safely ride in the backcountry. Shortly after saddling up, we hit the trail; turning our backs on civilization and entering the vast Golden Trout Wilderness. Settling into stride with our animal we traverse the massive Horseshoe Meadow which sits below Trail Pass (10,500 ft), the highest point of our journey. We switchback through groves of ancient Foxtail Pines climbing toward Trail Pass where we will be rewarded with stunning views of the Golden Trout Wilderness. We cross the Pacific Crest Trail at the top of the pass then switchback down towards Mulkey Meadow for lunch. From here, relatively flat single track trails cut through sprawling meadows allowing riders to appreciate the isolated beauty of the Golden Trout Wilderness. We follow the headwaters of the South Fork of the Kern River to our camp inTunnel Meadow for our first night. There will be time to fish for brightly colored golden trouWt in their native waters before dinner. We enjoy a hearty meal around a warm campfire while watching our horses and mules graze in the nearby meadow.
Day 2: Tunnel Meadows to Little Whitney Meadows
Riders travel alongside of Tunnel Meadows and descend to where the South Fork of the kern River almost meets up with Golden Trout Creek. We head west and cross Golden Trout Creek. The path follows Golden Trout Creek through Groundhog Meadow and past Cinder Cone and ancient lava flows before arriving at Little Whitney Meadows.
Day 3: Little Whitney Meadow to Kern River: 10 miles to 12 miles
Packers and wranglers gather the stock at first light while our cook serves hot coffee and breakfast around the campfire. After breakfast, guests will have time to fish while the packers break down camp and load the mules. Shortly after leaving Big Whitney Meadow we drop off the Kern Plateau and begin our descent towards the Kern River. We cross the picturesque Natural Bridge then continue down into the canyon below. The suspension bridge crossing the waters of the Kern marks the entrance to Sequoia National Park; our backcountry home for the next week.. We head up the Kern River through forest and meadows to near Lower Funston Meadows.
Day 4: Lower Funston Meadows to Upper Funston Meadows—about 5 miles
8.2 miles, 1,260’ gain.
A relaxing ride brings us to a camp nearby the Kern Hot Springs. Due the remote location and difficult access to this section of the Kern, the river’s many pools hold large rainbows eager to bite. Guests may spend the afternonn fishing, soaking in the hot springs or relaxing around camp enjoying the amazing setting. Tonight’s dinner will surely be full of fish stories and sharing pictures of the day’s catch.
Day 5: Upper Funston to Junction Meadow 8 miles
We ride up the steep-walled canyon through forest and meadows, crossing numerous streams to out camp near Junction Meadow.
Day 6: We ride up the steep-walled canyon through forest and meadows, crossing numerous streams to out camp near Junction Meadow.
Joining the High Sierra trail we follow Wallace Creek to meet the junction of the John Muir Trail. Camp is in Wright Meadows with stunning view of the Great Western Divide, the Kings-Kern Divide and the Sierra Crest.
Day 7: LAYOVER
Deep in Sequoia National Park we can ride north to an overlook of the Kern Canyon from The Big Horn Plateau Or, ride to Wallace Lake.
Day 8: Layover
Travel to Wallace Lake. A beautiful canyon of forest, lush meadows and spectacular views make this one of the finest rides in Sequoia National Park. And, Wallace Lake is one of the premier fishing lakes for goldens.
Day 9: Wright Creek to Lower Rock Creek 11 miles
Riders travel south on the John Muir Trail. We pass through Crabtree Meadows and see the backside of Mt. Whitney. After crossing Guyot Pass we descend to the meadows of Lower Rock Creek.
Day 10: Lower Rock Creek to Horseshoe Meadows 14.5 miles
Travel north on the Pacific Crest Trail. Spectacular views of the Miter Basin and of the Borreal Plateau. Riders will have spectacular views of the Golden
Trout Wilderness as we climb toward Cottonwood Pass. The descent into Horseshoe Meadows brings back to the pack station at Cottonwood.
Please note that this represents the planned itinerary. Weather or other factors may affect the choice of campsites and daily travel. All decisions are made by the Head Packer with attention to the safety and comfort of guests and stock.
|Location ||Daily Distance ||Cumulative Distance ||Elevation|
|Cottonwood Pack Station/Horseshoe Meadow|| || 0.0|| 10,065|
|Big Whitney Meadows Trail Junction || 10 || 10.0 || 8,930|
|Little Whitney Meadow Camp || 5.1 || 15.1 || 8,400|
|Rattlesnake Creek Crossing ||11.1 || 26.2 || 6,580|
|Kern River Bridge ||4.1 || 30.3 || 6,820|
|Junction Meadow Junction || 7.9 || 38.2 || 8,080|
|Wright Meadow Camp ||5.6 || 43.8 || 10,880|
|Lower Rock Creek Camp ||11.0 || 54.8 || 9,536|
|Horseshoe Meadow ||14.5 || 69.3 || 10,065|
The day rides may be anywhere between five and 15 miles of riding depending on the group.
What you need to know…for riders
(TRAIL RIDE, ALL EXPENSE, AND BASE CAMP INFORMATION)
We supply horses, saddles, food, kitchen and eating utensils, and camping equipment. Tents will be provided. Tents for couples or families will be reserved by request. Food will be plentiful and deluxe in quality. We provide the preparation of meals; any help is appreciated but not mandatory. Those desiring to learn how to pack may participate in making up loads and packing the mules.
- Check-in time is 7 a.m. at Rock Creek Pack Station except when OTHER LOCATION is specified.
- Free parking for guests' cars at pack station.
Breakfast is served the first day while the mules are being loaded.
The last meal furnished is lunch the last day.
- We provide a small saddle bag for trail necessities. Please do not bring your own saddle bags or day packs unless they
are pocket size. Participants may not carry large camera
cases with extra lenses on the saddle. If you have extra camera equipment, it can be packed in your duffel or in a
safe place on mules.
You will be limited to 3 lbs. in the saddle bag, which includes your lunch.
Your jacket and rain gear are not included in the 3 lbs. and may be tied on the back of the saddle. No day packs allowed on riders' backs.
- Each person is assigned a horse for the duration of the trip with regard to the guest's weight, height, and ability.
- Dunnage limit is 30 lbs. per person (this includes sleeping bags, fishing equipment, liquor, etc.).
There will be a surcharge of $3 to $10 per pound on dunnage in excess of the 30 lbs. You may bring your own tent if under 10 lbs. which will not be included in 30 lb. weight limit.
- Trip fee does not include alcoholic beverages or lodging night before and after trip.
- Gratuities are optional and a personal choice.
- Trip will terminate in the late afternoon of last day.
- Free shuttle back to Rock Creek Pack Station for trips terminating at other road heads.
- Reservation form must be accurately completed.
The information on age, height, weight and riding ability is used to assign riding animals. Failure to provide accurate information may result in the participant being denied going on the trip with loss of trip fee.
- We advise guests to purchase cancellation and trip travel insurance.
- Participants will be sent an assumption of risk and a liability release form. All guests must assume the risk and sign the forms before using Rock Creek's service. Our forms have excellent guidelines for riding safety that we ask you to study.
- The pack station does not boil or treat water. Campsites are remote enough that we feel safe in using the water. It you want to purify water bring your own filter pump or purification tablets.
PERSONAL CHECK LIST
Bring belongings in stout canvas or nylon duffels; side zipper recommended, ideal size approximately 14" x 32".
It is a good idea to use a large plastic bag INSIDE of the duffle to protect contents from external moisture.
Sleeping bags can be in separate duffels --again, line the inside of the duffle against rain.
Place all cosmetics, soaps, medications, etc into small plastic containers with close-fitting caps,
THEN into sturdy resealable plastic storage bags.
If anything breaks or bursts from altitude changes, the plastic bag contains the spill.
When possible, it is a good idea to transfer alcoholic beverages to sturdy plastic bottles with well fitting caps - it will save weight and protect against breakage.
Check in fishing worms and bottle goods separately; don't put in duffel. Place fishing rods in metal or plastic cases.
You will be given a small saddle bag that goes on your saddle horn to carry your lunch and a few personal items. (Weight limit 3 lbs - including lunch).
Remember - try to minimize the weight of your dunnage by packaging only
the amount of any item you will need (like soaps, lotions and medications).
- Sleeping bag with a comfort range of 20 to 60 degrees and a moisture proof ground cloth.
- Air mattress or small 1/4"-1/2" foam hip pad recommended - your night's rest will affect your next days enjoyment.
Bring the best sleeping pad you can manage.
- Broad-brimmed hat is essential for protection from sun at high altitude. It must have strings to keep from blowing off.
- Sunglasses (RX glasses) - high altitude sun is BRIGHT!
- Coffee mug (plastic for camp)
- Pint water bottle for your horn bag
- Pocket knife or small multi-tool
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Camera and film (sturdy strap)-- if using digital - don't forget an extra battery and card
- Rain jackets and pants or slicker (rolled up you can tie them to the back of your saddle)
- Hat protector (to keep your hat dry)
- Light jacket (windbreaker)
- Wool or fleece pullover/sweater (layers will keep you comfortable)
- Heavy jacket
- Woolen cap (evenings can be cold)
- Gloves (recommend gloves for riding, may want warm gloves for evenings)
- Riding boots
- Shoes for camp (moccasins, athletic shoes, etc)
- Shirts and pants (long sleeved shirts offer sun, bug and branch protection)
- Bathing suit
- Bath towel/wash cloth/soap (try a multi-use bar or liquid for use on hair, body and laundry. Biodegradable choices are available.)
- Insect repellent such as Cutters
- comb/brush clips/pins/ponytail holders
- Shaving kit (a small mirror is helpful)
- Sun Screen (lotion, cream or stick)- use liberally for sunburn and chapping prevention.
- Chapstick with sun protection SPF 15 or better
- Moisturizer (cream or lotion - altitude and sun can be dry and chap skin)
- Prescription medicine (if required - if you have any allergies, remember to bring appropriate medication)
- Band-aids, aspirin, ibuprofen, eye drops, moleskin for any blisters
- Baby powder/Talcum powder (helps to relieve any raw or irritated areas from boots, clothes or saddles)
- Jogging suit (sweats are comfortable for after-swim and campfire lounging)
- Small notepad and pencil
- Collapsible plastic wash basin (optional)
- Solar shower (optional)
- Water filtering pump (optional)
- Liquor (be sure to check in with the packers to see that your liquor is packed safely)
- Fishing equipment (optional)
- CALIFORNIA FISHING LICENSE. Please note that fishing licenses are NOT available at or near the pack station. Be sure to get one BEFORE you arrive for your adventure. You can find information on California fishing licenses and online purchase at TakeMeFishing.org. You can purchase them at a Bishop sporting goods store, as well.
- Rod/reel/line (a rod that breaks down into 3 or more pieces is recommended)
- Compact metal rod case to carry on saddle
- Canvas creel (no tackle boxes)
- Leader material (1-3 lb.)
- Flies: black gnat, mosquito, grey hackle, brown hackle, & royal coachman (No. 12-14 hooks)
- Bait: worms & Pautzke red eggs
- Egg hooks, worm hooks (No. 10-14)
- Split shot
- Lures (personal choice)
LOW-IMPACT GUIDE FOR THE WILDERNESS USER
We are dedicated to conducting our trips so that others following us will find the country unspoiled. Livestock is a natural part of the wilderness and when properly managed enhances man's enjoyment of our unmechanized wilderness area. Today, just as it was when the entire west was mostly wilderness, the horse and mule remain our companions and servants in wilderness travel. We practice and expect you to observe the following during your trip.
- Keep horses on trail; do not cut switchbacks (corners).
- Tie horses 200 feet away from streams, trails and campsites. At camps, horses and mules are tied to picket lines,
stretched between trees on granitic soil.
- If you can't tie animal to picket line use a tree greater than 8" in diameter, not on grass. Tie high and short (2-3 ft.) so horse doesn't get foot caught in rope.
- Choose a tent site at least 100 ft. from water (THE LAW) where drainage will not be a problem, avoiding the need to trench. No tents or camp area allowed on grass or meadowlands.
- Utilize pre-existing fire rings where possible. Don't surround fires with rocks! Dig a hole in sand and cover when finished. When you leave camp, bury ashes from fire rings. Leave existing fire rings clean for the next user.
- When breaking camp, return the spot to its natural state and broadcast a covering of needles and cones. Scout the area to make sure nothing will be left behind. Remove the smallest pieces of aluminum foil and trash.
- Pack out all trash. Don't bury garbage, scatter organic wastes or leave foil in campfire pit. Burn cans and flatten. On our group trips we have a bag for cans and aluminum foil.
- Don't use soap (even biodegradable) in streams or lakes, Wash yourself, clothes and dishes away from water sources.
- Bury human waste 200 ft. from water, campsites and trails. Dig a hole 4-6" deep and after use tamp with sod.
- Don't pick flowers or cut branches from live trees. Use only downed wood for fires.
- You are required to keep bears from getting to your food at all times. Please ask for current regulations and suggestions on how to prepare for your trip.
TOM HARRISON MAPS
. Tom Harrison Maps, paper or download onto phone/tablet:
• Golden Trout Wilderness
• Mt. Whitney High Country
Apps for Smartphone/Tablet, download applicable areas prior to departure:
• Gaia GPS
• Topo Maps
Apps for Smartphone/Tablet, download applicable areas prior to departure:
Click on the map to see a larger version