AKAThe Cannell Plunge
Climb DifficultyBlack Diamond
TTFs on trailDrop, Jump, Rock Face, Rock Garden, Roller Coaster, Skinny
Land ManagerNational Forrest Service
The Cannell Meadow Trail - AKA The Cannell Plunge - is the crown jewel of the Kern Plateau. This trail has lots of everything - lots of crazy descending, long flat buff runs along big meadows, rocky and difficult climbing, fire roads, stream crossings, wildlife, wildflowers, forest, desert, and best of all incredible views of the Kern River Valley and Lake Isabella far, far below.
Having a net elevation loss of nearly 7000' and a total loss of 8000' over 25 miles is only part of the reason this ride is nicknamed "The Plunge." The true reason comes in the second half of the descent, where the rider drops from 7300' on the edge of the Kern Plateau directly down to 2700' at the Kern River just north of the town of Kernville. This ride is certainly the 'big fish' of the region. There are few other rides in the area that can match the drop of The Plunge, and those are mostly fire road or paved road routes. The Plunge is nearly all singletrack, with only a few connector sections of fire road.
Though it is certainly possible to do this ride as a loop, almost nobody is endowed with the super powers required for such a feat. I have read one account in a guide book where the author attempted the ride as a 2-day 'mini tour' with a planned bivouack. This ill-fated journey turned into a 3.5-day epic when the author got lost on the descent, left his bike behind, and scrambled for many hours through classic Southern Sierra bushwhack terrain.
The only practical way for mortals to do this ride is as a shuttle run. There are a few commercial shuttle services available, the most popular being Mountain River Adventures in Kernville. Prices are reasonable, but they require at least 4 customers to make a trip. Group rates are available, as well as specials and 2-day packages, particularly during their October Fat Tire Fest.
Private shuttles are feasible, and for this I recommend leaving one car in Kernville, then driving up Sherman Pass and camping in the vicinity of the trailhead. Sleeping at least one night at the higher elevation (~9000') will help with acclimatization to prevent accute mountain sickness (AMS) or just plain sluggish performance at altitude.
Kernville (Lower) Trailhead:
From the junction of Highways CA-99 and CA-178 in Bakersfield, head east on CA-178 to Lake Isabella. Exit at CA-155 and head north through Wooford Heights. Continue, now on Burlando Road, to Kernville. At the 'T' intersection where Burlando Road meets Sierra Way (Mountain Road 99), go left and drive just north of town, passing the Mountain River Adventures campground, and park at the signed Cannell Meadow Trail parking area on the right side of the road.
From the junction of Highways CA-14 and CA-178 in Inyokern, head west on CA-178 over Walker Pass and through Cane Break and Onyx to Sierra Way (Mountain Road 99) on the east side of Lake Isabella. Drive north around the lake and through Kernville, passing the 'T' intersection with Burlando Road. Continue to the signed parking for Cannell Meadow Trail on the right.
Northwest From Porterville:
From the junction of Highways CA-99 and CA-190 in Porterville, head east on CA-190 and drive up through Springville and Camp Nelson, then continue south where the road becomes Mountain Road 50 near Ponderosa. At the junction with the Parker Pass Road, go left and descend to Johnsondale. Where the Parker Pass Road intersects Mountain Road 99, go right and continue approximately 15 miles south to Kernville, where the signed Cannell Meadow Trail parking will be on the left, opposite the river.
Sherman Pass (Upper) Trailhead:
From Kernville Trailhead:
Head north on Mountain Road 99 approximately 10 miles to the Sherman Pass Road, which heads east just north of a high bridge over the Kern River. Head east and drive up the Sherman Pass Road to 9100' Sherman Pass. There is a large parking area here. More parking and good camping can be found along the Mosquito Meadow Road, which leaves the Sherman Pass Road about 1 mile west of Sherman Pass.
Local Trail Association
More Stats for The Cannell Meadow Trail mountain bike trail
Altitude change-6,325 ft
Altitude min2,787 ft
Altitude max1.8 miles
Altitude start1.7 miles
Altitude end2,787 ft
Distance climb7.8 miles
Distance down16.0 miles
Distance flat4,583 ft
- view trail stats
The Cannell... Trail Reports
Jun 11, 2016 @ 10:43pmJun 11, 2016
|Small tree down across trail, can ride over or around. The rock gardens are pretty blown out with plenty of 1' to 2' drops. The plunge section is...|
May 19, 2015 @ 4:36pmMay 19, 2015
|5/19 - Loamy conditions up top. Some pockets of snow here and there but nothing on trail. No major trees down. Upper Cannell and the Plunge...|
Dec 16, 2014 @ 11:40pmDec 16, 2014
|Sherman Peak road is closed for the winter due to ice and snow. Should be open in May.|
Nov 16, 2014 @ 3:57pmNov 16, 2014
|Some light rideable snow drifts and iced over streams so be careful when crossing. The spring at Big Meadow is still running but should ice over...|
Oct 18, 2014 @ 11:55pmOct 18, 2014
|The top has a lot of moon dust so if you have asthma bring your puffer. The plunge section is mostly "kitty litter" with some rocks but better...|
Technical Trail Features (TTF)
Routes with this trail
|The Cannell Plunge||24.5 miles|
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