8 ways to stay Active and Cool on the Kern this Summer
Updated: Jul 11
Looking for some really fun water activities to do at Kern River during your Summer camping trip? Well, you’re in luck. When it comes to ‘what to do in Kern River’, there are plenty of hidden gems to pick from — including river rafting, waterfall chasing, lake kayaking, and more.
Let’s break down some of our favorite things to do at Kern River and give you a few tips and tricks along the way.
Where is the Kern River?
First things first, where is the Kern River? The Kern River is a long river located in California, closest to places like Kernville, Lake Isabella, and Bakersfield. It is over 160 miles long and travels through Tulare and Kern counties in the Sequoia National Forest.
Related Content: 14 things to look for in a Kern River campground
When is the best time to go to the Kern River?
There are a variety of activities and things to do at Kern River — but what most people don’t realize is that these activities can be done nearly year-round. Given the high desert temperatures around the Kern River, the majority of spring, summer, and even fall are great for camping, fishing, lake swimming and floating, biking and rafting. Even during the wintertime, our temps are mild, creating a perfect off-season setting to fish, bike, and ski without crowds. Keep reading to discover some of our top recommendations for staying active and cool during our high desert summer months!
Pro-Tip: Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a life jacket or life vest, when near bodies of water such as lakes, large creeks and rivers. Low water season on the Kern River typically refers to the time period when professional rafting companies have stopped offering rafting tours on that section of the Kern. While high water season refers to large volumes of water, moving swiftly down the Kern River drainage.
What are our favorite, fun, water-focused things to do at Kern River?
White Water Rafting: This is typically a great choice between April and August; and on high water seasons can be offered through October, when the Southern Sierra snow pack is significant. Seek out an experienced, permitted company such as Kern River Outfitters, Sierra South or Whitewater Voyages that offers rafting tours, high-flotation gear and equipment.
Hiking and Waterfall Chasing: The scenery around Kern River is gorgeous, with hidden waterfalls, creeks, streams and flower fields popping up new wildflower species in every season. Pause @ South Creek Falls on your way to the Trail of 100 giant sequoias for some great photo ops. To find a trail near you visit Kern River Sierra where you can trail information by area. Check out the River Trail & Johnsondale Bridge, or Valhalla Falls on Salmon Creek, or Nobe Young Falls!
Paddle boarding on Lake Isabella: If you are looking for another water sport you could always rent a paddle board or kayak on Lake Isabella. During high water season on the Kern, tubing, kayaking and paddle boarding Lake Isabella is fun for the whole family! We recommend launching near French Gulch or Boulder Gulch for best access.
Hot Springs: Everyone has to visit the hot springs at least once in their life. Remington Hot Springs are absolutely stunning, quite relaxing, and relatively easy to get to.
Bird Watching: Kern River is an interesting place to visit for many reasons, including the fact that it is the intersection of five different bio-regions. Because of this, bird watching is an ideal thing to do near Kern River and on Lake Isabella, you never know what you’re going to see. Pack your lake kayak or stand up paddle board and view all these gorgeous creatures from the water. We recommend the South Fork Kern area by Rabbit Island.
Kern River Valley Museum: There’s a lot to see and learn at the Kern River Valley Museum — from the history of whitewater, the development of Lake Isabella and it's importance for water in California. It's nice and cool inside the museum and on their covered patio!
7 Teacups: The 7 Teacups is a series of cascading waterfalls and gorgeous granite pools. Hire a professional guide service or go with a canyoneering group; this activity requires proper equipment and skill in canyoneering.
Alder Creek Slabs: The Alder Creek Slabs are natural water slides that lead into a larger pool of Spring water. It’s mellow enough for small ones and fun enough for the entire family. Check road access to ensure Lloyd Meadow Road is open for the season before you go! And on big water years, pack your bug spray.
Recreating responsibly includes packing trash bags to leave our wild spaces cleaner than you found them. There is a glass ban in the Sequoia National Forest, so remember to use plastic storage containers, ziploc bags, or bota bags for camping gear and kitchen supplies instead.
Related Content: Driving directions to Kern River and Kernville
Ready for fun activities and things to do at Kern River?
Then let’s go! At Kern River’s Edge, you’ll find the best campground at Kern River. Plus, with over 40 sites to choose from and easy access to fishing, swimming, and sandy activities, there’s something for everyone at the River’s Edge campsite.