Is Kern River open and for how long?
Updated: Sep 18
If you’re wondering, “Is Kern River open?” — then you’ll most likely be satisfied with the answer. Kern River is open all year.
However, to really answer this question, we also need to break down what Kern River activities make the most sense during different times of the year and whether or not there are any tips to keep in mind throughout the seasons.
Let’s take a few moments to discuss Kern River activities, tips, and more.
Is Kern River open?
Kern River is open all year round (no need to call up the Kern County visitor center to double check). This includes river activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking and rafting.
From upper Kern to lower Kern River, there are no closed areas (unless weather prohibits access), and there are no county or Kern River Ranger District employees that would prevent you from enjoying the river at any point in the year (whether it’s in the middle of winter or summer). The Kern River has access points all along the Kern Canyon as you drive east of Bakersfield on Highway 178 towards Lake Isabella and Kernville, CA.
What is the best time to enjoy Kern River activities?
Even though Kern River is accessible throughout the entire year, there are certain times of the year where activities may or may not be ideal. Let’s break down what time of year each activity makes the most sense in the Kern River valley.
Fishing: spring, fall, and winter (fly fishing can be a great activity during the summer months.)
Rafting: late spring through summer (by May, the water and weather are nice temperatures; the water is high enough, and rafting companies are typically ready to launch services again.) Private boaters should always register with the Kern River Ranger District for a boating permit.
Tubing: typically around mid-June to September for the upper Kern; we don’t recommend tubing on the lower Kern because there are so few exit spots
RV Camping: all year round
Tent Camping: all year round
Hiking: spring, summer, fall, and winter (in May, the Trail of 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Forest also opens up, and it’s a great and memorable way to spend any afternoon.)
Mountain Biking: spring, summer, fall, and winter
Although camping is considered a year round activity, this really depends on your weather tolerance. If you are uncomfortable in very high or somewhat low temperatures, then you may want to restrict your camping activities to spring, early summer and fall.
For the Kern River area, July and August are typically the hottest months of the year, and December through February are typically the coldest months of the year.
To get more insights on Kern River climate, check out the Audubon.
Tips to keep in mind when visiting the Kern River
Whether you decide to visit the Kern River now or 6 months from now, there are a variety of tips and best practices to keep in mind. Let’s discuss some of the most important ones.
All campgrounds are not created equal. There are a ton of factors that can influence your Kern River camping trip — from level campsites to additional vehicle parking lots to river trail access. To learn more about how to choose the best campsite for you, check out these campground tips.
The Kern River can be a dangerous body of water to swim in if you aren’t aware of and practice safety precautions and guidelines. To get up to date on these safety precautions, check out our guide to swimming in the Kern River.
Bears can visit your campsite. Because of this, it’s important to practice Leave No Trace principles and to be fully aware of how to keep all critters (big and small) away from your temporary living spaces.
There’s more to Kern River than swimming and fishing! Take a look at 11 really fun things to do at Kern River, so you can better plan for your upcoming trip.
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 of glass. Practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out what you pack in. See more Kern River camping tips.
Ready to go camping on the Kern River?
Then let’s go! At Kern River’s Edge, you’ll find spacious campsites, concierge firewood and ice deliveries, and the best camping on the Kern River. 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.