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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Golden Trout Wilderness, Sequoia & Inyo National Forests, California

Catch rainbows -- trout, that is -- in Rockhouse Basin's rivers, where you're more likely to see a wildcat than another human.

by: Michael Katz

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Contact Information:

Sequoia National Forest Cannell Meadow Ranger District Box 6 Kernville, CA 93238 (619) 376-3781 Inyo National Forest Mt. Whitney Ranger District Box 8 Lone Pine, CA 93545 (619) 876-6200

Location: The Golden Trout Wilderness is at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada in California, 150 miles north of Los Angeles. It's 60 miles to Kernville and 75 miles to Ridgecrest. Kennedy Meadows is a little closer but only offers a restaurant and grocery store (no phone).

Getting There: Take US 395 north from Los Angeles to about 14 miles north of Inyokern. Head northwest on County Road J41 (Nine Mile Canyon Road). Take the jeep road west, following the signs to Rockhouse Basin.

Seasonal Information: In the late spring and summer, expect warm weather in the afternoons (mid-80s) cooling quickly when the sun sets, and chilling into the 30s in early and late seasons. The river may be low late in the season. There may be flash storms in late July and August.

The area is unreachable November through April.

Wildlife: Deer, bears, marmots, mountain lions, squirrels, and birds of prey are common.

The pools harbor trout, rainbows and brookies mostly, with a few huge browns lurking in the shadows, spooking at the slightest hint of a false cast. The rainbows, though, aren't picky. Not having seen many people, they bite spinners or worms readily.

Insects: No information available.

Plant Life: Vegetation ranges from digger and pi?yon pine woodlands at lower elevations to extensive Jeffrey pine forests at mid elevations, and red fir and lodgepole and foxtail pine at higher elevations.

Meandering alongside the river through cottonwood groves and pine-dotted meadows, early-season hikers can enjoy the brilliant purples and oranges of lupine and Indian paintbrush. Farther north is Kennedy Meadows, which is more accessible and crowded. Leave that for late autumn.


  • Camping is primitive in the wilderness.
  • There are many developed campgrounds within Sequoia and most are free.

Parking: No information available.

Permits: Free wilderness permits and campfire permits are required for overnight trips into the Golden Trout Wilderness Area only. They are available from the Kernville office or from Black Rock Station.


  • Motor vehicles and bicycles are prohibited.
  • Maximum group size is 15 people and 25 head of stock.


  • Stay with the stream whenever possible; the canyon is often slick, and the cliffs are filled with brambles. Long pants and sturdy shoes are suggested.
Watch out for rattlesnakes and mosquitoes.

Leave No Trace:

All LNT guidelines apply.


  • Use USGS Lamont Peak quadrangle.
  • A combination road, trail, and topo map is available from the forest service.

Other Trip Options: Red Rock Canyon State Park is located about 20 miles southeast of Sequoia.

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