This seven-day pack trip provides a unique opportunity for both novice and experienced anglers to enjoy some of the best fly fishing the High Sierra has to offer. Guests travel by horseback into remote areas of the Golden Trout Wilderness and Sequoia National Park to fish for isolated species of Golden Trout and Kern River Rainbows. The waters of the Kern Plateau hold the purest strains of Golden Trout in the world, a fish so unique and colorful, that it has been named the official state fish of California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife rescued 52 Golden trout on September 19, 2016. They were aided by some of our trusty mules and wranglers. Here's the video.
Equally impressive, the waters of the nearby Kern River are home to the Kern River Rainbow, a close relative of the Golden Trout and one of the most sought-after fish in California.
Guests spend two full layover days fishing for Kern River Rainbows from a beautiful camp situated near the banks of the world class fishery.
Along the journey to and from the Kern River there is the opportunity to fish the Golden Trout’s native waters, Golden Trout Creek and Volcano Creek from our camp at Little Whitney Meadow.
Pack mules carry all the guests’ food, camping gear and personal items while experienced and knowledgeable packers set up a comfortable camp each night.
Our camp cooks prepare delicious backcountry meals for guests to enjoy around the campfire.
Please join us for this unique opportunity to experience the unspoiled beauty of the High Sierra while fishing for the iconic Golden Trout and Kern River Rainbow.
Day 1 – Horseshoe Meadows to Little Whitney Meadow: 14.5 miles
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 Golden Trout Creek through Tunnel Meadow to our first night. There will be time to fish for brightly colored golden trout 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 – Little Whitney Meadow to Kern River: 10 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 few days. A scenic hour of riding upriver leads us to camp situated along the bank of the Kern. Guests will have the opportunity to make some casts before dinner and hopefully catch a much sought-after Kern River Rainbow. We will enjoy another delicious backcountry meal around the campfire while listening to the Kern’s rushing water below camp.
Day 3 – Layover
A layover day allows guests to fish and explore the world class fishery surrounding camp. Genetic testing has proven the fish living in these waters are the purest strains of the Kern River Rainbow, an isolated subspecies of rainbow trout and close relative of the Golden Trout. 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 day fishing 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 4 – Layover
An additional layover day allows guests to explore the river farther upstream from camp. We will ride above the junction of Rattlesnake Creek and spend the day fishing excellent pocket water and glassy runs near Upper Funston Meadow. Those seeking a more relaxing day may continue riding to the Kern River Hot Springs to soak in the hot pools before returning to camp for dinner.
Day 5 – Kern River to Little Whitney Meadow: 10 miles
Today we climb out of the Kern River Canyon and return to our first night’s camp at Little Whitney. Guest may spend the afternoon stretching their legs and exploring the rustic cabins of the historical Little Whitney Cow Camp or fishing for Golden Trout before dinner.
Day 6 – Layover
We spend the layover day riding to nearby Volcano Meadow and fishing the meandering waters of Volcano Creek. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife “the Volcanic Creek strain of California golden trout is considered to be the most genetically pure population within the native range.” This infrequently visited area of the Golden Trout Wilderness offers spectacular views and a high probability of wildlife sightings. Due to the lack of visitors and fishing pressure, the beautiful Goldens of Volcano Creek are plentiful and willing to bite. We spend our last night enjoying the star filled sky above camp and sharing stories around the campfire.
Day 7 – Little Whitney Meadow to Horseshoe Meadows: 14.5 miles
Unfortunately, our adventure must come to an end and we return to the pack station at Horseshoe Meadows. While riding through the lush green meadows leading back to Trail Pass, we can’t help but wish to spend another week on the trail. Reflecting on our journey, we have a new appreciation of what inspired John Muir to say “Going to the mountains is going home."
What you need to know…
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. Dormitory tents will be provided for men and women. Private tents for couples or singles 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.