The Flatiron is a flat plateau-like area near the southern portion of the Golden Trout Wilderness. It resides between the Little Kern and Kern Rivers. The area consists of basalt or volcanic flows that sit on top of some metamorphic and granitic rocks. This trip will consist of 3 long days to make the loop starting and likely ending at The Forks of the Kern trailhead. An option 2 to 3 mile walk will take users back to Jerkey Campground by road and trail. The trip, including the optional stretch, is approximately 26 miles.
Flatiron Loop – Optional Stretch
Day 1 – Jerkey Campground to Trout Meadow Guard Station (8.6 miles)
After arriving at Jerkey Campground from Forest Road 22S82 (aka Lloyd Meadow Road), start hiking west and uphill for approximately 3.1 miles to the junction on top of the ridge near Jerkey Meadow. It is a south facing slope, so if you are doing this in the hotter summer months of July and August you may want to start early to avoid the heat. Once at the junction, make a right towards Little Kern Bridge / Trout Meadow. Enjoy a nice 2.8 mile downhill trek to the Little Kern Bridge. This is a good place to get water if you need to do so. Otherwise continue hiking on the main trail for 2.7 miles to Trout Meadow Guard Station. The Guard Station is a cabin located to the left of the trail. There is a small area to set up camp about 100 yards from the cabin itself. A water supply is located near the cabin if you need it.
Day 2 – Trout Meadow Guard Station to Kern Flat (6.2 miles)
Continue heading north along the trail, which parallels a barbed wired fence for a bit. In about 0.2 miles you’ll come to a trail junction. Take a right heading towards Kern Flat. The trail will take you east for a short distance then back south, but this time along the eastern side of Trout Meadow. Continue along the trail for a mile and you’ll be walking along the northern portion of the Flatiron. If you started early, you may want to explore the Flatiron while it is cool. Otherwise continue heading east and you’ll come to Cold Spring. This spot can have water, but not always. Proceed further east to descend down into the Kern River canyon towards Kern Flat. The trail will junction along the northern portion of Kern Flat. Take a right, heading south, and set up camp where you see fit.
Day 3 – Kern Flat to Forks of the Kern Trailhead (8.3 miles)
Potentially one of the longer days, you may want to start early if you didn’t leave a vehicle at Forks of the Kern, don’t want to try to hitch a ride to Jerkey Campground, or you are taking the optional route. It is about 6 miles to the Little Kern River and you will be walking along the Kern River the entire time (west side). It is a gradual downhill descent. When you arrive near the little Kern River pay attention to the ground as a small hot springs is there. The soils turn white and a few small mounds are their bubbling up water. Cross the Little Kern River and make your way uphill for 2.3 miles to the Forks of the Kern Trailhead.
If you are taking the option hike back to Jerkey Campground, then you’ll be following Forest Road 20S67 west from the Forks of the Kern trailhead. About 1.5 miles along the road you will arrive at Lloyd Meadow Trail. Take a right, going north, for another 1.5 miles to Forest Road 20S67. You will then go east for about 0.25 miles to Jerkey Campground.