A Hockett Trail Guide: 9. Golden Trout Creek

From here we head up the second native golden trout stream along the Hockett Trail, Golden Trout Creek.

California Golden Trout

The original Hockett Trail was without bridges. Its strategy for crossing the Kern River—the river that drowned John Jordan in 1862—was to follow the river upstream to a broad ford above two major tributaries: Coyote Creek, and what was once known as Volcano Creek and Whitney Creek. The trail then crossed at the ford and ascended eastward through a saddle behind a large knob known locally as Chief Joseph. It then crossed Golden Trout Creek (the stream’s third official name) and climbed up to the the vicinity of Natural Bridge, where the Golden Trout Trail passes today.

The aforementioned fording strategy led to the placement of Lewis Camp, a popular old hang out for Hockett Trail travelers, just north of where the ranger station is today. Even if you’re not about to ford the Kern—and you’re surely wise to avoid it—make sure to take time to wander up the canyon with your rod anyway, and see if you can spot any ruins along the way.

The present-day Golden Trout Trail features a steel-girder bridge, and it crosses the river downstream at a better bridging point, just below Golden Trout Creek. It then climbs out of the canyon along a somewhat more difficult route, just south of Golden Trout Creek.

Along the way, the walker sees numerous signs of geologically recent volcanism, such as columnar basalt, the basalt flows of Malpais (literally “bad country” in Spanish; akin to “badlands”), Natural Bridge, and beyond the flows the cinder cones themselves, active as recently as five thousand years ago.

The basalt fields dominate the floodplain to Groundhog Meadow and the accompanying cinder cone. Beyond this point the basalt persists in a more scattered pattern, and the Golden Trout Trail soon encounters several glacial moraines before ending at Tunnel junction.

See Exploring the Southern Sierra: East Side by Jenkins & Jenkins: Horseshoe Meadow to Kern River Backpack (T114). Also see Hiking California’s Golden Trout Wilderness by Suzanne Swedo: Cottonwood Pass to the Kern River (31).