Mountain Bike Rides in the Kern River Valley and Southern Sierra Tobias Trail

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Super scenic backcountry trail descending from the heart of the Greenhorns to the Kern River; a rugged and wild Southern Sierra Epic.

Upper Tobias Trail, Kernville, CAUpper Tobias Trail

Black Diamond

THE STATS

9 Miles on Tobias Trail
400 feet of climbing.
4500 feet of drop.

*23+ Miles from Greenhorn Summit
(Riding Roads & Portuguese Pass Tr to Frog Mdw)
2500+ feet of climbing.

Shuttle Ride.
*Ride Portuguese Pass Trail from the south or Pup Meadow Trail from the north.

*Semi Loops Possible with Bull Run Pass Trail or the road 23S18.

*An Out 'n' back (with a loop) is an option for winter riding on Lower Tobias (See options below.)

 

 

UPDATE! 10/27/16 Regarding the comments below: A couple miles of the brushy section of trail (so far!)has been cleared! Rain is coming soon, and should help.

Fall 2016: The Upper Trail near Frog Meadow, is a fun ride now. The main section is bushy right now, and needs some TLC. About a mile of the ride is rutted; on the steep section before the creek crossing. If you ride it, bring shin guards and be ready for an adventure ride. Access to this trail was closed most of the summer due to the Cedar Fire (it was not burned at all), but Stewards of the Sequoia is planning a trailwork day sometime soon; they helped reopen the trail in 2013. Note that Portuguse Pass Trail was burned in the Cedar Fire, although it is open now. Other access points include Pup Meadow Trail from the North. Upper Pup Meadow (2.5 miles) is clear and riding well, while the lower section is ridable but brushy with some hike-a-biking.

Tobias Canyon in the Fall
Fall Colors in Tobias Canyon, as seen from the trail.

The neglected Tobias Trail was almost forgotten after the catastrophic McNally Fire swept through the area. But the thought of ignoring a 9-mile backcountry singletrack of this caliber was simply unbearable to some of the local mountain bikers.

Needless to say, Tobias has been reawakened.

In 2013, The USFS with Stewards of the Sequoia and volunteers, completely brushed and officially reopened the entire trail.

Upper Tobias Trail
Just leaving Frog Meadow.

On the Trail

Tobias is probably the most remote trail in the Greenhorns.
It is out there.

While it may not be such a conveniently located trail, Tobias Trail is absolutely worth the effort for any adventure-minded mountain biker.

Awesome scenery and humungous views are part of the ride experience. Half way down the trail, you are looking straight across the Kern Canyon at Salmon Creek Falls.

Expect everything from very steep loose technically-demanding sections of trail to smile inducing portions of fast flowy downhill riding. On other sections, tight skinny singletrack skirt the steep mountainsides as you plunge downhill.

Upper Tobias
Ripping upper Tobias.

Be ready for anything on this one!

The upper Tobias trail starts at Frog Meadow Campground and closely parallels Tobias Creek through a steep and rocky canyon. The top is really fast with plenty of carvy turns, while the lower section has some climbing. Be aware that the trail crosses a few dirt roads. At 2.5 miles, the trail spits you out at a paved road, where you pedal left to find the rest of Tobias Trail (partially blocked off with boulders) just up a little ways on the right. It quickly drops down to the creek, where a log provides an informal creek crossing just upstream of the trail.

As it cuts through the wilderness, most of the next 6.5 miles of trail stay fairly high above the creek. There are some hills and short steep climbs, especially in the last few miles.

Frog Meadow Frog Meadow Campground
Frog Meadow in the early summer. Near the Trailhead at the campground.

Tobias Upper Trail
Stoked!

NOTE! Bikers can avoid the final steep climbs, by taking an old flume trail that is just up from the rocky Flynn Creek crossing. Looks for an unrefined trail (an old flume) off to the right.

When it reaches Whiskey Flat Trail, turn left (the trail stays on the old flume).

Near the bottom, Tobias Trail merges onto Whiskey Flat trail.Pedal left/north to the McNally Bridge to finish.

Or if you're crazy, go right to add a grueling 14 miles of Whiskey Flat Trail back to Kernville.

Note that Portuguese Pass Trail and upper Tobias Trails are open to motorcycle use, although they are uncommon on Tobias.

On the Tobias Ridge
Descending the ridge above Tobias Creek.

Awesome view from the ridge.

Ride Variations

Most people simply ride from Greenhorn Summit, along Portuguese Pass Road (easier) or Trail (demanding) to Portuguese Pass. At the Pass, hop onto the North Portuguese Pass Trail for a few miles, then drop down to the dirt road 24S50. Take this easy cruiser all the way to Frog Meadow Campground where the Tobias Trail starts.

For most riders, the ride ends at McNallys (which is about 15 miles north of Kernville).

If your legs are made of steel, you can continue on Whiskey Flat Trail to Kernville or take the Old Flume Trail back. Each are very demanding rides by themselves.

Tobias Creek Trail
On the edge of Tobias Canyon far above the Kern River. Flynn Canyon is to the left.

Connecting with Pup Meadow Trail

Another adventurous option is to take Pup Meadow Trail to Frog Meadow/Tobias Trail from the Johnsondale side.

The upper Pup Meadow trail is clear, while the lower section is still a bit brushy. But, this is certainly destined to change soon. Since most bikers leave a shuttle at McNallys and are already north, it makes sense to continue up past Johnsondale to Road 23S16.

There are several ways to access the Pup Meadow Trail, depending on how much climbing you're up for. One can take the dirt roads to the top of Lion Ridge and ride the upper (southern) section of Pup Meadow Trail to Sandy Flat and on to Frog Meadow (2.5 miles of gradual singletrack). Although brushy and a little steeper, the lower section is fairly ridable and adds 1.5 miles of singletrack. Some mountain bikers are starting to clear this excellent trail, so conditions should improve in the future.

Pup Meadow Trail, upper section
Upper Pup Meadow Tr.

Loop Options

Starting at the Greenhorn Summit Sand Shed, some bikers prefer to ride the roads out to Frog Meadow then descend Upper Tobias and ride the road back up to Portuguese Pass. At this point, they ride Portuguese Pass Trail back.

Lower Tobias Trail
Nearing the end of the ride, above the Whiskey Flat Trail. Along with lower Flynn Canyon Trail, this section of trail can be ridden all winter.

To loop the entire trail, ride through Johnsondale to thespectacularly scenic USFS road 22S10, and climb this and take other roads or trails to Tobias. Return up pavement to Johnsondale. This is big!

Winter Rides

Winter Riding on Lower Tobias, Whiskey Flat, and Flynn Canyon Trails. From McNalleys, ride across the bridge to Whiskey Flat Trail and on to Tobias Trail. Its steep in places, but possible to ride all the way up to the creek crossing. On the way back down, one can take the lower section of Flynn Canyon Trail (out 'n' back) and/or take the bypass trail on the old flume (described above) to make a small loop back to Whiskey Flat Trail.

Elevation Profile (Greenhorn Summit to Kern River)

Greenhorn Summit to Tobias Elevation

Trailheads

Its highly recommended to take a guide, or at least a map for this trail!

Near the Creek Crossing on Tobias Trail
Cruising through the lower creek section.

To pedal the whole ride, Greenhorn Summit to Portuguese Trail to Tobias Trail to McNally's:

Drive 7 miles from Wofford Heights up Hwy 155 to the Greenhorn Summit. Park at the Sand Shed. You can also turn right and drive to Portuguese Pass to shorten the ride. From Portuguese Pass, turn right on the paved road, 23S16. Next turn left on the dirt road 24S50. Take this all the way to Frog Meadow and turn right on the paved campground road.

The actual Tobias Trail starts at Frog Meadow Campground, at the end of the campground road. Look for a sign marking the trail, or ride to one of the last camps and cut into the trail.

McNally's Bridge/Upper Whiskey Flat Trailhead is just north of McNally's restaurant about 15 miles north of Kernville.

To ride from the Johnsondale side, keep driving north past McNally's to Johnsondale. Drive a few miles past Johnsondale and turn left on the paved road 23S16. At this point, there are numerous shuttle and ride options. (to be updated as the Pup Meadow Trail improves......)

Tobias Trail midway Tobias Trail
Make sure you have fresh brake pads for this one. Steep slalom turns just before the final creek crossing.

View from Tobias Trail of Salmon Creek Falls

Don't underestimate the length of this ride, or you'll be watching sunset on Salmon Creek Falls, with another 3000 vertical feet of tough trail to go!



Dont Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

Tobias trail and optional routes are depicted on the local adventure map:

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Map Details