Mountain Bike Rides in the Kern River Valley and Southern Sierra The Kern Slabs (Kernville Rock)


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Great face and crack climbing above the river near Kernville.

Kern Slabs and the Miricle Mile of Kernville Climbing
The "Miracle Mile" of Kernville rock climbing above the Kern River. Kern Slabs on right; New Directions Cliffs left; Chico Flat Rocks distant left. Enjoy over 100 routes in this area.
  • Sport and Trad Climbing
  • 5.4 to 5.12
  • 1-2 pitches
  • Approach: 10-20 min steep hike
  • Where: 5 miles north of Kernville
  • When: Fall/Winter/Spring
  • Land: Sequoia Nat Forest
  • Where: Kernville
  • Elevation: 3,400 ft
  • Map: Kern River Sierra Outdoor Rec Map
  • Guide to "Kernville Rock Climbs" by Herb Laeger is available online and at Sierra South & Riverside One-Stop in Kernville. Buying this guide helps support the replacement of old bolts and anchors in the Kern River area.
The Kern Slabs
The Climber on the right is on Dirty Dishes, 5.7. New Sport climbing on the Beer Wall is on the left, under the arch/roof.

"The Slabs"

Officially, this climbing area is known as "Kernville Rock" in the old guidebooks. Others call it "Kernville Dome." Most locals call it "The Kern Slabs", or often just "The Slabs."

Kern Slabs Climbing
Climbing "Fine Line", 5.10b, a local favorite.
Classic Lieback Route on Kern Slabs
On the super classic Lieback Route 5.8.

From Sierra Gateway Market in Kernville, drive north on Mtn 99 for about 5 miles. Park on the right across from Thunderbird camping/day-use area.

Hike the steep slope about 15-20 minutes to the dome.

From Left to Right:

There has been new sport route development on the north side of the rock on the "Beer Wall," which now has 6-7 well-protected sport climbs with names like IPA Lot, This Buds for You, The Growler, Friction Brewing, and Hop Matter - all in the 5.8-5.11 range. Celebrate after at KRBC with your favorite beverage!

The large face to the right, a.k.a. Cornflakes Wall, has many of the harder original 5.9-5.12+ routes. While many of these are quite runout, a few new bolts have been added with the agreement of the original route-setters.

Lieback Crack Area: Just to the right of the approach trail are some very classic crack climbs, starting with the easier crack on "Chouinard Special" which leads to harder face climbing. Dont miss the classic and highly rated "Lieback" and others like "Claustrophobia Crack" and the "Chouinard Special" and the challenging "Initiation Crack."

Dirty Dishes Wall: Next to a newer sport climb, "Fine Line," is the popular "Dirty Dishes" route with a few other 5.7 to 5.8 options.

Odds Wall: On the other side of the "Loose Book" corner, is a brand new 5.9+ sport climb that is 150 feet to the anchor. Bring an extra rope or rap to the anchor for "Against all Odds," 5.11B. This anchor serves 3 routes; a 5.7 and 2 routes with 5.11 moves.

Herb Laeger on the Beer Wall.

More Information

A Guide by Herb Laeger is available online and at Sierra South & Riverside One-Stop in Kernville. This is the most updated information on this area and includes New Directions just to the north.

Many of the routes are described in the older guidebook: Southern Sierra Rock Climbing: The Needles. Another guidebook, California Road Trip: A Climber's Guide Northern California, also has information on the Slabs.

Mountain River Adventures and Sierra South in Kernville guides here and other locations.

Climbing Nearby

Just north of the Kern Slabs is a zone called The Morgue.

Along with some very difficult old routes, several new sport routes line these cliffs between New Directions and the Kern Slabs.

The best access is just north of the Slabs (where the road bends at the "Cables" whitewater Put-In) at a very old road remnant that climbs toward the climbing area. As the old road bed dissapears, traverse left (north) above the large boulders.

Climbing the Morgue, Kernville, CA
On the "Bucket Face," 5.9 at The Morgue, Kernville, CA.

Some excellent long moderate sport routes are found here like the standouts: "Bucket Face" 5.9 & 5.10 variations and Crazy Buckets 5.8. These are just barely possible with a stretched 70 meter rope. For Bucket Face climbs, belay from the ledge. Up to the right are more new routes, 5.9-5.11.

Just to the north of The Morgue is New Directions Cliffs and Chico Flat Rocks, offering plenty of climbing.

There are also some good boulders near the road, and at the top of the slabs.

Also, a rugged trail traverses above the Slabs and New Directions cliffs; The Old Flume Trail.

Just up the road

  • New Directions
  • Chico Flat
  • Corral Creek Wall
  • Roadkill Rocks
  • Salmon Creek area Climbs
  • Book Rock

  • At the top of Kern Slabs
    At the top after a short 3rd pitch.

    Chimney at the top
    A fun easy chimney leads to the summit of Kernville Rock.

    Kern Slabs views
    Kern Slabs granite with Baker Point behind. 2nd pitch above Claustrophobia Crack.
Don't Get Lost!
Kernville Adventure Map

The trails and climbing locations are depicted on the 6th edition of the Kern River Sierra Map.

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Map Details


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