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Exploring the Southern Sierra Nevada: Jordan Hot Springs Loop Hike

Nestled within the stunning Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains lies a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers: the Jordan Hot Springs Loop. Jordan Hot Springs is a historic and popular natural hot spring located in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Whether you're a seasoned backpacker or a nature lover looking for a long weekend adventure, this trail promises an unforgettable journey through one of California's most enchanting landscapes.

Getting There

The Jordan Hot Springs Loop begins near the charming town of Kennedy Meadows, California. From Kennedy Meadows, drive west on Sherman Pass Road until you reach Forest Route 21S44 and the Ranger Station on the corner. Before you continue to the trailhead, be sure to stop off at the Ranger Station to log your trip and acquire a permit. Follow this road to the end where you will find the parking lot and the Blackrock Trailhead, where your journey will commence.

The Route

The Jordan Hot Springs Loop spans approximately 17.5 miles and typically takes 2-3 days to complete with a 7.5-mile day hike to the Kern River tossed in. Here's a day-by-day breakdown of the hike:

Day 1: Blackrock Trailhead to Red Rock Meadows (8 Miles)

Your journey begins at the Blackrock Trailhead Parking lot, at an elevation of around 8,900 feet. Your destination for the first day is an old husk of a cabin from the 1800s on the edge of Red Rock Meadows. The trail is fairly easy to Red Rock Meadow as is pretty much all downhill

As you descend towards your first fork in the trail, you'll pass by picturesque meadows and seasonal creeks, making this section of the hike perfect for day hikers or those looking for a moderate backpacking experience. Just after you pass the old log cabin on your left you will come up to the Ninemile Creek crossing. Here you will make a right and follow the edge of Casa Vieja Meadow heading North for about 2.3 miles before you reach Long Canyon Creek. Here you will take the trail to the left which can be hard to see due to tall grass growth. You will follow the trail for another 3.5 miles before you reach the old cabin husk where you will spend your first night. Just before you reach your destination you will pass the River spring (1.3 Miles before you reach camp) which will seem like it's just flowing right out of a rock next to the trail. This can be your only source of water until you reach Jordan Hot Springs during the summer months, so fill up enough water to last you for another day.

Note: Although all the water source in the area seem very clean, there is a lot of free-range cattle roaming about who also share the water, so filter before you use the water.

Day 2: Red Rock Meadows to Jordan Hot Springs (4.5 Miles)

On day two, you'll continue your journey, following the trail West as it ascends to the top of the ridge to the right of Indianhead Rock. Shortly after passing Indianhead Rock, you will descend over 2,000 feet to the valley below, where Jordan Hot Springs is located. Be cautious in many sections of this section of the trail as there have been a few lightning-caused fires in the area that have eroded the trail in sections making it hard to see or even find a trail due to large amounts of tree fall in the canyon. Due to the fires, there is next to no tree cover, so this ends up being the hottest part of the trail during the summer months.

Once you reach the bottom of the canyon, Jordan Hot Springs is located alongside Ninemile Creek. You will see a makeshift bridge to the right of the Hot Springs which leads you to the trail to the main "Resort" compound. The hot springs area was settled by John Jordan in the late 19th and early 20th century, there were efforts to develop the springs as a commercial resort. A rustic resort and bathhouse were constructed to accommodate visitors seeking the healing benefits of the hot mineral waters. The Area was classified as a National Historic Landmark in 1992.

The area North of the rustic builds is the most popular section to camp for it has a large campfire ring and there's a natural (Cold water) spring at the end of the meadow fence on the left of the camp.

Day Hike: Kern River (7.4 Miles - out and back)

If you still have some energy you can grab your fishing pole or swimsuit and do a day hike to the Kern River. Be sure to pack a lunch and filter some water before you head out. The trail starts on the other side of Ninemile Creek and the Hot Springs. The trail takes you west along the creek and past a Private cabin. Once you pass the cabin the Kern River is another mile. You will know you have reached your destination when you come upon Painter Camp, a Fishing / Hunting camp with a corral, covered table, and cook area.

Day 3: Jordan Hot Springs to Parking Lot (5 Miles)

The final day of your journey takes you back to the Trailhead via a slightly different route. As you ascend from the hot springs, you'll pass through vibrant meadows, tranquil creeks, and pine-scented forests. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as this area is teeming with mule deer, squirrels, mountain lions, bears, and a variety of bird species.

You have had it easy for the past few days as most of your trip has been downhill, Now you need to climb out of the valley back up to Casa Vieja Meadow. Be sure to clean up all your trash and fill up all your water reservoirs before you head out. The climb out is a little over 2,400 feet with the hardest section being 2 miles in with switchbacks to get up the canyon. One upside is it's mostly in the shade if it's a hot day.

Tips for a Successful Hike

Permits: Make sure to secure any necessary permits well in advance and adhere to all regulations.

Gear: Pack appropriately for varying conditions, as the weather in the Sierra Nevada can be unpredictable. High-quality hiking gear, layers, and a good pair of hiking boots are essential.

Water: Carry a sufficient water supply or a reliable water purification system, as water sources may be limited.

Leave No Trace: Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment and protect this pristine wilderness for future generations.

Wildlife: Respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance and not feeding them. Store food securely to avoid attracting bears and other animals.

The Southern Sierra Nevada Jordan Hot Springs Loop Hike via Red Rock Meadows is a true backcountry adventure that offers the perfect blend of natural beauty and solitude. With its tranquil creeks, alpine meadows, and rejuvenating hot springs, this trail will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the majesty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and embark on an incredible journey through this remarkable wilderness oasis.

The photographs contained in this website may not be reproduced without the express consent of Shutter Bison.

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