Photo © Moutain and River Adventures/John Stallone
Located in Kernville in the southern Sierra Nevada, the “Cannell Plunge” is a popular mountain bike ride of epic proportions with incredible views of the surrounding peaks, forested single track, and non-stop action. You get over 23.7 miles of riding starting at 9,200 feet, most of it on single track. If you want an additional adrenaline pumping challenge, you can add a climb to the top of Sherman Peak with a high point of 9,900 feet.
The primary descent on the Cannell Trail (33E32) is “The Plunge” where the trail drops 5,000 feet in 9 miles. The ride is not all downhill though. There are a couple of hard climbs that, combined with the altitude, will definitely get your attention. This is a long route, so be sure to carry plenty of water and food. There are a couple of streams along the way, and please note that it is recommended to filter and treat the water from these sources. If you are traveling without a mountain bike, rentals are available through Mountain and River Adventures in Kernville.
Since the Cannell Plunge ride starts at 9,200 feet, even the most fit cyclists don't peddle to this trailhead. Don't worry, you will definitely get a workout on this classic mountain bike ride.
To get to the Cannell Trailhead, there are two options. You can either create your own shuttle or hire a local guide company that operates a shuttle service.
Self Vehicle Shuttle: You will leave one vehicle at the Forest Service corrals off Mtn. 99 where the trail ends and then drive the other car to the Sherman Pass Vista (well over an hour away).
Paid Shuttle Option: Contact Mountain and River Adventures in Kernville which offers the only shuttle service.
The trail begins at the Sherman Pass Vista off Sherman Pass Road (22S05). From here you have the option to gain the peak or begin down the Cannell Trail.
The trail up to Sherman Peak is 2.5 miles, and is “rideable” with the last section requiring a bit of technical skill using the “hike-bike” method for gaining the peak. The views from the peak are out of this world with 360 degrees of the Sierra Nevada at her finest, including views of Mount Whitney off in the horizon. If you have the strength to tackle the Sherman Peak it is well worth the effort!
The first accent begins just north of Mosquito Meadow and is about ¾ mile long, followed by a long descent to Big Meadow. Once across Salmon Creek, the route continues on Cherry Hill Road (22S12) for about 2 miles, which is the second ascent. This route will crest out on top of Big Meadow Pass where it picks up the trail on the east side of the road. The trail continues for about ½ mile where the third ascent begins. This is 1 mile long, followed by a long descent to Cannell Meadow. From there the trail continues with 3 miles of relaxed riding before Pine Flat is reached. The gate marks the beginning of the 9 miles and 5,000 foot descent called by local riders and those that have experienced it, the “Cannell Plunge” begins. This trail travels through several meadows and offers beautiful scenic vistas of the town of Kernville and Isabella Lake as you descend. Watch for the 3 gates in this section that will need to be opened and closed behind you due to livestock in the area. The bottom of the trail comes out at the fire road, where you will bear to the left and head up to the gate. Follow the single track through the meadow to the final gate. You will now be back on Mtn. 99. Take a left and Kernville is less than a mile ahead.
And for those of you with energy left to burn, take a refreshing swim in the Kern River.
The Cannell Trail is closed during the winter due to road snow closures.
Route Length: 23.7 mile ride with 1,900 feet of climbing and 9,000 vertical drop
Challenging - Route includes Difficult Sections Best Suited for Skilled Riders
Do not travel solo when biking this trail.
Show courtesy and respect to all trail users.
Observe the practice of minimum impact bicycling by "taking only pictures and memories and leaving only waffle prints".
Dogs are not recommended on this ride.