Sandy Flat Campground Directions:
From Highway 99 take Highway 178 east to 4 miles west of Lake Isabella. Turn right on Borel Road then right on to the Old Canyon Road. Approximately two miles turn right into Sandy Flats Campground.
Sandy Flats Campground Details:
Campground reservations must be made 3 days in advance, though sites are also available for first come first serve- don’t expect to be able to find those any time in Spring or Summer. There are 14 campsites available for tent camping (this place is not RV friendly). Six people and two cars are allowed at each site, which are equipped with picnic tables and a fire ring. They cost $18.00 per night and there is a $2.00 extra fee per day for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekends.
Dogs are allowed here, but they must leashed at all times. There are no showers or flush toilets here, nor did I see potable water sources, though you’ll be just a short walk from a small stream, and a short drive from the Kern River itself. Most people use this campground for it’s easy access to Lake Isabella or the Kern River rafting and floating launching points nearby at Hobo Campground. Fishing in the area is also highly popular.
The photos in this post were taken during a camping trip to Sequoia National Forest, where I spent two nights at Sandy Flat Campground, just off the banks of the Kern River, near Isabella Lake.
Our trip immediately preceded one of the largest storms that California has seen in years- unleashing cold, wind, rain, and even heavy snow in many parts of Southern CA. There were also big weather related events like mudslide evacuations, a helicopter assisted rescue of a dog from the swollen LA river, and even tornado warnings in parts of Orange County. Fortunately, the two days we spent in Sequoia National Forest offered up blue skies and sunshine.
Driving from Southern CA, we entered the National Park on Highway 178, just East of Fresno. Deep into the drive on 178, which winds along the Kern River, I lost our only form of directions (electronic- on my phone). I lost reception at about the same time, preventing me from retrieving them with Google Maps.
Neither of us could remember the next step, but we were fairly confident that were just a few miles from our destination: Sandy Flat Campground. The next fork in the road was with “Kern Canyon Road”, which houses a large and official looking building- though I can’t remember what it was. We also found a big glass display case containing a detailed map of the region, which for some reason lacked the names of roads and campgrounds.
We decided to continue on the main road- down 178, soon finding a junction with Borel Road, which Sean decided to take. Right after turning on Borel I regained cell reception, pulled up the directions, and saw that he was right. I thought of Jung’s “Synchronicity”. Nice memory though Sean!
It was only another mile to Sandy Flat Campground, where we quickly managed to find friends who had arrived a few hours earlier and set up at a site. I was surprised that they were the only campers in the entire place, as I had been expecting the area to be relatively crowded. Our campsite was one of the best I’ve ever stayed at while car camping, and I would definitely consider a return trip. The Kern River was only a couple hundred feet from our tents and we had nice vista-like views of the surrounding hillsides.
Saturday afternoon we took a decent hike near Lake Isabella, which provided all the photos in this post. It was a beautiful area, though I wasn’t impressed by the 4 mile loop trail- not nearly long enough for a good backpacking trip, but definitely sufficient for a day hike.
Returning to our campsite darkness set in quickly, and with it came biting cold. Donning headgear and gloves, we huddled around the camp fire for a couple hours of interesting conversation. I spent much of the night playing fire-marshal, manipulating the logs in an attempt to create interesting patterns for my second series of Fire Photography. I destroyed my expensive Circular Polarizer in the process, and learned a valuable lesson that I won’t soon forget- sensitive photography equipment should not be placed near extreme heat.
On Sunday morning we visited Hobo Campground, finding much of it closed. The part we were able to explore appeared to be a river access portal for the popular white water rafting and kayaking that is the main draw of this region. We did manage to find a small, though somewhat secluded area with a couple of potential campsites right on the banks of the Kern, but I’d guess those are only viable during the winter while no one else is around. We tested out what appeared to be a small hiking trail on the southern end of the dirt parking lot, but it led directly into the river within a couple hundred feet, leaving much to be desired.
Returning to Sandy Flat, we ate lunch and took naps, waking up to what looked like gigantic thunderheads rolling in directly over our location. We packed up and left quickly, getting out of there just in time. As I put my last load of gear into the car, it started to drizzle. By the time we reached Bodfish to stop for lunch, it was raining pretty heavily. And during the ride home we witnessed some heavy downpours.
I hope the campground survived this week’s intense weather, because I’d love to return in the near future.