The most popular outdoor activity in Kern County isn’t whitewater rafting, it’s Kern River camping. For years finding a campground has been a cumbersome experience, but updated improvements to Recreation.gov allow users to search online quickly and easily for availability
For years, finding a Sequoia National Forest Kern River campsite was challenging. You would have to search date-specific availability against each and every campsite. This process took forever and was frustrating because most searches would typically yield unavailability. It was so tedious one of our river guides, Andrew Schwartz, coded a tool for our website that checked Kern River campground availability in real time. (A point of pride was how popular this tool was, it ended up being used in over 10,000 searches and even the LAist.com wrote about it.) Now, Recreation.gov allows you to search a location for everything available, allowing you to quickly find a camping spot.
Try it below: Open one of the links below and simply enter your preferred dates. Don’t move the map or adjust the location. It will search availability on the fly.
- Search Upper Kern campgrounds here
- Search Lake Isabella campgrounds here
- Search Lower Kern campgrounds here
“During quarantine, while they weren’t allowed to lead rafting trips, a few bored guides at Kern River Outfitters learned to code…and they managed to make a website that’s a lot more user friendly than Reserve America…The tool allows users to search open campsites in Sequoia National Forest, near the Kern.“LAist – Gina Pollack
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good
The process isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough. For example, to capture every Sequoia National Forest campsite in the Kern River corridor we have to break out our search parameters into three separate queries, the Upper Kern, Lake Isabella area, and Lower Kern. This is because if we zoom out the map too far, the search results bring up areas that we don’t need, such as campgrounds that are “close” to the Kern River by the bird, but in reality, are quite far.
Privately owned campgrounds are still your best bet
As expected, privately owned campgrounds in Kernville and Lake Isabella offer more amenities and a more comfortable camping experience compared to the campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest. These include electric hookups, flushing toilets, hot showers, and small general stores. While their availability has to be checked individually, a quick call or using their online booking systems is easy enough.