Forks of the Kern

The most spectacular Class V trip in the country

your class v overnight kern river experience

Class V thrills on the Forks of the Kern

Mile for mile, no stretch of whitewater in North America compares to the Forks of the Kern. This 17 mile rafting trip features huge Class V drops and continuous Class IV whitewater framed by some of the most spectacular canyon scenery in the west. Space is limited and trips fill quickly, so please call or email to inquire about dates.

An inside look:

Forks of the Kern Photo Gallery

Photos from this rafting trip.

Quick Facts

Trip Meeting Place: 6602 Wofford Blvd, Wofford Heights, CA 93285.

Trip meeting time: Evening before your trip

Minimum Age: 16 years old.


Trip Cost

Any launch: $1199

Does not include 6% government and service fee

View cancellation policy


At a Glance

Approximately 17 miles of rafting, split into two full days.

Rapids are Class III, IV & V.

Meals included are day 1 lunch, day 1 dinner, day 2 breakfast, and day 2 lunch.

There is a 3-mile hike to the put-in on day-1.


2023 Forks of the kern

“It’s either 80 rapids in quick succession or one really, really long one.” -National Geographic

About the Forks

The Forks of the Kern has some of the world’s most famous whitewater – but the trip is more than just rapids. The canyon that we travel through offers beautiful side-hikes to towering waterfalls, amazing views of the “Needles”, and spectacular camping spots along the banks of the river.

This trip is best suited for individuals with prior rafting experience who are in good physical condition. Back to back Class V rapids after a 3-mile hike into the canyon means even those in good shape are challenged by this beautiful and remote stretch of whitewater.

How to book this trip

With limited launches available, your best chances of joining a trip are by signing up for our interest list. This will keep you updated as we learn more about our winter snowpack, subsequent melt, and Forks of the Kern launch dates. Once you’ve done this, we suggest reviewing our Forks of the Kern FAQs, which are listed below.

Forks of the Kern FAQs

By joining our Forks of the Kern interest list you are ensuring that you receive updates before any other outlet, including our social media and this website.

March 1st – First Glance: On March 1st, We send out our annual “First Glance” Forks of the Kern season update. This information includes the initial season outlook and our first estimate of possible launch dates. No reservations are accepted at this time.
April 1 – Second Look: On April 1, our second email is sent and is similar to the first but has refined date windows. No reservations are accepted at this time.
Variable Timing – Third Email: Finally, our third Forks of the Kern update email will have confirmed dates and will allow you to schedule a time to be interviewed / phone screened by our General Manager to confirm a reservation.
Additional Emails: If our season allows dates to open up, we will send an update to subscribers.

It is important to know that you do not have to be on our interest list to book this trip. However, subscribers are far more likely to successfully make a reservation as they receive information before any other outlet.

Generally speaking, the reservation and the pre-trip process look like the following:

  1. Available trip launch dates are confirmed by us.
  2. You schedule a phone screening with our General Manager and once passed, you book the trip. (More on this below.)
  3. Trip details are sent to you.
  4. The evening before your trip launch we hold our pre-trip meeting at our Rafting Center. Your attendance is mandatory.
  5. We hold our Class V Paddler’s Test. (More on this below.)
  6. You pass the test and we drive to the put-in and launch the trip.

We phone screen to help ensure that participants are in good physical health and to minimize trip misconceptions. At the end of the call, if both you and our General Manager feel that you are a good fit for the trip, you will be given the option to make a reservation. Full payment is due at the time of booking. Our cancellation policy can be found here.

Please keep in mind, that trip participation is still contingent on you passing our Class V Paddlers Test, which is described below.

Our Class V Paddler’s Test is conducted either the evening before your trip launch or the morning of. It depends on daylight and Trip Leader preference. Either way, the test is the same. This evaluation is not considered hard for those in good physical health and is not based on strength, but on endurance. In full river gear (helmet, PFD, wetsuit) you will run a quarter-mile, jump into a Class II rapid, safely navigate it, and catch an eddy at the bottom of the rapid.

If you fail the Class V Paddlers test you will not be issued a refund or trip credit as we are unable to re-sell the space on such short notice. We will register you on a different trip launching the same day, most likely our Two Day Lower Kern.

Keep in mind this is also answered in our Trip Details page, but we’ve summarized the information here. When packing for the Forks it is important to remember that everything you bring, you must carry down the 2.5 mile trail to the river. With this in mind, we recommend packing similar to how you would pack on a backpacking trip. The only gear provided is your rafting gear and dry bag. Here is an example list of what most of our guides pack on a trip:

  • Sleeping bag (lightweight and warm, 20 – 40 degree rating). Here are several options that fit this criteria: REI
  • Sleeping pad (lightweight and inflatable) Here are several options via REI
  • Good pair of sneakers or hiking boots for the trail down to the river
  • Hiking clothes (based on weather)
  • Layering/Camp clothes (long underwear, pants, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, puffy coat, outer shell, wool synthetic socks, and outer shell)
  • On water layers (synthetic long sleeve to wear under a provided wetsuit, wool/synthetic socks, or neoprene footwear)

The best time to go changes every season. Snowpack and runoff dictate when our window to run the Forks is open. For example, our 2017 high water season we had all of our launches occur in August. In 2018 we ran our trips in early June, and 2019 we had a July and early August window. We consider our scheduling conservative, so generally speaking, if we have a launch open and available to book, then we believe that date is in the ballpark of ‘best’ time of the season.

In addition to this, our permit allows us to go only on specific dates. These launch dates remain the same every year. April 21, 26. May 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31. June 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30. July 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30. August 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29.

Forks of the Kern trips are intimate, with just 15 guests per launch.

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