Lake Isabella Camping Trip things to do while visiting this Kern County lake. Lake Isabella is nestled in what is known as the Kern River Valley between two sections of the Sequoia National Forest. Surrounding communities are the towns of Lake Isabella, Kernville, Bodfish, Caliente, and Wofford Heights.
Of course, the main attraction is the lake itself — one of the largest reservoirs in Southern California. From fishing to boating, camping to picnicking, the lake offers some of the best fresh-water recreation experiences around.
Both the upper and lower Kern River offer excellent fishing, camping, and rafting. We recommend the upper Kern for camping and rafting. River water levels are higher, campgrounds are numerous, and the scenery is spectacular.
Things to do Lake Isabella
There are plenty of other interesting things to see and experience in the area. The Kern Valley Museum in the historic town of Kernville is a great place to start your visit.
The museum houses several unique periods of artifacts from prehistoric times to present day and has a collection of both indoor and outdoor exhibits, including some the valley’s original buildings. It is open year round, and best of all it’s free.
Kern Valley Museum
One of the many things you will learn at the museum is that the Kern Valley was originally inhabited by Native American’s called the Tubatulabal as early as 100 A.D. Evidence of the Tubatulabal living in the area is all around the Kern Valley, from rocks with grinding holes to petroglyphs.
Many descendants of the Tubatulabal Tribe live in the Kern River Valley today. Some of these descendants volunteer at the “NuuiCunni” Native American Intertribal Culture Center. The culture center is a wonderful place to explore the local Native American culture, traditions, and history of the Kern River Valley.
Silver City Ghost Town a short drive from Lake Isabella and a must-see for history buffs and ghost hunters alike. Located in Bodfish, guests take a self-guided tour of over twenty historic buildings and thousands of artifacts moved to the site from mining camps and other local frontier settlements around the area.
Some say that spirits haunt Silver City from that past and possibly the present, earning the location a spot on the “National Directory of Haunted Places”. Antique collectors will want to browse the unique collection of antiques for sale in the main building. 3829 Lake Isabella Bl. Bodfish, CA. 93205 and is now open daily 7 days per week from 10 AM to 4 PM
Kern River Fish Hatchery
Kern River Fish Hatchery is another little-known area attraction is the Kern River Fish Hatchery, located just a few miles north of Kernville and is owned and maintained by the California Department of Fish and Game.
There is also a Fishing Museum, a Natural History Museum, and an area where visitors can view the holding tanks where the hatcheries, five different strains of Little Kern Goldens have been raised for decades. The Kern River Fish Hatchery is located on the Kern River, one mile north of Kernville.
Kern River Preserve
Wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy spending some time at the 1127-acre Kern River Preserve, located along the South Fork of the river, east of Isabella Reservoir. The preserve is operated by the National Audubon Society and is open 365 days a year.
The experience will expose visitors to tens of thousands of birds calling out in a collective symphony. But birds are not the only inhabitants of the preserve. The area has a multitude of critters including turtles and the occasional black bear.
Kern River White Water Rafting
Rafting is one of the most popular activities along the Kern River with numerous outfitters offering guided trips down the tours. The most popular Kern River rafting trips are on the Upper Kern. When there is a good flow coming out of Lake Isabella rafting trips are available on the Lower Kern River.
The upper Kern River is a great place for one-day rafting trips. To book a Kern River rafting trip visit Kern River Outfitters.
Where to Dine, Lake Isabella
Kernville and the town of Lake Isabella have an assortment of restaurants from fast food to fine food.
Kern River Brewing Company is a place where you can enjoy a Beer Belly Bratwurst topped with stout mustard and one of four locally brewed beers. There is a menu just for the kids too.
Ewing’s On the Kern
For a spectacular view, Ewing’s On the Kern is the place to dine. Ewing’s servers Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ewing’s first opened in the 1950’s as the best steakhouse on the Kern River. The restaurant was completely renovated in 2014 by the owner of Sierra Gateway Markets. New decor, updated outdoor river view patios and a new menu have made Ewing’s On the Kern the most popular place to dine in the Kernville.
Sierra Gateway Markets are a convenient place to stock up on food for your camping trip and also offer pre-cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. Sierra Gateway has three locations in the Kern Valley. (try the Breakfast Burritos, they are great.)
Lower Kern, Upper Kern, and Lake Isabella Campgrounds. Where to stay on a Lake Isabella Camping trip.
Getting to Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella is located three hours north of Los Angeles and one hour northeast of Bakersfield, where Highway 178 meets Highway 155.
The two main roads into Lake Isabella. The scenic route through the lower Kern Canyon from Bakersfield and the RV friendly route via Highway 14 and East 178.