If you are a dedicated fisherman as I am, and you have yet to catch your first golden trout then here is where to look.
Split between the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests, the Golden Trout Wilderness covers over 300,000 acres. First protected in 1978, it is a land of diversity, from rolling dense forests and meadows up to high rugged granite summits.
The Golden Trout has supported native populations of golden trout (California’s state fish) for thousands of years in the drainages of the Upper Kern River. This wilderness contains all of the Little Kern River’s drainage as well as the North and South Fork of the Kern River plus 117 miles of streams; the Golden Trout Wilderness is a true trout haven.
Upper Kern River
However, golden trout populations have dwindled throughout the state and in the area due to predation and interbreeding from the non-native European brown trout. Pure populations of golden trout inhabit fewer than 10 miles of streams in the area. The local Little Kern golden trout and the Volcano Creek golden trout are classified as threatened while the endemic South Fork Kern golden trout, rainbow trout, from which golden trout evolved, and western sucker and squawfish are more abundant.
Although golden trout have been transplanted to lakes and streams across the country, the majestic fish are native to the high country Kern River watershed in the California's Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Reaching the true stomping grounds of golden trout is no simple task as nearly all the streams and creeks that hold native fish require anglers to backpack or horseback in. On average, the quest for gold takes anglers on a trek of more than five miles, through the oxygen-thin Sierra Nevada air and elevations exceeding 8,000 feet.
Reaching from the western foothills all the way to the eastern high desert, the Golden Trout Wilderness is accessible from both sides of the Sierra Nevada range. From the east, most visitors access the wilderness from along Hwy 395, often from near Lone Pine (near Mt Whitney). From the west, various access roads stem from Hwy 190 near Giant Sequoia National Monument.