Monache Meadows, Blackrock, and Smith

Revised 9 May 2014 - please send updates to the webmaster

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Monache Meadows Jeep Road gives access to the west side of Olancha, but only in the late summer and fall. It's far to wet in the spring, and the road is closed until late July or August. Call the Blackrock Rangers to check on road closures. It starts as a high quality graded dirt road, suitable for year round use by ordinary passenger vehicles, far enough to use as a trailhead for Smith Mountain. The nearby Blackrock trailhead is reached entirely on pavement.

Glen Pruett warns:

Actually, because the 2002 hiking/camping season was really dry, we were lucky to get into the area in July. Usually, because the meadow is wet, getting in (and getting out) can be a challenge. There are many, many examples of less-than-prepared 4-wheel drivers who get stuck up to their running boards when they attempt to cross the numerous creeks/streams running into the meadow. Also, when less-than concerned/responsible ORV operators attempt to go around those streams, and into the meadow itself, not only do they REALLY get stuck, but they do serious damage to the meadow. So, be patient, take your time and wait for the meadow to dry up. Once there, again, take your time and be very, very careful and stay off the meadow with your ORV.

Monache Meadows / Blackrock area map: (see text details below)

Blackrock Driving Details: (see area map above)

To reach this area, start by going up the Sherman Pass Road (from the east or west) to the Blackrock Information Station (waypoint BLKINF). The road is so winding that exact odometer readings are hard to come by, and the western approach is worse than the eastern approach. Coming from the east, this junction is almost 40 miles from Hwy 395 (waypoint 3959MI), about 12 miles east of Kennedy Meadows (waypoint KENEDY). Coming from the west, this junction is 16 miles from Sherman Pass (waypoint SHRMAN) and 31 miles from the Kern River (waypoint KERNSP).

Allow at least an hour to get to BLKINF from either KERNSP or 3959MI. From there it's an easy 8-mile drive on pavement due north to the Blackrock trailhead. The road north from Blackrock station has some branches, but the main road ends at the Blackrock trailhead (waypoint BLACKT), just southeast of Blackrock Mountain. To reach Kern Peak, continue north (on foot!) through Casa Vieja Mdw and Redrocks Mdw.

Monache Meadows / Smith Mtn Driving Details: (see area map above)

Get to Blackrock Information Station (waypoint BLKINF) as above, then go north on the Blackrock Road for 3.5 miles to a sign that says "Monache Jeep Road 4 miles" (waypoint SMITHJ) and turn right on a good paved road. (This is not yet the Jeep Road, you're now on the Smith Meadow road.) About 7 miles from BLKINF, there is a yellow T intersection sign (waypoint MONCHJ) and a brown sign saying "Monache Meadow 4WD Road". To reach Smith Mtn, go straight (yellow line).

Smith Mountain: (see overall map above)

To reach Monache Meadows, turn left (at waypoint MONCHJ staying on the red line), passing through a gate right at the junction, onto a paved road that immediately turns into dirt. Less than a quarter mile later there is a campground (waypoint 2WDCMP) beyond which the road becomes impassable for 2WD passenger cars. This would be a good carpool spot if you plan to share 4WD rides. About 8 miles from BLKINF there is another campground (waypoint 4WDCMP) just before the road really goes to hell. This campground is at the top of a small rise, and the road turns sharply left before dropping down to Snake Creek.

The 2+ miles from where the road turns down (waypoint SNATOP) to Snake Creek (waypoint SNACRK) is as bad as it gets in terms of clearance and traction requirements (as distinct from the need for flotation in the bogs and streams of the meadow itself!). The road has forks occasionally, but they seem to come back together except the ones that are signed as 4WD roads. At the base of the worst hill is the Granite Knob Cutoff Trail (waypoint GRACUT), and then you go through a gate just before reaching Snake Creek (waypoint SNACRK) just over 10 miles from BLKINF.

Snake Creek: (see overall map above)

After following the creek almost a mile east, the road turns north (waypoint SUMRSS) to go over a saddle in the Summer Ridge (waypoint SUMRSR). There's a signed junction for a campground (waypoint SUMRSN) just before you cross Round Mtn Stringer and skirt the east side of Monache Mtn. There are extensive campsites from here to the South Fork Kern River crossing (waypoint KERNMM), which is a broad gravel stream bed. I would NOT want to be here when the river was running strongly!

NOTE: Several have said the roads don't match the maps in this area, but the Monache Meadows Kern River crossing (waypoint KERNMM) is exactly where Topo! says it is on the 7.5' quad. The roads matched just fine, based on the track log and waypoints from my GPS.

Monache Meadows: (see overall map above)

The road follows the river a tenth of a mile southeast after the crossing, but soon turns northeast (waypoint MONCH1) to cross the meadow. You're now about 14 miles from BLKINF. There's a triangular intersection (waypoint MONCH2) where you turn north to skirt the east side of northern Monache Meadows, heading toward the landing strip (which shows up at different places on different maps and you can't see from the road).

At waypoint MONCH3 there was a sign that looked like it might be our trailhead, but we wisely went on to waypoint MONCH4 before turning right. Check the map below on this! The blue line goes past a corral and is longer than the green line on which we climbed. Just look for a sign that says "Monache Creek", which is the best of several signed ways to get to the Pacific Crest Trail. The road goes near some buildings, close to a barbed wire fence, and turns up Monache Creek. There is a nice shaded parking area in tall trees right on the creek at 8000' (waypoint MONCRK). Allow over an hour for the 16 mile drive from the Blackrock Information Station (waypoint BLKINF).

The Monache Creek trailhead is NOT the only place you can park. It is, however, the best place to park if want to do a loop trip! We went east to the PCT, north to the base of Olancha, climbed it, then continued a short distance NORTH on the PCT before dropping cross-country in open terrain (the brush has been cleared by recent fires) to the trail that comes south to Hessian Meadow. Nice country, and better than the dusty trail if you ask me. Which you didn't. See GPS Route OLANCHA LOOP for waypoints along this 12 mile loop, or get more details in the trip report.

Olancha Loop: (see overall map above)

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