Pilot Knob (South)

Revised Nov 2007 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Southern Sierra for context and how to get here.
info GPS waypoints: download GPX file

A northern approach was done by Daryn Dodge and Steve Eckert in 2007.
There are three southern approaches, all of which cross private land.


There are rumors that the USFS is planning to create real public access to the south end of the Domelands Wilderness via the Bloomfield Ranch, but they expect to need a couple of years to implement it. In the meantime, get permission before crossing private land - and keep in mind that some people have said being part of the Sierra Club may make it hard to get permission in this area.

Northern Approach - public land, no permit or permission needed!

This route was first climbed by Daryn Dodge and Steve Eckert in 2007, trying to find a good alternative to the private-land southern approaches which had gotten Pilot Knob suspended from the DPS list. A detailed map and description of the climbing route is in
Daryn's trip report.

Driving route map (red line) - see also climbing route map

Follow the directions to Big Meadow, turning south from the Sherman Pass road on Cherry Hill Road (Forest Service Road 22S12 at waypoint BIGJCT) and drive 11.5 mi to Big Meadow. Prior to reaching Big Meadow the road becomes entirely dirt at Poison Creek, but is in good shape for passenger cars. Instead of going to any of the Big Meadow trailheads, bypass the meadow on the west (waypoint BIGMDW) and continue south from waypoint LNGJCT on Cherry Hill Road, turning left where there is a sign for Cannell and Taylor meadows.

At waypoint DRYJCT, continue straight south following signs for Cannell and Taylor. (Dry Lake is not marked as such on the USGS maps, but is apparently Lake 7797.) The main road junction at Long Meadow is waypoint LNGMDW, where you should turn left (go southeast) following the sign to Taylor Meadow. At waypoint TRUJCT (near True Meadow) turn left (northeast) following the sign for Bartolas Country. At waypoint RATMDW (Rattlesnake Meadow on the USGS map) the road gets dramatically worse and passenger cars are not advised. There is no sign visible at RATMDW but you should turn right and climb to the saddle (waypoint RATBAR) which leads south of the meadow to Bartolas Creek.

Driving south through Bartolas Country, be sure to continue south (straight) at waypoint BARTNS where a deeply rutted road heads east on the north side of Bartolas Creek. Cross the creek on a small bridge at waypoint BARTCK, continue south to the next creek crossing (waypoint BARGAT) where there is an open steel gate. If the gate is closed, you're still within reach of the peak but it will be a longer walk on easy terrain! (Note: The total distance from waypoint LNGJCT at Big Meadow to this gate is 11.9 mi.) The road continues south, without significant elevation change, until the unmarked junction at waypoint BARJCT. Turning right here will take you south on USGS map road toward Bartolas Point. Continuing straight on the more well-worn road (which was not on our USGS map but was in the Jenkins guidebook) will take you southeast over a slight saddle, through an almost imperceptible drainage (which has good trees to camp in), and slightly up onto more open terrain.

Park somewhere near waypoint BARTTH, at around 7000', before the road begins to climb. This is not so much a "trailhead" as it is an efficient place to start traversing around the north side of Point 7146 (which is brushy on top) to reach Point 6917 and the northwest ridge of Pilot Knob (S). See Daryn's trip report for climbing details of this route, which appears to be undocumented or unclimbed prior to 2007.

Southern Approaches - all cross private land, permission is required but not always given!
(GPS Route PILOT KNOB SOUTH is from the
northern approach, look for waypoint BARTTH)

  1. no beta: Ecological Reserve - waypoint CANRES - access without a bridge

    There are no trip reports using this trailhead! The land immediately east of White Blanket Ranch is (as of 2005) the Canebrake Ecological Reserve, where a Public Access Trail starts at a legal parking area (waypoint CANRES). There are no markings visible from Hwy 178 other than a sign on the green metal fence reading "please close gate behind you". The reserve does provide access to land on the southeast side of the South Fork Kern River, there is as yet no bridge across the river. The trail is bordered by fences indicating it is illegal to leave the trail. It's not clear if the public land extends to the river or not. The unsigned gated entrance to the ecological reserve (waypoint CANRES) is about 0.2 miles west of the Bloomfield Ranch Road. The trail itself goes north along the river and crosses a small side stream, it does NOT seem to provide any access to Pilot Knob unless you want to ignore the plentiful signs and jump a couple of barbed wire fences so you can crawl through the brush to a river you cannot see from the trail.

  2. need permission: White Blanket Ranch - waypoint WHTBR1 - east side via private land

    The standard route to Pilot Knob (the red line on the map below) starts at White Blanket Ranch (2700', waypoint WHTBR1), which has a private bridge across the South Fork Kern River. To get to the starting point, find Call Box 178-659 on Hwy 178, a couple of miles east of the village of Onyx. Right beside the call box is the entrance to the White Blanket Ranch itself (waypoint WHTBR1). This private road is gated and signed "no trespassing" but at least part of the time the gate is not locked. About a half mile in on the driveway, there are two trailers. This is the White Blanket Ranch, home to Josephine, Frank and their daughter. They were friendly and gave permission to cross their land. Josephine didn't ask for money, but we gave her five bucks because we wanted to make sure that hikers would continue to be welcome there in the future. If you follow these directions, please remember to also follow our example and tip the ranchers. Josephine asked that we write her in advance, at PO Box 376, Onyx CA. Enclose a self addressed stamped post card.

    Rather than parking on the highway near the gate, or driving through the gate, there is a dirt road (waypoint WHTBR2) about halfway between waypoints CANRES and WHTBR1 which parallels the Canebrake Ecological Reserve boundary fence. From the end of this road you can hop a fence and walk down a dirt road which shortly angles/merges into the main dirt driveway to White Blanket Ranch and across the South Fork of the Kern. This may be a less intrusive method to cross White Blanket Ranch and reach the trailhead, but you might want to ask the White Blanket Ranch folks where you should park and where you should cross when you're asking permission to enter.

  3. need permission: Doyle Ranch Road - waypoint DOYLER - south side via private land

    At least one group has climbed Pilot Knob from the property of Ben Rudnick, on Doyle Ranch Road (waypoint DOYLER, following the purple line on the map below). This is the only public access bridge across the South Fork of the Kern River. From the north end of the bridge, follow the river northeast through gated ranchland until you enter a bowl and attain the SE ridge of Pilot.

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