Lake Isabella is a beautiful lake just an hour east of Bakersfield. It is well known for outdoor recreational activities that revolve around water sports, fishing, camping, and hiking.
As Bakersfield locals, we make frequent trips out to Lake Isabella in search of the best hiking trails and things to do. As we’ve knocked off some of the more popular items from our Lake Isabella bucket list, we’ve been digging deeper into our research and finding hidden trails that are less crowded and not as popular. The Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail is one of these hikes.
The Isabella Peak Trail leads to a stunning 360 viewpoint of Lake Isabella and the surrounding towns, passing Coso Mine along the way. Hence, some refer to this trail as Isabella Peak while others call it the Coso Mine Trail.
In this blog post, we cover details on where the Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Trail is located, where to park, trail difficulty, and what to expect if you plan to hike it.
For more Lake Isabella inspiration be sure to check out our blog post that covers 7 wonderful things to do at Lake Isabella, all year long!
Trail Location & Parking
The Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Trail starts next to the French Gulch & Hungry Gulch campgrounds. These campgrounds are located halfway between Wofford Heights and Lake Isabella towns.
On Google Maps you can find the trailhead marked as Isabella Peak Trail. If you use a hiking app like AllTrails you can find this trail listed as Coso Mine Loop Trail. Whichever way you choose to look up directions, they will both lead you to the same starting location.
Trailhead Location: Isabella Peak Trail, Wofford Heights, CA 93285
We hiked this trail at the end of March and neither the French Gulch nor the Hungry Gulch campgrounds were open. We left our car next to the entrance gate although the parking space there was limited to a few cars that could squeeze into the area between the gate and Wofford Heights Blvd/Highway 155.
Luckily, this is not a very busy trail so we were able to find a spot easily.
The trailhead starts directly to the left from the campground gate. Upon entering the trail you will see a sign that says Coso Mine Loop Trail. From there the trail forks off into a couple of different directions.
If you’re unsure of where to go, follow the Coso Mine Loop Trail on the AllTrails app which is a total of 2.3 miles long and leads to sweeping panoramic views of Lake Isabella. This is the hiking app that we used for our trip and made it very easy to track the route.
Map of the hiking route from AllTrails:
About Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail
Isabella Peak is one of the easiest, shortest Lake Isabella Trails that you can do. It is a family-friendly trail that allows dogs and is suitable for kids.
It takes around 2 hours to complete the Isabella Peak – Coso Mine Loop Trail. It gains around 500 feet in elevation with some steep sections that lead to two different panoramic overlooks.
After reaching the endpoint and taking in the views, you can head back the same way or branch off into a slightly different route back from the lower viewpoint.
Despite offering some partial shade at the beginning of it, Isabella Peak – Coso Mono Trail is best done in the early morning before it gets too hot. The second part of the trail travels through exposed hills with no shade and our dog was having a bit of a rough time in this section.
Our Experience Hiking The Isabella Peak Trail
After parking, we found the trail starting point to the left of the campground gate. Even though the campground was closed, the trail itself remained open. Throughout our hike, the trail was well marked and easy to follow.
Soon after entering the trail, we reached a junction. Here the route splits into two ways but it travels as a loop so you have the choice to go either way. We turned right and followed the path to Coso Mine.
The first section passes through a partial forest providing a much-needed shade. Even in March, the weather at Lake Isabella was already getting hot.
After trekking up a narrow, steady trail we came across the Coso Mine. There is a bench for resting and a sign about the Coso Mine although it was pretty worn out and difficult to read.
From what I was able to gather, Coso Mine is an old Lake Isabella mine from the gold rush times that is now abandoned and serves as a human-made habitat for bats. According to this sign, bats have many purposes in our ecosystems from being a natural pest control in farming to pollinating plants and dispersing seeds.
To the left, you will see a small opening into a tunnel that has been blocked off with metal bars so people can’t access it. This is the entrance point for the Coso Mine where local bats now reside.
After the Coso Mine, the trail keeps climbing in elevation and the views start opening up to Lake Isabella and the surrounding mountains. Shortly after we reached the first overlook that has direct views of the lake and a bench for resting. This is one of the best views of Lake Isabella that I’ve experienced, but if you keep going, it gets even better!
After the first viewpoint keep following the narrow trail through the rolling hills to the next viewpoint. This section is exposed to the sun so you want to complete it at a decent, steady pace.
Along this part, we saw some beautiful yellow wildflowers, although this year has been very dry so there were only a few.
The trail ends at the Isabella Peak viewpoint that offers incredible views of the lake from the summit. There is another bench here for relaxing & enjoying a quick snack before heading back.
On the way down we chose to take the second route option from the lower viewpoint. This section passes next to interesting giant boulders and pine trees that add to the pretty scenery.
This hike took us around 2 hours to complete with plenty of stops for resting, water breaks and taking photos along the way.
Other Visitor Tips:
- Restrooms are available at the French Gulch Campground although they may be seasonal.
- There were no trashcans that we saw anywhere. Be prepared to bring out any trash that you may have.
- Bring plenty of water for your hike. There is a water spigot at the French Gulch campground that has running water.
- There are multiple campgrounds nearby if you plan to stay overnight. You can browse for open campsites and make campground reservations here:
Shop My Favorite Hiking Gear:
- Merrell Mix Master Trail Running Shoes that are perfect for day hikes
- Nike One Luxe leggings that are made from sustainable materials
- Polarized Sunglasses to help with harsh sunlight
- Sunscreen which is essential for hiking in California
- Reusable water bottle with a filter
- Headlamp and a first aid kit for emergencies
- Portable phone charger in case your phone runs out of battery
- A light day pack. I use the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack which fits everything I need for a day hike and comes with a breathable back & mesh straps for extra comfort.
Isabella Peak – Coso Mono Loop is a wonderful trail to hike at Lake Isabella offering jaw-dropping views and beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, check out these posts next:
- 7 Wonderful Things To Do At Lake Isabella, All Year Long
- Visiting Silver City Ghost Town In Bodfish, California
- Pizza Barn Review – Budget Friendly Pizzas In Kernville
- Kern River Brewing Company Review – Kernville’s Best Brewpub
- 8 Incredible Vacation Rentals In Lake Isabella, California
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