Mill Creek Trail is an excellent day hike in the southern part of Sequoia National Forest. Mill Creek Trail is located just 40 minutes East of Bakersfield making it one of the closest wilderness hikes in the area.
Situated within the Kern River Canyon, Mill Creek Trail is a favorite for many locals that are looking to get outside of the city to explore nature and get a good workout.
This trail is best visited in the spring when the entire landscape is covered in beautiful wildflowers and the trail is less crowded.
Mill Creek Trail Overview
- Mill Creek Trail is around 15 miles long
- It goes out and back (7.5 miles each way)
- It gains about 4200 feet in elevation
- It’s dog friendly
- There are no bathrooms or trashcans on the trail
About Mill Creek Trail
Mill Creek Trail all together is around 15 miles long but most people hike a portion of it as far as they can and turn around when they start feeling tired.
The trail does climb up steadily for the first half (7.5 miles) and gains about 4200 feet in elevation. Mill Creek Trail is not overly difficult or technical but it is very long.
Mill Creek Trail is dog friendly so I brought my pup with me and we did about 3 miles (1.5 miles each way). For me, it’s not so much about doing the whole route, but just about being out in nature, enjoying some fresh air and getting exercise.
This trail can also be used for mountain biking and horseback riding.
At the trailhead, there were signs that motorized vehicles are not allowed but a few dirt bikes did pass us on the trail so make sure to watch out for any that do enter.
Best Time To Go
Late Spring is my favorite time to hike the Mill Creek Trail because the weather is still cool outside, most of the snow has melted and the trail turns very lush full of blooming trees and beautiful spring flowers.
In the spring there is still plenty of water from the snowmelt in the Mill Creek which you will pass through multiple times. This is great for cooling off especially if you have a dog with you.
If you plan to hike this trail in the summer make sure to get an early head start before it gets too hot.
Mill Creek Trail is located in the mountains so the temperatures on the trail can be slightly cooler than in the city but most of the trail is still exposed to the sun.
If you do go in the summer, make sure to bring plenty of water, and wear sunscreen. We hiked this trail in the spring and even then by mid-day we were pretty beat from the heat and used up all 3 bottles of water.
Where It’s Located
Mill Creek Trail is located within the Sequoia National Forest about halfway between Bakersfield and Lake Isabella. There is no reception in this area so make sure to look up directions before you leave your home.
Getting to the Mill Creek Trailhead is pretty easy. If you’re coming from Bakersfield, you will need to take Highway 178 which leads most of the way there.
Mill Creek Trail is located only 40 minutes from Bakersfield making it one of the closest trails to the city.
The drive there goes by quick especially once you reach the Kern River Canyon. The scenery is gorgeous all around but Highway 178 does narrow inside the canyon and has a lot of sharp turns. Thankfully there are plenty of turnouts for slow drivers (like me) to pull into and let the faster cars pass by.
Coming from Bakersfield you will need to take a right turn off Highway 178 onto Kern Canyon Road/Cort 214 and the Mill Creek Trailhead will be on the right shortly after.
There will be some signs on the right and a small path that climbs into the mountains.
There is no designated trail parking lot so you will need to park along the Kern Canyon Road anywhere you find a safe spot. This road doesn’t get too much traffic but do watch out for blind corners especially if you need to cross the street.
Location: Mill Creek Trail Head, CA
My plan was to hike this trail on a weekday and to leave Bakersfield somewhat early in order to avoid the crowds.
When I got to the Mill Creek Trailhead by 9 am I was one of the first few people to arrive and was able to secure a parking spot close to the trailhead.
Mill Creek Trail’s starting point is well marked with signs so it was easy to spot the trailhead after parking along the Kern Canyon Road.
The trail starts on a small path and immediately climbs up the hill with wooden railings for assistance.
The first section of the Mill Creek Trail is very narrow and goes along the highway. After around 10 minutes it turns inland and you will need to pass through a gate.
The gate is not locked but it is there to keep the local cows from roaming out so after passing through the gate make sure to close it after you.
From there the scenery just gets better and better.
The first part after the gate passes through beautiful rolling hills with giant boulders and lush trees.
About .7 miles in the trail reaches its first creek crossing.
My dog was super happy about the cold creek water, jumped in, and immediately felt refreshed.
Soon after we encountered a few more creek crossings and each crossing brought more energy back to my pup.
We even spotted some cows near the creek lounging in the grass.
Parts of the trail here travel through a gentle forest providing hikers with much-needed shade.
About a mile in there was a grassy area with giant rocks and trees so we took a little break and had a snack before going on.
From here on the trail got a lot steeper and started to climb up through switchbacks.
Although the views kept getting better, my dog’s energy did not. At the 1.5 mile mark, I decided to turn around and start heading back.
The trail goes one way so we took the same way back. The views coming down were equally beautiful and the mid-day sun made everything look so bright & colorful.
All together we hiked around 3 miles for about 3 hours at a pretty slow pace while taking plenty of water (and photo) breaks.
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