Sunday Peak from Unal Summit, Kern County, CA

Unal Trail

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Unal Trail

    • Location: Greenhorn Summit, Kern County. From Lake Isabella, take Highway 155 north to the town of Wofford Heights. Continue northwest on Highway 155 for 7.7 miles to Greenhorn Summit. Turn left on Rancheria Road and park where available near the signed Unal Trail Head, just past the ranger station. If you are coming from the west, Greenhorn Summit will be 13 miles east of Glenville via Highway 155 and 50 miles east of Delano. Check road conditions before making the trip. Call 559-539-2607 or 760-376-871 for the latest information. NOTE: the location for the Unal Trail listed on Google Maps is inaccurate; the actual trail head is about 1.2 miles north of where it is shown.
    • Agency: Sequoia National Forest/Kern River Ranger District
    • Distance: 3.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 750 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Best season: May – October
    • Recommended gear: insect repellent
    • Recommended guidebook: Easy Hiking in Southern California
    • Dogs: Allowed on leash
    • Cell phone reception: Fair to good at the bottom of the trail, weak to none on the summit
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: The Unal Trail is for day use only. The closest campground is Tiger Flat. Another option is Tillie Creek in Wofford Heights.
    • More information: AllTrails report here; MapMyHike report here
    • Rating: 7

This short but scenic loop offers a taste of the Sierras that is surprisingly accessible to Los Angeles residents, particularly those who live in the San Fernando or Santa Clarita Valleys. If you are visiting Lake Isabella, the Unal Trail can be reached with a half hour drive. While the Unal Trail is too short to justify a day trip from L.A., it can easily be combined with other hikes in the area, such as the Packsaddle Cave Trail or Sunday Peak, for a long but very rewarding day of hiking.

From the junction of Rancheria Road and Forest Road 25s17, follow the Unal Trail uphill. It parallels Rancheria Road for a short distance before reaching the junction that starts the loop. By following the loop clockwise, you have a more gradual ascent – good to keep in mind, considering that the trailhead elevation is over 5,700 feet and may cause some to feel the altitude.

The trail heads south, paralleling the road. In between the pines, you get glimpses of Lake Isabella and several nearby peaks including Black Mountain and Split Mountain. At about 1 1/4 miles from the start, you make a hard right and head northwest. A few switchbacks bring you to Unal Summit, 1.9 miles from the beginning. Several pines and a slightly taller, unnamed summit to the south prevent the vista from being 360 degrees, but there are still some good views, notably Sunday Peak to the north and the Central Valley to the west.

After enjoying the summit (an iron bench provides a perfect rest spot) continue following the trail as it drops back into the woods. It descends for 1.3 miles, the last bit of which is fairly steep, before closing the loop.

In case you were wondering, “Unal” means “Trail of the Bear” in the local Tubatulabal language. An interpretive guide to the numbered sign post along the route are sometimes available at the information board at the trail head.

Unal Trail, Sequoia National Forest, CA
Pines near the south end of the loop about one mile from the start
Unal Summit, Sequoia National Forest, CA
Looking west from the summit
Unal Summit, Sequoia National Forest, CA
Looking south from the summit
Unal Trail, Sequoia National Forest
Descending through the pines on the north side of the loop

Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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