Packsaddle Cave Trail is a 5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Kernville, California that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and running and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 5.0 miles Elevation Gain: 1,706 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

running

cave

forest

river

views

wildlife

over grown

Hike begins about 16 miles north of Kernville on Mtn. 99 just north of the Fairview Campground. Trail climbs 3 miles to the cave. Bring a flashlight to explore the cave to see the remaining stalactites and stalagmites. Trail gains elevation fairly constantly with a 900 ft gain to cross the ridge/saddle. Along this incline you can see deer brush, manzanita, live oak, digger pine and sagebrush. Trail dips down to the creek - crossing it about three times. Cave has stalactites and stalagmites - bring flashlight.

hiking
bugs
no shade
over grown
rocky
6 days ago

amazing hike, as always. Took the kids this time. Make sure to bring something to leave in the Geocashe that is there

hiking
no shade
rocky
6 days ago

Incredible cave with tons of crevices and caverns to explore! The incline is a bit brutal for the first half but you’ll find solace in a great view as well as in breaks of shade and creek crossings on the way. Had a rough encounter with a rather large rattlesnake at the cave opening so please beware and be prepared!

hiking
over grown
rocky
9 days ago

this was my 2nd time hiking this trail took my step son on his first hike he enjoyed it alot of people were lost once they crossed the creek and couldn't find the trail you have to go right trail is easy to find plus being plenty of water it gets hot

hiking
bugs
muddy
over grown
9 days ago

Great hike. Our group was 2 dads and 3 teenage daughters. The dads had trouble keeping up with the girls. We started at 7:30AM to get up the first big climb before it got too hot. The first mile is steep but that part of the trail is wide and brush is cleared. The last 1-1/2 miles is very overgrown along the trail down to the creek and wet in the creek bottom but the hike is moderate at that point. Stay to your right at the first creek crossing and walk up the creek bed to the trail. The last 1/4 mile up the side of the mountain to the cave is steep and exposed. If you miss the left turn to the cave you will come to a Y in the trail which is the Rincon trail junction. Turn around and go back 100 yards or so to the cave trail. We pulled 2 ticks off clothes and skin due to the overgrowth on the trail. There is some poison oak and stinging nettle along the trail but easy to avoid if you know what you are looking for. We got to the cave at 9:30AM, snacked and explored the cave for 30 minutes. Bring a bright flashlight to see the formations as they are better at the back of the cave. The main cavern is pretty big. Nice cave and worth the hike. We got back to the car at 11:30AM only 1 hour to return. Please be prepared with the basic essentials when hiking this trail. We saw a lot of carless people hiking with shorts and t-shirts and no more water than a 16 oz bottle. You will need 1-2 liters of water, a first aid kit with tweezers, long pants and long sleeves to avoid the ticks and poison plants along the trail.

hiking
bugs
15 days ago

The group I hiked this trail with all decided that the reviews on here not only do not do the cave its glorious justice, but they also leave out a few key tid bits that most people would probably want to know beforehand. So here we are- First of all, the trail says it is 5 miles long. My phone believes it was about 6.2 miles, and we all tended to believe the latter. It’s a nice half day trek. Much of it is without tree cover, and as you can imagine, gets fairly hot. Bring cold water. Another little detail… the initial “1 mile hill” is probably closer to 1.5 or 2 miles. It’s a substantial climb, no shade. Once you hit the “summit”, the trail goes from challenging to fairly easy. You will descend across a second range across a little creek. From that point on there will be nice tree cover on/off. The trade off is that all of the areas with good shade also have lots of poison oak and bugs, so know what to look for. After you cross a log bridge make sure to make a RIGHT at the trail (the other way leads through poison oak to a dead end). Once you are getting closer to the cave keep your eye out for a half-fallen well-worn wooden sign that says the cave is ¼ mile up a sharp left turn. It is the coolest cave I have ever personally been to, and one of the most awesome parts of the experience is that none of it is roped off or guarded. You can explore the many chambers, watch the living formations drip from the ceiling, and climb all of its nooks and crannies while you cool off as if you were the first humans to discover it. (At least that’s what we did). It would help to bring some good headlamps. **Sadly, some humans have visited before, some of which broke off stalagmites, tagged a few of the walls with graffiti, and left little bits of trash. Please don’t be those humans! ** Enjoy!

16 days ago

Beware of poison oak!!! They grow mostly near the streams with red oily leaves. You'll see tall trees and little bushes like ankle height that are tricky to avoid. I'd recommend long pants, but the first half of the trail is steep and has almost no shade. The cave is cool and it's still an interesting hike, but the risk of poison oak makes it way less enjoyable. Would not recommend for dogs or young kids.

18 days ago

1st mile very steep. A lot of ticks and other bugs. Nice hike if you come prepared. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake seen on trail a couple weeks ago on hike. Right at the edge of the trail in the brush. Dog walkers beware

hiking
22 days ago

The cave is very cool. Much more than we expected. You must take a good headlamp or better than average flashlight to enjoy it fully. Be safe and explore. The bike itself is strenuous like the other reviews say, but worth the effort.

hiking
bugs
rocky
24 days ago

The first mile of this trail is pretty steep. Make sure you bring bug spray as there is quite a bit of bugs on the way to the trail. Also, ensure to bring water proof hiking books. Overall is moderate to high intensity hike but well worth to see the cave.

hiking
no shade
24 days ago

Very steep at the beginning. Not much shade. The cave is nice, but I didn’t feel like it was worth it.

hiking
over grown
1 month ago

This is a great trail. First mile is pretty steep and strenuous, then levels out as you approach the creek bed. When you hit the creek, take a sharp right to continue the trail. The trail crosses back and forth across the creek a few times. Eventually there will be a sign towards the cave to the left. The cave is really cool. Bring a flashlight or head lamp. Only downside of the trail was that the trail was pretty overgrown.

hiking
2 months ago

The cave was really impressive and the main highlight of the trail. If you have a headlamp or flashlight, there is a good sized chamber to explore, with stalagmites and stalactites. I haven't seen anything like it on other hikes in Southern CA. The other 5 miles has a few nice view points, with the challenging and steep climbs to higher to higher elevations, but otherwise not especially memorable to me. This may relate to hiking in mid March, before flowers bloom (also no poison oak leaves) and before the trail gets much traffic, so parts were overgrown. There are a few points where the trail can be awkward to follow, so the AllTrails map help. Rather than the creek turnoff, the section I found most non-intuitive was the end of the trail by the cave. The trail continues up the dry creek, where it can be easy to lose the trail. Eventually there is a sign for Packsaddle Cave, yet it points back down the dry creek, instead of towards cave, which is a sharp left up the rocky hill rather than continuing down to Salmon Creek viewpoint.

hiking
3 months ago

Fun hike, beautiful views, pretty steep at the beginning but well worth the hard work!!

hiking
over grown
3 months ago

Nice trail but got to watch the trail to avoid missing the turn others have talks a out. Met two groups on their way back who said they couldn’t find the cave. We found it easily and there were helpful signs.

recorded Packsaddle Cave Trail

hiking
off trail
over grown
6 months ago

Yeah I mean neat cave I guess. Fairly challenging hike with a couple of river crossings that take you off trail momentarily but otherwise fairly simple to navigate. All in all a good workout in a lesser trafficked part of the sequoia park.

hiking
6 months ago

Lots of bugs and over grown down at the base, but well worth it when you get to the cave

hiking
bugs
no shade
over grown
7 months ago

10/25/19 So the cave is awesome, much deeper than I expected ! The hike is grueling ! 5 miles rt. tons of bugs, bring a head net. also lots of poison oak. really glad I read the other blogs, at the first creek crossing you need to go hard right on the other side of the creek. there is a trail in front of you, do not take it. It will take you away from the real trail. you will have to walk upstream what seems to not be a trail. after 10 yards or so you will see the trail again.

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked this trail with my two sons (4 and 8 years old). was a little worried whether or not they would make it up the first climb and if we made it to the cave, would they have the energy to hike out. They did amazing! It is as steep and grueling as everyone says but they crushed it! the only turn that is hard to see is right after the first main creek crossing. You need to turn right and follow the shore for a few feet, then the trail becomes well defined again. Weather was perfect and the cave was really cool and worth the effort. There were a lot of bugs while hiking up the creek area and bug spray did practically nothing. If my 4 year old can do it then you can too! hiked the trail on 10/15/19

hiking
over grown
9 months ago

Trail is definitely a steep climb, which makes it difficult. However, the biggest issue was the amount overgrown brush and plants, especially surrounding the creek area. The poison oak was growing into the trail and thick there; too thick to keep pressing on, as many of us were in shorts and short-sleeves. We decided to turn around and head back shortly before we reached the cave, so that was disappointing.

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