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Best American Adventures: Raft the Forks of the Kern

We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.

By Kate Siber; Photograph courtesy Sarah Teed, Kern Outfitters

Locals describe the Forks of the Kern in two ways: It’s either 80 rapids in quick succession or one really,
really long one. These 22 miles (35 kilometers) of nonstop Class IV and
V rapids make the Forks of the Kern, only 150 miles (241 kilometers)
from Los Angeles, one of the country’s premier whitewater runs. But
it’s also a brilliant escape. After the 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) hike in,
there are no other people, no roads, no Starbucks, and no distractions
from the beauty of the remote granite canyon.

many of the rapids are unscoutable, even veteran rafters must bring
their A game. Kern River Outfitters don't require experience for their
three-day trips, but they do require passing a swim test. On day one,
the groups (no larger than 15 people) schlep gear to the put-in, while
mules carry the rafts. Soon after launching, the river turns as bumpy
as a bronco with a succession of boat-flipping Class IV and V rapids
and drops as large as 10 feet (3 meters). Side hikes lead to lush
waterfalls and natural 60-foot (18-meter) waterslides, but arguably the
best part is the pine-ensconced riverside campsites. Come evening,
guides fix three-course meals before tuckered rafters fall asleep under
a blanket of California stars.

Need to Know: Kern River Outfitters’ ( three-day all-inclusive trips start at $798, and depart on fixed dates between May and July, depending on flows.