Highlights: The hike up the Wishon Fork (North Fork of the Middle Fork) of the Tule River begins as an easy 5½-mile backpack (roundtrip) to forested campsites, but can be turned into a moderate 9-mile trek to an old miners cabin or a strenuous 17-mile loop on historic trails that lead past waterfalls, fishing holes, old mines, and Giant Sequoias in the pristine Sierra setting of Mountain Home State Forest.
Directions: The drive takes 1½ hours from Bakersfield. Head north on Highway 99 to Porterville exit, and follow Highway 65 about 40 miles north. Just before Porterville, take the Lake Success exit and drive 19 miles east on Highway 190 to Springville. About 6½ miles past town, turn left and drive 4 miles up a steep, winding road to Camp Wishon. This last turnoff is just before the Tule River Power House on Highway 190.
Trailhead: The trail begins at the Camp Wishon day use parking area. From a locked gate (3900 ft), follow paved road a short distance to another gate. Turn left on trail and up switchbacks that straighten out to bypass cabins at Doyle Springs. After 1½ miles, go left (uphill) at a junction. After another mile, the trail drops to nice campsites at a flat area called Roses Grave (4580 ft). There are nicer campsites at a waterfall that drops into a rectangular pool, 3 miles from trailhead. About 100-yards further, look for a path on the right that leaves the main trail and drops to the river.
From the Miner's Cabin (5300 ft), continue upstream to Moses Gulch Campground (5450 ft) in Mountain Home State Forest, about 6½ miles from trailhead. Hidden Falls Campground (5960 ft) is another mile upriver from here. From Hidden Falls, continue upstream 1½ miles to Redwood Crossing (6570 ft), where a branch trail (not ours) crosses the river and continues another 5½, steep miles to Summit Lake (9340 ft) in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park.
For a 17-mile loop, go right at a junction, just before Redwood Crossing (6570 ft), then right at again at a second junction to gain the Eastside Trail, which heads south. Go left at a third junction a mile out then left at a fourth junction about 2 miles out. After crossing a dry gulch and a couple of streams, the picturesque cascades of Galena Creek are reached, which are difficult to cross during high water. About 3 miles from Redwood Crossing, the trail crosses Silver Creek and a tributary. At a T-intersection, 3½ miles from the Crossing, turn right on the Griswold Trail and down switchbacks for a long mile to a junction with the Wishon Trail. The trail to the right leads back to the Miner's Cabin (5300 ft), the one to the left returns downstream 4½ miles to the original trailhead.
Maps: The 7½-minute topographic quadrangles are Camp Wishon and Moses Mountain.
A Forest Service fire permit is required and can be obtained at the Springville Ranger Station (209-539-2607).
A water purifier should be used if taking water from the river. Safe water is piped in at the public campgrounds.
Bears are a problem. Fortunately, metal bear boxes are available at the public campgrounds, but food bags need to be properly hung at all trail camps.
Stay out of the old copper mines. They may collapse!
This is a historic trail with lots to see and do. A trek on this trail, combined with trailwork and research on the History of the Wishon Trail will satisfy requirements for the BSA Historic Trails Award.
Don't overlook the Indian mortar holes at the stream crossing above the waterfall at the rectangular pool.
Giant Manzanita, a member of the rose family named Mountain Misery (Kit Kit Dizze), and Poison Oak, which are the dominant ground cover along low elevation parts of the trail, give way at higher elevations to giant Sequoias, Douglas Fir and Incense Cedar in a lush mountain forest.