Wild Waters: The Perfect 2-Day Trip - Full-Time Travel

Wild Waters: The Perfect 2-Day Trip

Wild Waters: This is The Perfect 2-Day Trip Through Southern California’s Wilderness

By Phoebe Neuman

In Southern California, truly rugged wilderness is often closer than you think. The Kern River—set just three hours by car from Los Angeles—is proof. Starting from the peak of Mount Whitney and snaking down the southern Sierras into the Greenhorn Mountains, the Kern is an outdoor-lovers paradise—and the setting for the latest adventure from the river-rafting experts at Momentum River Expeditions.

Momentum River Expeditions offers small-group trips to remote whitewater destinations across the West from Arizona to Alaska. The company’s two-day Kern River Rafting Safari explores the best of California’s Lower Kern, offering an ideal getaway for private groups looking for a quick hit of uncut nature. “The amazing thing about a river trip is the pace; you’re experiencing a place at nature’s speed,” Momentum’s founder, Pete Wallstrom, said in an interview with us last year. “You’re also accessing wilderness areas that can’t be reached on foot.”

Momentum trips navigate world-class whitewater with clean drops over massive boulders, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing service quality or creature comforts. On the Kern Safari, the adrenaline-pumping time on the river is followed by happy hours, chef-made meals, and a private riverside safari-style camp.

On day one of the trip, Momentum’s guides get your group warmed up for the whitewater to come as you start the day with Class III rapids. The action picks up after lunch (and won’t let up until the end of day two), as you navigate four larger rapids, including two Class IVs that will usher you toward the remote Kern River Safari Camp, which serves as your home base for the night.

Tucked deep into the canyon, the camp comprises a cluster of luxe safari-style canvas tents complete with raised cots and private decks, a yoga deck overlooking the river, a shaded lounge area, and plenty of space to hang out. The camp’s beautiful natural wood shuffleboard table is invitation enough to spend the afternoon getting competitive with your group with a few rounds of classic camp games like corn hole, can jam, and bocce ball. Or simply settle into a hammock shaded by willow trees for a well-earned afternoon nap. Either way, you’ll want to rejoin the group come happy hour, when the crew serves appetizers with wine pairings at the camp’s dining area, followed by a dinner made with seasonal local produce. (Momentum is known for taking food nearly as seriously as it takes river rafting, and the company’s chef-led trip down the Kern is a must for adventurous foodies.)

After dinner, you can take in some amazing stargazing as you swap stories of the day with your guides and fellow rafters. When it comes time to call it a night, head back to your tent, where you’ll be lulled to sleep by the sound of the Kern rushing through the granite walls of the canyon just outside.

You’ll be thankful for that good night’s sleep as you get back on the water for day two, which is packed with the type of whitewater that earns this stretch of the Kern a spot on the bucket lists of river runners worldwide. First up is Royal Flush Rapid, a spectacular but un-runnable stretch, meaning you’ll take in its turbulent glory as you walk around it. Once back on the water, you’ll move through some of the most famous Class IV whitewater in California, navigating heart-pumping drops like Hari Kari and Horseshoe Falls before celebrating the end of the trip and making the quick drive back to the Rafting Center. 

Despite its abundance of Class IV rapids, the Kern River Rafting Safari is suitable for active first-timers and experienced rafters alike. The trip is good for everything from off-the-beaten-path bachelor or bachelorette parties and professional retreats to family vacations that go on to explore nearby national parks like Sequoia and Death Valley. It’s a true wilderness escape that’s accessible to all types of adventurers.  

*This article is sponsored by Momentum River Expeditions.

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