If you are looking for an RV getaway destination not too far from Bakersfield, you should consider visiting Bright Star Wilderness. Encompassing a relatively small 8,190 acres compared to other wilderness areas in the area, Bright Star Wilderness is popular with RV lovers who are seeking solitude and serenity. First designated to the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1994, the area surrounds Kelso Peak, which is the largest peak in the Kelso Mountain Range. The area also covers most of the Piute Mountains that are in the southern section of the Sierra Nevada. The vegetation is very diverse in the area, so you can expect to see a wide variety of pines, trees, and rocky outcrops.
While there aren't any developed sites in the Bright Star Wilderness area, there are still plenty of great activities that you can enjoy. Most visitors are keen hikers, photographers, or horseback riders, but there are also opportunities for you to go hunting or birdwatching. You will also be relatively close to the lake where you can enjoy some water-based recreation activities.
Camping within Bright Star Wilderness is free since it is on BLM land, but don't be expecting any luxury amenities. You can camp in the same spot for up to 14 days before you have to move. Bright Star Wilderness is open all year round.
Driving to and from Bright Star Wilderness is relatively easy compared to the other areas of BLM land in southern California. You will be fairly close to a few areas that have phone reception, as well as some towns that will have supplies and amenities that could be helpful to visit before your trip. These include Lake Isabelle (around 28.5 miles away), Mojave (around 43 miles away), and Tehachapi (around 60 miles away). The closest city to Bright Star Wilderness is Bakersfield, which is 68 miles to the west.
One thing to be wary of when visiting Bright Star Wilderness is that the roads can become dangerous if bad weather occurs. For this reason, we recommend that you call the BLM office for the area to make sure that none of the roads are closed before you begin your journey. During the wintertime it can get quite snowy too, so be prepared for winter driving.
There is plenty of parking at Bright Star Wilderness, but we recommend that you park on already disturbed areas so that you don't damage any more of the natural environment. For those camping in the area, remember that you must move at least 25 miles away if you have been in the same place for 14 days.
If you are wanting to stay at an actual campground but still want to be near the Bright Star Wilderness Area, you should consider staying at the Lake Isabella / Kern River KOA. Located around 17 miles from the wilderness area, Lake Isabella / Kern River KOA is suitable for RVs up to 60 feet in length. When staying at the park, you have the choice of either full hookup or water and electric only sites that are either in the back-in or pull-through variety.
This KOA has some great amenities, including restrooms, showers, fire rings, picnic tables, laundry facilities, a splash pad, a pool, and a coffee bar. If you want to go for a ride, you can also rent bicycles from this campground. Pets are also allowed, and you should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks.
Reservations for the Lake Isabella / Kern River KOA can be made online, and the campground is open all year round for you to enjoy.
For RV lovers who are content with not having any amenities, there are plenty of places for you to camp for free within the Bright Star Wilderness Area. Primitive camping can be done all year round. However, during the wintertime, you should be prepared for cold temperatures.
You can camp at the same place for 14 days within the Bright Star Wilderness Area, after which you will have to move at least 25 miles away if you want to continue camping. Since there are no designated camping sites, there are no reservations available. Pets are allowed, but you have to make sure that they are leashed at all times.
RV travelers also won't need any permits for camping, so you can just park your RV and pull out your camping chair!
Another camping option for visitors to Bright Star Wilderness is the Ricardo Campground at Red Rock Canyon State Park. Featuring 50 primitive sites suitable for RVs up to 30 feet in length, the Ricardo Campground features some great views of the well-renowned cliffs. There are no hookups available at the Ricardo Campground, but there are some other amenities that you will find handy.
These include picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, and water collection points. All 50 sites at the Ricardo Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis only, so we recommend that you get there early to avoid disappointment.
Although there are no developed and marked hiking trails within the Bright Star Wilderness, you will be able to explore the thousands of acres on foot. The most popular places to go hiking are the mountain peaks, which can be quite a challenge.
Hiking is recommended during the late summer months so that you don't have to deal with the 100+ degree temperatures that can regularly occur. If you do decide to go hiking, remember to pack enough water, go hiking with a buddy, and tell people about your plans for the day.
The undisturbed environment that encompasses Bright Star Wilderness makes for some great photos of the mountains, Joshua trees, and gigantic boulders. For this reason, photography is a very popular activity no matter the time of year, especially during the sunrise and sunset hours.
You won't have to worry about crowds getting in the way of your perfect shot at Bright Star Wilderness, so pack your favorite camera and start shooting this beautiful part of the world during your visit.
Another great aspect of Bright Star Wilderness is that you will have plenty of chances to do some birding during your visit. Kelso Creek (which is located in the wilderness area) has been marked as an important birding area because of its habitat, which attracts both migratory and resident birds.
If you do plan on going birding remember to pack your own binoculars as there is nowhere that will have any available within the surrounding area.
Looking for a change of environment? If so, you should check out the nearby Lake Isabelle. Here you will be able to park your RV and indulge in some water-based recreation, such as boating and fishing. The lake area is also the closest place as to where you can pick up any supplies for your visit to Bright Star Wilderness, so even if you aren't a fan of the water, you should consider stopping in here.
No matter what time you decide to visit Bright Star Wilderness, there will be plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities for you to enjoy. The different terrain means that you will have the chance to see a vast range of animals, including many bird species, coyotes, and even potentially a mountain lion. Down at the base of the mountains, you can also hang out by the small streams where you could potentially spot some fish swimming about.
If you are seeking even more fun in the sun you can also check out the nearby Red Rock Canyon State Park. Here you will find 27,000 acres that contain ancient petroglyphs, guided tours, and a visitor center where you can learn more about the history of the area.
Red Rock Canyon State Park also has a primitive campground that you could choose to stay at if you are wanting to relax in a more populated camping area.