Breckenridge Mountain is just south of the Greenhorn Mountains which are the transition between the southwestern Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Tehachapi Mountains. It is part of the Sequoia National Forest and on the summit is a manned fire lookout that was built in 1942. During the summer and early fall you can visit the lookout and chat with him/her about their job and there is nobody better to tell you about the views you get from the summit. This area isn't crowded in any season and makes for some wonderful exploration away from the hustle and bustle that characterizes much of the Sierra.
The original Breckenridge lookout was a "crows nest" lookout built in the top of an 87 foot tall tree in 1912. This tree still stands near where the current lookout is situated. In 1931 a wooden tower lookout was built near the tree, but not in the same position as the current lookout structure.
The 1931 tower was replaced in 1942 by the structure that stands today. It was built by the CCC and is on the National Historic Lookout Register. During World War II Breckenridge Lookout was used by the Aircraft Warning Service to watch for enemy aircraft.
On a clear day you can see Breckenridge Mountain from Bakersfield... just look towards the east and it's pretty much the highest mountain you can see. Breckenridge is home to many sought-after species of animals including the Spotted Owl, White-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, and the very rare Breckenridge Mountain Slender Salamander. The flora consists of typical Sierra mixed conifer species including Ponderosa and Sugar Pine, white fir, with an understory of black oak, manzanita, and chinquapin.
Breckenridge is one of California's 50 Finest. #35 it has a prominence of 3,271'
Click here to find links to 6 webcams pointed in different directions from Breckenridge Mountain.
The easy way
From Weedpatch Highway (Hwy 184) in east Bakersfield (north of Hwy 58 or south of Hwy 178) take Breckenridge Road (County Road 218) east into the wide-open beautiful foothills and just keep on going up up up. This road is paved but is narrow, curvy, and steep. Make sure you fuel up and have everything you need when you leave Bakersfield because there are no services on the mountain. Once you rise above the grassland and oak foothills you'll enter into the chaparral zone and soon after find yourself at the border of Sequoia National Forest, about 20 miles east of Bakersfield. Keep going about 10 more miles and then you'll find the turn-off for Forest Road 28S07 - it will be signed "To Breckenridge Lookout". Turn right and go up this dirt road (high-clearance vehicle may be necessary) to eventually pass several TV antennas, microwave relay towers, and finally a gate, beyond which is Breckenridge Lookout. Park at the turnout just before the gate and hike the last few hundred yards up to the lookout.
You can also approach Breckenridge from the Caliente-Bodfish Road (County Road 483) near Havilah. From Hwy 58 head north, or from Hwy 178 head south, on the Caliente Bodfish Road. Just south of Havilah turn west on the Breckenridge Road.
The hard way
From the Old Kern Canyon Road (County Road 214) east of Bakersfield or west of Lake Isabella, make your way about 1.5 miles east of the Democrat Fire Station. Here you'll find the trailhead for the Mill Creek Trail (31E78). You'll be hiking along Mill Creek for the first 2 miles, crossing the creek several times. Open oak/grass and riparian woodlands are found here, with fine spring wildflowers. Leaving the creek, one climbs moderate to steep grades through brush fields to mixed conifer forest. The trail ends at a small spur road just north of Squirrel Meadow on Breckenridge Mountain, 6.6 miles from the trailhead. From here you can hike along Forest Road 28S07 for 5 miles more to the summit of Breckenridge Mountain.
Click here for a trip report for a hike along the lower part of the Mill Creek Trail
There are no permits or fees to hike to Breckenridge Mountain. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics when you visit this area. Be sure and carry water with you as no water is available along the way or at the lookout.
Upon reaching the lookout, a gate with a sign may be posted that will inform you if the lookout is open for public visitation. A Forest Service employee resides at the Breckenridge Lookout tower. It is utilized as an office as well as the home for the summer months while the lookout is on duty. This person is responsible for detecting fires and relaying radio messages to a dispatcher, who in turn sends firefighters and support equipment to extinguish the reported fire. The employee may have the lookout closed due to fires or repair work. If the gate is open, you are welcome to visit the lookout, talk with the Forest Service employee, and enjoy the view, which is spectacular.
No more than 4 people are recommended on the lookout at a time, as there is very little space. Please sign the daily log so we know you have been there. The lookout has just a couple of simple rules for safety; please do not sit on the catwalk railing or lean against any part of the building, particularly the windows or smudge them. The lookout needs a clean, unobstructed view at all times. The windows are very fragile and break easily.
You'll drive past Breckridge Campground on the way to the Lookout. It is along Forest Road 28S07 and is situated on shady slopes of pine and fir near a meadow. It is at 7,100' in elevation and isn't suitable for trailers. There are picnic tables, fire rings, and a pit toilet. The cost is free. Please make sure you have a campfire permit, shovel, plenty of water, and pack out what you pack in! It is open late-May through late-November, weather permitting.
Campfire permits may be obtained for free from any Forest Service, California Department of Forestry (CDF), or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Office.
Sequoia National Forest
Kern River Ranger District - Lake Isabella Office
4875 Ponderosa Drive
P.O. Box 3810
Lake Isabella, CA 93240
Monday through Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm