Heart of the Domelands
ElevationAscent: 3,737' 1,139 m
Descent: -3,763' -1,147 m
High: 8,059' 2,456 m
Low: 6,980' 2,127 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 26% (14°)
Popular runs nearby
Manter Meadow Loop
9.3 mi 15.0 km • Loop • 1,396 ft Ascent 425.35 m Ascent
Wiskey Flat Out-and-Back
12.4 mi 19.9 km • Out and Back • 903 ft Ascent 275.35 m Ascent
Kern River Upper to Rincon Trail
13.4 mi 21.5 km • Out and Back • 1,831 ft Ascent 558.05 m Ascent
Trail of 100 Giants
1.3 mi 2.1 km • Out and Back • 130 ft Ascent 39.48 m Ascent
The Needles Lookout
9.9 mi 16.0 km • Out and Back • 1,659 ft Ascent 505.69 m Ascent
Bear Creek Trail
5.0 mi 8.0 km • Point to Point • 3,642 ft Ascent 1110.11 m Ascent
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“A trek near most major features in the Domelands, while avoiding unmaintained trails and difficult stream crossings.”— Lee Watts
A key reason is that the longer trails that cross the heart of the wilderness are suited only for the resilient (masochistic?) runners. The National Forest and Bureau of Land Management, responsible for managing the wilderness, have little money for trail maintenance. Maintenance is mostly done with the help of volunteers, and it can only be targeted at the most commonly used sections of trails. There are no bridges across the major creeks and rivers.
The longer trails have maintained sections near major features and unmaintained sections that are overgrown, difficult to follow, and that lead to streams that are dangerous, to impossible, to cross during the snow melt. By the time the water levels are manageable, the trails climbing up from the streams are hot and arid.
This 28-mile trek avoids unmaintained trails, difficult stream crossings and the hot, arid sections, and yet it is still able to visit most of the major features in the Domelands: Church Dome, Manter Meadow, Fist Dome, the Knuckles, Bart Dome, Stegosaurus Fin, Radiant Dome, and others.
The trek starts from the Big Meadow trailhead, which is reached by taking Cherry Hill Road #22S12 from Sherman Pass Road to Big Meadow and then taking road #23S07 to the southwest side of Big Meadow. Both are dirt roads suitable for most passenger cars. The Big Meadow trailhead is about 100 yards south of the South Manter trailhead, which is distinguished by a small stock ramp and pen.
Note: you first have to scroll out first to find your area of interest and then scroll in to see the details for that area.
The website: thecrag.com/climbing/united…, lists climbing routes throughout the Domelands, including 16 routes up Bart Dome and 15 routes at Church Dome
The trail follows Taylor Creek down for a little over 2 miles, until it crosses the creek at the end of Road 24S32-Church. Taylor Meadow is private land surrounded by a barb-wire fence. The trail is supposed to continue along Taylor Creek, passing on the north side of the meadow; however, I didn't see that section. It could be one of the many trail sections that have not been maintained in the last few years. Instead, I followed Road 24S32-Church and then went off-trail around the south side of the meadow and worked my way over to Woodpecker Trail #34E08 and Road 24S13-Taylor.
Woodpecker Trail climbs 1000 feet to a pass just to the right of "Church Dome," the most famous formation in Domeland. This rock climber's paradise is a set of formations that would be better named "Church Spires." Climbers have given names to at least 12 of these formations. From the far side of the pass, the sheer rock faces at the top of the ridge are even more impressive. From there the trail drops rapidly at first, and then gradually descends towards Manter Meadow, crossing over several low glacial moraines.
We reach the deep green Manter Meadow, the largest meadow within the wilderness, at the junction with the South Manter Trail-34E37. The Woodpecker Trail skirts the meadow on the east side and crosses Manter Creek at the junction with the Manter Creek Trail-35E12.
Along the meadow's narrow northern extension, the trail passes a fire circle and a metal frame previously used for a large forest service tent. A short distance farther, it passes the junction with the North Manter Trail-34E14 and crosses over a low ridge. The creek below has good water until after the snow melt. The trail follows North Manter Creek past the junction with the Domeland Trail-34E15 and climbs up to the saddle that leads towards Trout Creek. Along the way there are good views of numerous rock formations, including several well-known to climbers: Fist, Knuckles, and Bart Dome.
From near the high point on the Woodpecker Trail, it is a fairly easy to make a steep, off-trail scramble down to the Domeland Trail-34E15, assuming a good map and navigational skills. You should reach the Domeland Trail shortly before it leaves Tibbets Creek. The Domeland Trail climbs 100 feet to a striking saddle between Bart Dome and a set of unnamed domes. Just before the saddle, there is a remarkable waterfall-like pile of white crystal rock about 10 feet high and 30-50 feet wide.
After dropping about 200 feet from the saddle, you'll see "the golf ball," a 7-foot tall rock that resembles a golf ball on a narrow tee. This marks the end of the maintained trail. We leave the trail here and run off-trail along a relatively flat ridge leading to points overlooking Radiant Dome, North Domes, and Stegosaurus Fin. Try to go as level as possible, straight out from the saddle. The ridge drops only 350 feet in 2.6 miles. Run out as far as you want or climb one of the small domes on the ridge for a better view, or make a short, moderate descent to the base of any of the domes that you chose. To return, just head back to the saddle between Bart Dome and the unnamed domes.
Once back on the Domeland Trail, take it back to the Woodpecker Trail and continue back to the junction with North Manter Trail. This trail stays well to the west of the meadow, passing an old cabin and a spring to reach the junction with the Cabin Spur Trail. Follow that trail along Manter Creek. It drops about 130 feet to the edge of the meadow and then climbs to the junction with the South Manter Trail. This shady trail follows South Manter Creek, climbing about 700 feet in 2 miles. The South Manter Trailhead is only 0.25 miles below, and our starting point is only about 100 yards from there.
The area north and east of Manter Meadow was heavily burned by the Manter Fire in 2000. The brush has returned, but, the taller trees have not, leaving many lonely burned trunks.
The wild and scenic South Fork of the Kern crosses the wilderness. South of Rockhouse Meadow, it drops through deep and essentially inaccessible gorge. The South Fork, Fish Creek, and Trout Creek are excellent for fishing, but this often requires strenuous off-trail running. The river and these two creeks can be dangerous, to impossible, to cross until after the snow melt.
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Land Manager: USFS - Sequoia National Forest Office
Oct 31, 2019: NFRA announces Tricia Maki 2019 Ranger of the Year