Saturday, January 24, 2015

5 Things You Never Knew About Tehachapi, California

Tehachapi, California is an interesting place. A quaint town in the Tehachapi Mountains between the Mojave Desert and the San Joaquin Valley, most know it as a travel stop along Highway 58.

But Tehachapi has a lot of surprises. There is more than meets the eye. And there's a reason to stop and stay awhile.

The "5 Things You Never Knew About Tehachapi" listed below may not be a surprise to the locals. I think some residents may be unaware, but, by-and-large, those who live in the area already know these things. It's those that just pass through on Highway 58--those that have been to Tehachapi but have never spent much time in Tehachapi--that this will be a surprise to.

#5 - Take A Hike
The Happy Wanderer - Tehachapi, California
Stay On Trail - Tehachapi, California
One thing that even some locals are unaware of is that Tehachapi is a great place for hiking. There are short and easy options, long and difficult treks, and some hikes that fall somewhere in-between.

The renown Pacific Crest Trail passes through the area just east of town. You can hike north from Cameron Road (at Highway 58) towards the Sierra Nevada's and eventually end up in Canada. Many hike five or so miles up and back as a day trip. You can travel south from Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road (at Cameron Road) through the desert and end up at the Mexico boarder. Or, there is a six mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail in-between these two points that meanders through the wind turbines--perfect for a day hike.

Among the pine trees in the Tehachapi Mountain Park south of town is a moderately difficult hike that offers some great views. The trail is under five miles round trip, but the gain in elevation is about 2,000'. There is a section of the trail near the top that is on private property and signs warn you to keep out.

Meadowbrook Park has some nice walking trails that are in town and are easy. Paralleling Tucker Road between Tehachapi Boulevard and Highline Road is another easy trail found in town. Besides that, the outlying communities of Stallion Springs and Bear Valley Springs have numerous hiking trails that are for residents of those communities. Oh, and see the #1 thing you never knew about Tehachapi below.

#4 - Mustangs
Wind & Horses - Tehachapi, California
A Wind Farm - Tehachapi, California
There is a herd of about 100 wild horses that live in the hills southeast of Tehachapi. Located in the Oak Creek Pass, and often seen near the Tehachapi-Willow Springs road, the horses live under the wind turbines.

Little is known about these horses. Some believe that they are descendants of escaped Morgan horses from a breeder that used to reside in the area over 100 years ago. Other people think that they are descendants of horses that escaped from Spanish explorers or native american tribes.

If you're driving on the Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road, keep a close eye out for horses grazing on the grassy Tehachapi Mountain hills. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you'll see a large group of them near the road.

#3 - Breathtaking Views
Trail View - Tehachapi, California
Gold Above The Valley - Tehachapi, California
It's not a big surprise that there are some good views to take in around Tehachapi. After all, the town is in the mountains. But what you might not realize is just how breathtaking some of these views are.

On the west side of the Tehachapi area, such as Stallion Springs, Bear Valley Springs and Keene, you can find large vistas of the San Joaquin Valley. A hike through the Tehachapi Mountain Park will reveal views of Tehachapi Valley and Brite Valley, and (if you hike far enough) Antelope Valley from about 6,000' above. There are some good views found in Sand Canyon, especially at the north end. Oak Creek Pass has a few nice vistas. There are several good views around Caliente, too.

While it may not be completely obvious that there are breathtaking vistas in and around Tehachapi, a little exploring reveals great surprises all around.

#2 - Biological Diversity
Mountain Road - Tehachapi, California
Joshua Tree At First Light - Tehachapi, California
The Tehachapi area is about as biologically diverse as it gets. The elevation changes rapidly, and it goes from about 2,000' on the east side to almost 8,000' at the peak and back down to about 500' on the west side.

In what is considered "Tehachapi" (the area, not just the town limits), you have desert with Joshua Trees, Creosote and cactus, you have mountain-prairie grasslands, oak woodlands on rolling hills, and even tall pines in evergreen forests. It's equivalent of what you'd see traveling from Mexico to Canada, yet it is all found in one area.

Not very many places can claim the biological diversity found in this one small spot in central California. It's quite amazing, actually.

#1 - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park
Hikers - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, Tehachapi, California
Pictographs #2 - Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, Tehachapi, California
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park, just outside of Tehachapi in Sand Canyon, is California's least known and least visited state park. Not everyone in town is even aware of its existence, and most have never visited.

That's really a shame because Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park is actually great. You trek a little over three miles on a guided hike. Along the trail you see remnants of the Native-American people that once lived at this site. The highlight of the tour is a cave covered with pictographs. It's an interesting and educational experience.

The Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park is only open on Saturday mornings in the spring and fall and by appointment only. Less than 400 people visit the park annually. It is definitely Tehachapi's best kept secret.

See also: 10 Things To Do With Kids In Tehachapi, California.

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