North-East Kern (Ridgecrest/China Lake)
The next stop on your quest to explore the culture and surroundings of an area that former inhabitants include indigenous tribes is the Nuuni Cunni Native American Intertribal Cultural Center. It is located off of Highway 155 at 2600 Hwy 155, Lake Isabella, CA 93240. The building consists of a museum, library, and gift shop. There are also native plant exhibits, artifacts, dance arbor, a sweat lodge, and various other artifacts relating to this Native American tribe that occupied the surroundings. The center is open year-round, Wednesday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 3:00PM and entrance is free; however, donations are accepted. You can find more information on the website www.nuuicunni.com or give them a call at (760)549-0800.
Nearby the museum, is Riverside Park—a quaint park that gives visitor-access to the Kern River (10 Kern River Dr, Kernville, CA 93238). Across the street from the park is a place to rent or buy floaties for use to go swimming in the river. However, it is crucial to exercise caution when entering the Kern River. It is recommended to purchase a guided tour to ensure safety in the river. There are plenty of planned white water rafting trips available, from a half-day tour to a two-day tour. If you have the time to spare, it is well worth the extra day for Sierra South https://www.sierrasouth.com/
If you decide to not go into the water, your next stop starts right at the end of Kernville. Located at the intersection of Burlando Rd and Rio Del Loma, Whiskey Flat Trail is a 14-mile long path that runs parallel to the Kern River. While it is predominantly a bike path, there is plenty of opportunity for hiking. There are some benches along the way and areas that get quite close to the river itself. The first few miles are not strenuous, but when you cross the river, be prepared for a more strenuous hike. The trail is used year-round, but the environment is vastly different depending on the season. In the summer it is very hot, with temperatures reaching triple-digits, but the swimming holes reappear to give hikers the opportunity for a quick cool off. In the spring, there are more creeks and the wildflowers bloom in certain areas.
After burning off all the calories from your breakfast, it may be time to stop in for food. In Kernville, there are a couple of great spots to get a meal. Cheryl’s Diner is open every day from 7:00 AM to 8:00PM. It is great family-owned spot and a quick stop if you are passing through the town. It is located at 11030 Kernville Rd, Kernville, CA 93238. Another popular stop to eat is Kern River Brewing Company. This local brewery has a variety of beer options and even homemade root beer! You can order a customized flight to sample the local tastes and they have weekly food specials. It can get a little busy on Friday nights, as they often have a live band, and the patio is pet-friendly! It is located at 13415 Sierra Way, Kernville, CA 93238. For any questions or to learn more about the menu, give them a call at (760)376-2337 or check out the website kernriverbrewing.com.
Alternative to the Whiskey Trail, there is a 1271-acre area in Sequoia National Forest that you can stop at on your way back towards Lake Isabella from Kernville. It is called South Fork Wildlife Area (4875 Ponderosa Dr, Lake Isabella, CA 93240), and it is a great opportunity for travelers to go hiking, fishing, butterfly watching, canoeing, and photography or have a spectacular view of the sunset. It is accessible all year-round (except for years of high flooding).
If you are not already exhausted, on your way home towards to 178-freeway, there is a hidden gem called Remington Hot Springs that you have to see. These three tubs of natural hot springs are about a quarter mile hike down from the parking lot, so use caution when going there at night. However, at dusk and dawn you can possibly see bats circle above the Kern River near the pools. Also, do not be surprised if you see a few nude bathers, as many people believe it to be a “clothing optional” attraction. The best way to access the tubs is to go along State Hwy 178, and take Kern Canyon Rd. You will park just two miles west of Hobo Campground and hike the short trail down to the pools.
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In the Eastern most part of the county, you can explore the amazing wonders of the China Lake Naval Base, as well as the spectacular natural wonder of Red Rock Canyon. If you are traveling there from the Kernville area, the first stop on your tour should be the Big & Little Petroglyphs Canyons. This unique rock art by the Coso People is the largest known concentration of petroglyphs in the Western Hemisphere. There are nearly 20,000 documented images in this U.S. national landmark. Prepare for a relatively easy hike, but wear comfortable shoes. You can get a tour guide from the Maturango Museum (100 E Las Flores Ave, Ridgecrest, CA 93555), and tours are available in the Spring and Fall months. These tours usually run around $60 for nonmembers of the museum. Since the art is located on the China Lake base, this trip is not one that can be done out of spontaneity. For safety purposes, you have to be screened by the Navy prior to the tour. You can reserve and apply for your tour online https://maturango.org/petroglyph-tours/ or by phone (760-375-6900).
You cannot make a stop in Ridgecrest without checking out the U.S. Naval Museum of Science, Armament, and Technology. Formerly on the restricted access China Lake Naval Weapons Station, it was recently located off base at 130 E Las Flores Ave, Ridgecrest, CA 93555, next to the Maturango Museum. Open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. it is a must-see for visitors to the area! The museum displays achievements in naval air and the weapon development from the base over the years. For more information, you can call at (760) 677-2866 or go online at https://chinalakemuseum.org/. Entrance is free, but donations are accepted. Food and hotel accommodations are nearby.
About thirty minutes on the US-365 S will take you to the next stop– Randsburg Ghost Town. This living ghost town still has functioning businesses and is full of historical buildings! It is extremely hot during the summer, so be sure to visit when the weather is cooler. To grab a bite to eat, visit the quaint ice cream parlor. It is best to visit on Saturdays and Sundays, as many of the shops are closed on weekdays. While you are in town, also visit the Rand Desert Museum (161 Butte Ave, Randsburg, CA 93554). It has numerous exhibits about the town and surrounding areas. Entry is free and it is open weekends from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. (also by special appointment). Phone: (760) 371-0965/ Website: www.randdesertmuseum.com.
Finally, Red Rock Canyon (Abbott Dr, Cantil, CA 93519) is a stunning 27,000 acre state park that has several hiking trails and plenty of opportunity for adventure. The park is open from sunrise to sunset daily and if you visit in the spring, you will catch the famous California wildflowers blooming. Also, if you did not get your fill of petroglyphs earlier, there are numerous spots to find them around the canyon. Historically, the spectacular rock formations were a stop for the 20 mule team to get water. You can bring along a tent and stay overnight- spots are only $25 per night! There is no reservation system; it is first-come, first served. If you have any questions about camping or visiting the park, you can call (661)946-6092. Depending on what time of year you visit the park, you can head out the next morning for a 5-hour hike of the scenic canyon on the Nightmare Gulch Trail.
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South Kern (Tehachapi)
The recommended day to do this tour is Friday, as that ensures the best possible experience based on operation hours of the attractions. One of Tehachapi’s most recognizable sights is the wind turbine. The Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm is the first stop on your tour of the Southern Kern area. You can do a self-guided tour of the largest wind resource area in California. You can find the exploration instructions online on the city’s news site (Wind Farm Guided Tours). It takes only around an hour to explore the evolution of the wind energy industry. You will start the tour just west of downtown Tehachapi to see the historic turbines that power the city’s water treatment plant. After exploring various stops, you will end at Cameron Ridge, where there is potential for hiking, so dress accordingly. If you visit during the springtime, you will see wildflowers along the way, including the California poppy.
If you need to grab a snack before continuing, there are plenty of places to get a quick-bite to eat. Henry’s Café is a breakfast stop that has gluten-free options. It is a nice little hometown restaurant that is popular amongst local residents. Open daily from 6:00 AM-3:00PM, you can find it at 550 Tucker Rd D, Tehachapi, CA 93561. Also, be sure to check out Kohen’s Country Bakery which is a must-stop for some of the best pastries in the county (125 W Tehachapi Blvd D, Tehachapi, CA 93561). It is open daily from 6:00AM-6:00PM.
The next stop is the Tehachapi Museum to learn about the historic roots of the town. There are plenty of exhibits about the addition of the railroad to the town and the Kawaiisu People that originally inhabited the area. The museum has very limited hours, it is only open Friday-Sunday 12:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. It is located at 310 S Green St, Tehachapi, CA 93561
Across the street, you will find the Errea House. Named after the family that lived there for decades, it is the oldest house in the area. It has been refurbished and it is open to visitors. It is a great sight to see and in close proximity to downtown. While you are in the city center, be sure to check out the infamous murals around Tehachapi. On the Heritage League website, you can find instructions for a self-guided tour with historical facts pertaining to the various pieces of art that beautify the town (https://www.tehachapimuseum.org/walking-tour-murals).
Stay on CA-58 W to reach Tehachapi Loop. This marvel of railroad engineering is a California State Landmark that was built in 1876. A 4000 foot train will cross under its rear cars when crossing this loop. With almost 40 trains daily, you have a good chance of seeing this spectacle depending on your arrival time. Enjoy the surrounding scenery while you await a train on one of the busiest single-tracks in the world.
The last stop is sure to be a favorite for wine-lovers. Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Company (26877 Cummings Valley Rd, Tehachapi, CA 93561) is an award-winning winery that comes complete with a tasting room. The “Home of the High Mountain Zin” is a great way to unwind after this weekend adventure. The vineyard hosts “Wine Down Fridays” from 5:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M. with dinner and live entertainment every week. If unable to attend this event, the tasting room, store and vineyard grounds are otherwise open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. You can call ahead (661-822-9233) or check out the website (www.tehachapiwineandcattlecompany.com).
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Day 4: South Kern II (California City/Boron)
The Southern area of Kern County is home to one of the most significant Air Force bases in the country. In addition to that, there are also plenty of places to explore the wildlife that thrives in the Mojave region. The Windswept Petting Zoo is only about 15 minutes away from Tehachapi (11101 Robert Ranch Rd, Willow Springs, CA 93560). Featuring camels, llamas, zebras, and even reindeer—this is a fun-filled stop for families. Admission is only $5 per person, and you get a knowledgeable tour guide. You can get a bucket of carrots to feed the inhabitants for only $1! Pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch amongst the variety of rescue animals. The hours are very limited—the zoo is only open on Saturdays. You can call ahead (661-809-3065) or go to the website (www.capettingzoo.com).
A little-known spot in Kern County is the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in Rosamond. Also called the Cathouse, this unique habitat preserves endangered species of felines. You can wander around at your own pace and get as close as 5ft from the animals. It is open every day, except Wednesday and holidays from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. General admission is $10. To learn more prior to your visit, check out the place online at www.cathouse-fcc.org or call (661-256-3332).
The next stop on this exploration of Mojave wildlife habitats is the Desert Tortoise Natural Area in California City, CA. The drive from the prior stop is just under an hour north. It is an interesting exploration into the natural Mojave ecosystem. This natural habitat helps preserve the lifestyle of California’s state reptile. Sightings are not limited to Desert Tortoises; there is plenty of other wildlife that inhabits the area. It is open every day from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Admission is free, but they take donations. Phone: (951-683-3872).
The 20 Mule Team Museum helps showcase the American icon that famously transported borax out of Death Valley in the 1880s. (Location: 26962 Twenty Mule Team Rd, Boron, CA 93516). This historically significant mining of borax happened here in Kern County. This local museum in Boron is small, but interesting. It has artifacts and local history about Borax mining. Entry is free; however, hours can vary so be sure to call ahead before making the drive out there (phone: (760)762-5810). Make sure you stop at the 20 Mule Team Café before you head out to your next stop. It has inexpensive and delicious comfort food! Food options are very limited at the base, as most of the restaurants are fast-food stops.
The final stop on this day-adventure is Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB). This Airforce Flight Center takes up nearly 301,000 acres. If anyone in your party is interested in learning more about the numerous strides in flight-related technology that have happened in Kern County, then you have to visit. Tours include the Airforce Flight Test Center museum, a windshield tour of the flight line, and the NASA Research Center on base. They are free but you must make a reservation, and the minimum age limit is 5 years old. There are several time slots available throughout the day, so it can fit your schedule of the day accordingly. You can learn more about EAFB tours at http://www.edwards.af.mil/Tours/ or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation.
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Central Kern (Bakersfield)
Some of the most recognizable sights in the county can be found in the Central Kern area around Bakersfield. The first stop is the Kern County Museum. However, use caution making this your first visit of the day if you plan on seeing other sights around town, as you can get caught up all day with the riveting exhibits. The museum displays some of the most historically interesting and important aspects of the county. First opening in 1941, there are thousands of artifacts, and features Pioneer Village and multiple historic homes—including the childhood home of legendary country singer Merle Haggard. The Kern County Museum is an absolute must-stop for visitors and residents alike to understand the origins of this prosperous county in an interactive learning experience. The address is 3801 Chester Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301. It is open every day, except Monday (Tues-Sat 10:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M. & Sun 12:00 P.M.-4:00 P.M.). General entry into the museum is only $10. For more information, you can call (661)437-3330 or go to https://kerncountymuseum.org/.
The next stop knocks out two popular landmarks in the same place. Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a local music hall with a multitude of uses. It is difficult to miss the Western-themed exterior (2800 Buck Owens Blvd, Bakersfield, CA 93308). Created and named after one of the most significant contributors to the Bakersfield Sound, Buck Owens, it is a restaurant, bar, museum, and performance venue. It is a fantastic place to stop for lunch after spending your morning at the Kern County Museum. If you are not hungry, you should still stop into check out the interior and museum. Make sure to plan another visit to check out one of the concerts! Right next door to the Crystal Palace, you will see the iconic Bakersfield Sign. Originally located downtown over Union Ave, Buck Owens had the famous sign refurbished and moved, and it can be easily seen from the nearby freeway.
After spending the first half of your day inside, the next few spots to checkout will give you a chance to explore the outdoor beauty of Kern. Be careful exploring these areas in the summer months, as temperatures can reach triple digits. The Panorama Vista Preserve is located on the Kern River and is a quick escape from the city within the city limits (901 E Roberts Ln, Bakersfield, CA 93308). It gives you great view of the Bluffs from ground level. There are plenty of activities that you can do there and all of them for free! Visitors can take one of the trails to go hiking, bicycling, horseback-riding, or even birdwatching. (Phone: 661-872-3569; website: www.panoramavista.org/).
Near the preserve, you will find Panorama Park, which is an easily accessible exploration of the Bluffs. With an easy pathway to follow, it gives you a spectacular view of the city and overlooks the Kern River and the numerous pump-jacks in the oilfield below. It showcases the massive oil industry that makes up most of the economy in Kern. It is a particularly amazing place to watch the sunrise and sunset over the cliffs.
If you need a place to stop and relax, be sure to visit Hart Park. Located on Alfred Harrell Highway, it is a large public park that is great for fishing, picnics, and has plenty of places to go hiking. It is a popular spot amongst locals, especially on Sundays so prepare for extra traffic on those days. There are two lakes and plenty of benches offer a place to sit and enjoy a serene view. If you are just quickly visiting the area, one of Kern County’s oldest parks definitely deserves a drive around! You may even catch sight of the many peacocks that wander the area. Learn more about it at https://www.kerncounty.com/gsd/parks/hart.aspx.
Not too far from the park is California Living Museum (CALM)—another place that you can easily spend all day (location: 10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93306). If you are able to visit during the winter holiday season, the venue extensively decorates for the holidays with lights. Otherwise, the 14-acre area has over 100 species of animals and California plants. The animals are unable to survive in their natural habitat, so they are housed at CALM. It includes a reptile house, petting zoo, and plenty of unique animals that give a look into real California habitats. It is open every day of the week from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
The final stop on this day tour is Lake Ming. This large man-made lake is popular for picnics and has boat launching ramps. Its atmosphere is similar to Hart Park, so feel free to hangout and relax at the shorelines. There is a great view of the Greenhorn Mountains on the horizon and if you are staying overnight, the Kern River Campground is nearby. The lake is closed occasionally, so be sure to check the calendar on the county website prior to visiting. Learn more online at https://www.kerncounty.com/gsd/parks/ming.aspx.
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West Kern (Taft)
The west area of Kern is full of natural and man-made wonders. The first stop on the route to exploring this region of the county is Tule Elk State Natural Reserve. It is open every day from 9:00 A.M. to sunset. Tule elk were borderline extinct due to hunting and ruined habitat. Thanks to preservation efforts at the reserve, they are facing a revitalized population once again. The reserve is a great place for visitors to catch sight of the animals, especially if they visit in late summer to early fall when they are the most active. Make sure to bring binoculars to get a better chance of seeing one. Visitors can also get a guided tour by going to the Visitor’s Center. If you pack a lunch, you can stay until lunch and utilize one of the picnic areas on site. To learn more, you can check it out online at https://www.parks.ca.gov, or call at (661-764-6881).
Not too far from Tule Elk sits man-made Buena Vista Lake. It is a great opportunity for motor-boating, jet-skiing, kayaking, fishing, and even waterskiing. There are day-use and overnight camping places in the recreational area. BV is made up of two lakes—Lake Webb and Lake Evans. Both benefit from frequent trout and fish plants to make it a great place for fishing. Lake Evans is a more serene area to relax and watch sailboats and slow boats go by. Alternatively, Lake Webb is more active and contains numerous camping spaces. You can make online reservations at https://www.kerncounty.com/gsd/parks/buena-vista.aspx or you can contact Parks and Recreation at 661-868-7000.
Murray Family Farms is a unique farming experience that showcases the major agricultural aspect of the local economy (location: 6700 General Beale Rd, Bakersfield, CA 93307). The store is open from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. daily. On the farm, there are plenty of activities to do and prices range from $6.99 to $8.99 depending on the time of the week you visit. Tractor-drawn wagons go through the scenic 43 acres of farmland. Tour guides are available and informative about the surrounding crops. Visitors get to sample the current crops and learn about farm operations. Hayrides are available on the weekends! If you want to learn more, check out the website https://murrayfamilyfarms.com/ or call (661)330-0100.
You can check off one of the things sure to be on your bucket-list right here in Kern County! Taft Skydiving gives you the chance to do it without any experience and limited training. Tandem skydives also allow for you to feel secure that you are with a trained professional. You will probably need to allocate an additional day for this adventure. Skydivers will be thousands of feet in the air and reach extreme speeds. After the parachute is activated, enjoy the unreal view of the valley that you will have to see to believe. Price range from $189-$349 and you will need to schedule an appointment ahead of time. You can schedule by going online at www.skydivetaft.com or calling (661)765-5867.
The next stop is very close by! West Kern Oil Museum (1168 Wood St, Taft, CA 93268) has information about the thousands of wooden oil derricks that once covered the land, and plenty of other information about the local industry. Nearby Sunset field is the top oil producing field in the contiguous United States. The museum tells the story of the oil and how it impacted the area. It is open Thursday-Saturday 10:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M. and entrance is free. (Phone: (661)765-6664; website: www.westkern-oilmuseum.org/).
The beauty of Wind Wolves Preserve will make you never want to leave. It is uniquely located in a convergence of multiple mountain ranges, the San Joaquin Valley, and the Mojave Desert. It is the West Coast’s largest non-profit preserve, and there is plenty of wildlife in the area! There are frequent events and be sure to bring a dinner and enjoy one the preserve’s nighttime Full Moon Hikes! Naturalists lead plenty of hikes throughout the area and regular hikes on one of the many trials can take about two hours. You cannot visit Kern without stopping to see the natural beauty and rolling hills. Springtime is a great time to see the magic of the wildflowers of California. Learn more about the events going on at the preserve at http://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve_windwolves.html.
If you are up for a good hike, Sawmill Mountain is located just south of the prior stop. It is on the county line between Kern and Ventura. The summit is the highest point in Kern County. It is free to hike; however, you need an Adventure Parking Pass that is only $5 a day. Using the Mt. Pinos Trail, the hike is about 6 miles. Once you reach the summit, you get an amazing view of the Los Padres National Forest.
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