Off-beat fun in an undiscovered playland
Tucked between the San Joaquin Valley and Mojave Desert lies the unassuming mountain town of Tehachapi, California. Before calling Las Vegas home, I was raised under the shade of Tehachapi’s oak trees. Years separated from my hometown, I now fondly remember lakeside bonfires and stargazing in the mountains. Driving back there from Vegas, I’m welcomed by rolling, wind farm-lined hills, a reminder to slow down. Call me biased, but I find this low-key destination ideal for both outdoor adventurers and main street loungers looking for a place to unwind in the cool mountain air.
Eight miles southwest of town, Tehachapi Mountain Park offers clean, first-come, first-served campsites for tents and RVs. Campers can spend hours wandering among the massive fir trees, but be mindful of the occasional bear sighting. Make sure to pack bug spray for relaxing around the site fire pits as the sun sets behind mountain peaks. This is a great option for basecamp adventurers and the budget-conscious ($18 per day, kerncounty.com).
For comfort and amenities near the town’s center, book Fairfield Inn & Suites on the west end of Tehachapi Blvd. — a short walk to countless restaurants, museums, and local shops. In summer, the hotel has the advantage of being near the weekly farmers market and annual Mountain Festival ($160 and up, marriott.com).
Kohnen’s Country Bakery, a tried and true Tehachapi staple, is a German-style bakeshop with fresh bread for create-your-own sandwiches and pastries made fresh daily. Kohnen’s offers quick service, a large seating area, and a view of Tehachapi Blvd. Becauase it sits beside the famous railroad, diners can expect the occasional rumble of trains (kohnenscountrybakery.com). For a date night, make a reservation at Veritas Tapas & Wine Bar, where diners can share small bites and wine tastings. On busy nights, when the familiar kitchen din saturates the small space, the restaurant’s soft lighting and knowledgeable staff create a warm atmosphere (veritas-tapas-and-wine-bar.mailchimpsites.com).
Hiking is a must-do on any Tehachapi trip. Tehachapi Mountain Trail is a moderately challenging out-and-back with a quick elevation gain to scenic views. In spring, a 40-minute venture leads to the vibrant poppy fields of the Antelope North Loop Trail, a 45-minute drive south, outside Lancaster (tehachapitrails.com). Just north of Tehachapi proper is the César E. Chávez National Monument, commemorating the highly influential labor and civil rights activist. The site offers a lush memorial garden, the Chávez gravesite, and a visitor center for opportunities to learn about the establishment of farming labor unions. The monument is open daily and free to the public (
A unique site in Tehachapi is the Mountain Spirit Center, a Buddhist retreat in the Sand Canyon neighborhood. Visitors are met with ornate temples and a large bell of peace that guests are invited to sound. It’s uncommon to see crowds at the center, making this spiritual excursion incredibly peaceful. Admission is free, though donations
are encouraged (taegosah.org). History buffs will enjoy the Tehachapi Loop, a helix shaped railroad considered an engineering feat. Still an active railway, the loop in action thrills train enthusiasts. If train-watching isn’t on your bucket list, the Scenic Overlook offers remarkable views of Tehachapi’s nature and wildlife (atlasobscura.com/places/tehachapi-loop-2).
For more information about Tehachapi, go to visittehachapi.com.