Kern County is often referred to as the “Golden Empire,” and for a good reason. Kern County is located in the southern Central Valley of California. It extends east beyond the southern slope of the eastern Sierra Nevada range into the Mojave Desert.
The area was first settled in 1866 has a rich history of oil, black gold, and agriculture. Today Kern county attracts thousands every year.
The Mojave Desert, home to several natural wonders and interesting places to visit. Red Rock Canyon, Randsburg, and Edwards Air Force Base. To the west of Edwards and just on the other side of the Tehachapi Mountains are the City of Bakersfield, the birthplace of the “Bakersfield Sound” and the epicenter for Basque food restaurants.
Further to the west are the Tule Elk State Reserve, McKittrick tar pits, and the Kern Oil Museum. The Kern River Valley is the gateway to the Sequoia National Monument and offers numerous outdoor adventures, including river rafting, hiking, camping, and fishing.
Kern County Day Trips
The Kern River is the undisputed recreation capital for outdoor adventure destinations in southern California. Rafting is one of the most popular activities along the Kern River, with numerous outfitters offering guided trips along the upper and lower Kern River. Another popular activity is camping. State, federal, and private campgrounds are numerous. Free camping is allowed in the upper Kern River.
Lake Isabella is nestled in the Kern River Valley between two sections of the Sequoia National Forest. Only three hours north of Los Angeles, Lake Isabella is a popular year-round destination for camping and fishing. The town of Kernville is a good place to stock up on camping supplies. Kernville also has quite a few motels for those looking for a more comfortable stay.
Red Rock Canyon Park has been the site of scores of movies, including the Planet of the Apes crew, due to its colorful rock formations. The best time to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park is in the Spring and Fall. Camping, hiking, and off-roading are the most popular activities in Red Rock Canyon State Park.
The Outlets at Tejon Ranch are an oasis on the Grapevine’s long trek, a stretch of highway that cuts through the Tehachapi Mountains. Along with the huge outlet mall, you will find traveler-focused businesses such as lodging places, fast food restaurants, and places to fuel for the return trip after a day of shopping. Due to its somewhat remote location, Tejon Outlets offer discounts not found at any other outlet mall.
The town of Tehachapi has made a name for itself because of the numerous murals that adorn many walls in the city. At every turn, a new and fascinating piece of artwork reveals itself. Many of the murals depict an important historical event or a famous citizen. Be sure to stop by the historic railway museum in Tehachapi. It’s well worth a look.
Silver City Ghost Town is located a few miles from Lake Isabella and well worth a stop while visiting the area. Even though Silver City never existed, nearly all of the structures are from the Kern River Valley‘s historical past. Silver City is a diamond in the rough for antique lovers, and there are thousands of artifacts on display throughout the property. Some of them for sale in the town’s main building.
Randsburg is located in eastern Kern County. The town still has a few residents and is known as a Living Ghost Town. You will find antique shops, a real western saloon, an opera house, a general store with an old-fashioned soda fountain in town. Besides attracting history buffs, geologists, and rockhounds from around the country, the town is also a hotbed for off-roaders.
This Antelope Valley Indian Museum is open on weekends from 9 am to 4 pm. Admission is only $3 per person. Kids 12 and under are free. Since 1979, the museum and surrounding 147 acres have been part of the California State Parks system. The museum is housed in a unique 1920s Swiss-style chalet that is built into a rock formation. To view the upstairs California Hall, visitors have to walk up the rock formation inside the museum.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks are tucked side by side east of the San Joaquin Valley. These two National Parks are connected by a single road that provides nearly 866,000 acres of outdoor adventure in the “Land of the Giants.” While Sequoia Park contains one of the highest points in the United States, its neighbor has one of The Great Canyon’s deepest points.
Covering 17 acres of land in Bakersfield is the California Living Museum. Both a zoo and a botanical garden, the California Living Museum is ideal for a family day trip. Several routes can be taken to weave your way through the zoo. Different environments have been created to replicate California’s scenery and environment and, in particular, the Bakersfield Kern County. And if you get tired of walking there is a fantastic train ride.
Trona Pinnacles are located in northeastern Kern County. These unusual rock formations were formed over 10,000 years ago when this area of the Mojave desert was covered by water. There are plenty of trails to explore, along with numerous dirt roads that weave in and out of the tufa towers. Four-wheel-drive is not required. Just about any car can make it down the five-mile dirt road from SR 178.
One of the few remaining wooden oil derricks from the early days of oil production can be seen at the West Kern Oil Museum in Taft, California. Run by a dedicated group of volunteers, the museum displays a huge collection of artifacts, equipment, displays, and pictures about the Kern County oil industry.
Visiting Kern County
Bakersfield is the largest city in Kern County. Lake Isabella, the Sequoia National Monument, and the Wild and Scenic Kern River are some of the most visited destinations in Kern County.
Plan on spending several days exploring Kern County, California. Kern County is about a three-hour drive from Los Angeles or San Francisco.