Tehachapi Mountain is the high point of the Tehachapi Mountains, which dominate the northwest end of the Antelope Valley west of Mojave. The Tehachapis are near the southern end of the great Sierran chain of mountains, where the north-south peaks meet the Transverse Ranges and the San Andreas Fault.
The name “Tehachapi” evolved from a Kawaiisu Indian word (or maybe more than one, similar-sounding word?), possibly meaning something like “hard to climb”. It’s unclear whether the Kawaiisu used the term to refer to the area, a specific feature, if indeed they used it for anything remotely related. Nevertheless, the name has been in use in its present form (there have been many spellings) since Brewer used it in his journal in 1863.
Tehachapi Mountain offers a short but steep and pleasant hike up through Jeffery Pine and White Fir forest. It’s high enough to be feasible year round, though it might be best to avoid midday in the summer. It can get snow in the winter. Because the summit lies below treeline, all you ever get are enticing glimpses of the surrounding region as you ascend. Personally, I'm a devotee of big views, but I found this to be a pleasantly intimate hike, with just enough visibility to the surrounding landscape to make me want to explore the region more fully.
Getting ThereFrom Bakersfield or Mojave, take highway 58 to the town of Tehachapi. Exit at highway 202 (exit 148) and head south on what turns out to be Tucker Road. At about 2 miles Tucker intersects Highline Road. Turn right, then continue about a mile further to Water Canyon Road (left turn). Both turns are signed for Tehachapi Mountain Park, which is where you’re heading. Continue on Water Canyon Road to the park entrance. After that, keep right at forks until you reach the end of the road, approximately seven miles from the freeway. Park at or near the road end in a campground near the toilets (open year round) and showers (closed in winter).
From road’s end there are several options. The Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks Section suggests heading straight uphill about 300 vertical feet until you hit a dirt road. This is certainly the most direct start, but not necessarily the most pleasant, and it doesn’t save all that much time. A better option is to start at the at the nature trail about 100 yards before the road end, or at the dirt road about 50 yards before that (gated road that heads sharply back left as you come back up the hill). I’m not absolutely certain, but I believe the first dirt road is actually the one you want. In any event, taking the nature trail up a couple hundred yards until a use trail continues higher to intersect the dirt road is better than the frontal assault.
Whatever way you choose to reach the road, follow it up to around the 7,000 foot level, where it leaves the confines of the large gully in which the campground is nestled and turns southwest on the other side of the ridge. In the fall of 2007 there was a huge pile of dead wood here, left by local fire crews who appear to have an ongoing fuel removal operation on the mountain. From this point, head straight up the ridge, following a use trail that follows a dozer track. Take this to the summit. Return the way you came. About 3 miles R/T and 2,000 feet of gain.
Red TapeNone. Most of the hike is on public land (Tehachapi Mountain Park), but the last quarter mile or so is on private land. According to summitlime the landowner has posted a no trespassing sign, and is actively enforcing it.
CampingThere is camping right at the trailhead in Tehachapi Mountain Park. $14/night. Nice, spacious campsites with BBQ grills, tables, flush toilets and showers. Not bad!
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