12 May Tehachapi – PCT Trail Town Review and Guide
Tehachapi owes it’s lively and attractive presence to an event back in 1876. That year signaled the completion of the Tehachapi Loop of the Southern Pacific Railroad bringing the railroad to Tehachapi. This vital railroad link between the productive Central Valley and much of the rest of the nation was later double tracked to accommodate high demand for transportation needs. Northbound PCT hikers walk across this double track shortly before reaching Highway 58 at the Cameron exit.
Here is where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the “double track”. View is toward Tehachapi.
As important as the railroad was to Tehachapi, trains would only stop only as long as needed to load and offload goods. Few people boarded or disembarked. Much like PCT Thru-hikers, the train was only passing through. In the end, it was up to the citizens of Tehachapi to make something special of this remote town. Today, visitors have a variety of restaurants, accommodations, museums, art, theater, and other entertainment to choose from. Tehachapi hosts a seasonal farmers market and is a center for fruit and seed growers.
From Tehachapi’s Railroad Museum in the Depot, a photo of the famous loop that enables rails to climb at “grade” up the Tehachapi pass.
In May, on my PCT thru-hike, I overnighted in Tehachapi. At trail crossings near both Highway 58 and Willow Springs Road (8 miles apart), Tehachapi residents cache water and post lists of local trail angels and town information. These two crossings present 2 opportunities to lure hikers into town, perhaps twice for some hikers.
Hikers have a number of options for staying over in Tehachapi that include trail angel houses, camping and showers at the airport, and several hotel options. I stayed at the Santa Fe Motel ($59) conveniently located in the center of town directly across the street from Kohnen’s Country Bakery, a popular pastry and coffee spot with hikers. For much nicer accommodations, I would recommend sharing a room between several hikers at the Fairfield Inn & Suites ($110) where the rooms and linens are at a much higher standard and there is a hot tub and pool to soak tired muscles. The hot tub alone makes this an easy choice. The Baymont ($94), located a little further from the town center also has a jacuzzi.
The Santa Fe Motel where I stayed.
Besides a place to shower or soak tired muscles, PCT thru-hikers are craving plenty of good town food. I chose an almond cheese danish and a sausage and egg roll at Kohnen’s Country Bakery. It was hard to choose between a variety of large fresh flakey and gooey sweet baked goods. I also caffeinated up on plenty of hot coffee. For dinner the night before, I had a fried chicken plate at the Village Grill Family Diner. It came with a bread choice (huge slice of cornbread for me) and the daily vegetable which were green beans. I also chose macaroni and cheese as my side. For lunch, the following day, I had a pork BBQ plate at the Redhouse BBQ, next door to the Village Grill.
The Village Grill Family Restaurant.
Other hikers I knew were looking forward to Sushi and were planning a visit to Midori Sushi. This group also found a good entertainment option when they hit upon “Line Dancing” night at Big Papa’s Steakhouse.
Tehachapi is very walkable with many options and nearly everything a hiker might want within easy walking distance. A hiker depot of sorts called “Witts End” has been opened up in a house to allow hikers a place to crash in between eating, sleeping, and having fun. At Witts End, hikers can get assistance from trail angels and arrange for transportation back to the trail. The post office is on the outskirts of town and only open on weekdays. Witts End stepped in and solved this problem by accepting hiker mail resupply packages.
A railroad “park” with signals and signs. Adjacent to the Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum.
Like the train, PCT hikers may only be passing through, but Tehachapi is the trail town that doesn’t mind. With heavy demand, the railroad was “double tracked” so perhaps more PCT thru-hikers will choose to “double zero” at this attractive stop. (Double Zero is the term for hikers taking 2 full days off.)