Bakersfield, California has a lot of fun things to do, especially for the young ones coming to visit. In fact, Kern County (of which Bakersfield is a part of) has lots to offer in terms of National and State Parks.
With a plethora of activities that appeal to everyone from more relaxed outdoors folk, to more seasoned explorers and adventurers, and anyone in between, Kern County has some of the most interesting geographical features, paleontological sites, and other landmark preserves.
So if you have the kids coming by, maybe you might want to urge them to unplug for a day or two and head off on an exciting adventure into the great outdoors with you for a change.
Here are five activities you can do at national and state parks you might want to visit the next time the young ones come by to visit you in Bakersfield.
1. Take a Guided Hike to See The California Condors
The Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge is home to the California Condor Recovery Program, a government-led effort to protect the endangered California Condor from extinction.
Located in the foothills of the southwestern San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge itself is closed to the public. However, staff and partner organizers regularly lead hikes to allow for limited opportunities for the public to engage in wildlife viewing and photography.
Refuge visitors along the Hudson Ranch Road may glimpse these California condors soaring on warm thermal air currents or perched on steep hillsides. Other notable wildlife that can also be seen on these hikes may include mule deer, tule elk, California quail, golden eagle, owls, and occasionally, greater roadrunner.
For schedules and visitor information, check out the official Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge website.
2. Be One With Nature at the Carrizo Plain National Monument
The Carrizo Plain National Monument might be of particular interest to camping and geology enthusiasts, with the San Andreas Fault traversing its carved valleys, alkali flats, and vast open grasslands.
Considered one of the best-kept secrets in California, the Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to diverse communities of wildlife, many of which are considered endangered or threatened. It’s also a culturally important location for Native Americans.
You might choose to go for a self-guided tour or choose to go RV camping out at Carrizo Plain. Note, however, that you won’t be able to get any supplies at the Monument itself, so if you do plan to go camping, consider stopping by one of the neighboring gateway communities to stock up on food, water, fuel, and other gear.
The camping area is generally bounded by a wooden fence, with about eight picnic tables and fire pits, which are frequently occupied by “day use” visitors. Trees about the campground provide shade – some of the only shade in the monument’s valley.
For schedules and visitor information, check out the official Carrizo Plain National Monument website.
3. Marvel at the World’s Largest Trees at the Giant Sequoia National Monument
As it is, there’s already so much to do at the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Opportunities for outdoor recreation are certainly aplenty, with more relaxed activities such as fishing, picnicking, and nature viewing, to more highly-engaged and active sports such as biking, hunting, and climbing.
The reason for visiting, of course, is to gaze at the magnificent giant sequoias. The world-famous Boole Tree calls this forest home, standing a proud 269 feet high with a base circumference of 112 feet.
38 of the 39 Giant Sequoia groves are located in the Sequoia National Forest, which accounts for about half of the sequoia groves currently in existence.
For schedules and visitor information, check out the official Giant Sequoia National Monument website.
4. Go Bird-Watching at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge
Located towards the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley the Kern National Wildlife Refuge was once the largest freshwater wetland complex in the western United States. Kern Refuge provides an ideal wintering habitat for migratory birds, including dozens if not hundreds of species of waterfowl and water birds.
For the young ones, visiting the Kern Refuge is a wonderful educational opportunity, allowing for viewing migratory birds in the wild and even picking up a few photography skills or two. Other families come by to hunt and fish, or go on guided tours led by the local rangers.
For schedules and visitor information, check out the official Kern National Wildlife Refuge website.
5. Los Padres National Forest
The Los Padres National Forest features mountains, streams, rivers, and beaches, giving visiting families plenty of opportunities to unplug and enjoy the great outdoors.
It even has more accessible camping facilities, trails, and restrooms for differently-abled visitors, and are constantly working towards providing more of these facilities.
People come to visit the Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area for its spectacular spring wildflower displays after wet winters. Towards late March, plant and garden enthusiasts would be pleased to find vast blooms of all sorts of colorful purple shooting stars, chocolate lilies, scarlet Indian paintbrushes, and goldfields, among others.
For schedules and visitor information, check out the official Los Padres National Forest website.
A Final Word About National and State Parks in Kern County
There are a few other state and national parks in Kern County which we haven’t covered in this article. While we hope to do so in a future installment, we nevertheless hope we’ve provided enough suggested activities and destinations for now.
Hopefully, by visiting these wildlife reserves and national heritage sites, we are able to foster a better appreciation for history, nature, and culture among our young ones.