Wind Wolves Preserve

By Natasha Van Horne

 Southern California’s got all sorts of well-known parks and spots to enjoy the great outdoors, but I’m excited to share with you a hidden gem, a bit off the beaten path.

This little-known spot in Kern County, CA is the largest non-profit nature preserve in Southern California and at 95,000 acres, this place has seemingly endless terrain to explore. Wind Wolves Preserve is located about 41 miles from Bakersfield, California – the biggest city in the Kern County valley.

In 1996, the preserve was acquired by the Wildlands Conservancy. Wind Wolves Preserve is the ancestral land of the Chumash, Yokuts, and possibly the lesser known Hul Kuhk’u nations. After a conflict between the Nations and Spanish colonizers in the 1700’s, the area became a part of Mexico. It was renamed by a Spanish mission party in 1806.

In 1842, Jose Antonio Dominguez applied for the lands, and the Mexican government awarded Dominguez the land grant in July of 1842. During this time, John C. Fremont led an army expedition into California and eventually took control of California in 1846. Fremont is infamous for a number of massacres against Native Americans in California and he eventually stole the ancestral lands of the Chumash, Yokuts, and Hul Kuhk’u nations.

Thankfully, after such a marred history, the land is finally being restored, and its history is being shared due to the momentum of several volunteers of the Wildlands Conservancy. The Conservancy and its numerous volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore this landscape. It’s home to many endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, the Buena Vista Lake ornate shrew, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. It also includes one of the most impressive arrays of Native American rock art in all of North America. ( 

Admission to Wind Wolves is free, and it’s open from 8:00AM to 6:00PM daily! From camping, hiking, bike riding, or planning to watch the wildlife, this is a must-see destination. 

Each year, Wind Wolves Preserve starts their season off with the Spring Nature Festival where you can enjoy free educational exhibits, guided hikes, and more. It’s a popular time to explore the preserve due to its impressive wildflower blooms after the spring rains. (Learn more here).

Top Things To Do

  • The San Emigdio Campground has 12 campsites that include picnic tables, water and flush restrooms with an outdoor sink. It is a beautiful spot to spend the night stargazing. 11 out of the 12 campsites are accessible to people with disabilities. 
  • Camping is free, although reservations are encouraged and are first come first serve. See website for prohibitions.
  • On their website, the preserve offers several activities on their calendar. From guided night hikes, movies in the canyon (!), volunteer days, to educational opportunities, there is a whole slew of activities to participate in for the whole family.

Several hikes range from beginner to more advanced day hikes to a pond further in the preserve. You may even spot a herd of Tule Elk that are being reintroduced to their historic range! They play an important part in restoring the preserve’s ecosystem. 

Hiking in the springtime is personally my favorite time to visit the preserve. The trails are well taken care of and I’ve taken my daughter multiple times since she was a toddler and she loves to run through the trails.

Educational Programs

Wind Wolves Preserve offers a bevy of educational programs, from learning about the stars and stargazing night hikes, to learning about the wildlife and plants that are native to the area. They have an Outdoor Discovery program that has been a wonderful addition to many local schools in Kern County. Don’t forget to check out their online calendar to see what event is coming up next!

(Link to online calendar)


If you’re interested in furthering your experience in helping preserve the outdoors, Wind Wolves Preserve has a wonderful volunteer program. Their staff is knowledgeable in the area and you’ll find a friendly cohort of like-minded individuals to learn from. 

Top Places To Stay:

There is free camping at the preserve with prior reservations. It is a wonderful way to enjoy stargazing, and enjoy the full experience of your visit. It is located about 41 miles from Bakersfield, California – the biggest city in the Kern County valley where you can find multiple hotels, or other campgrounds to stay at. You can contact the preserve to reserve a campsite at (661) 858-1115, or email them at (Link also above under “Camping”)

I’ve enjoyed parking my camper van in their campsite and looking up at the full moon and stars at night. They do lock the gates at night, but give you a combination so you can get in or out as needed.

Resources & Other Notable Tips

  • Tent camping and camper vans/trucks only. No RVs or Trailers allowed. Max length 21 feet.
  • Max length of stay: 6 nights.
  • There is no electricity available; and no generators allowed.
  • The Campground has flush toilet restrooms and a dishwashing station. There are showers available, although the sinks have running water to do a quick wash-up in as well.
  • Wood fires are only allowed when the fire ban gets lifted in the winter months. Propane grills, stoves, and portable fire propane pits are permitted year round.
If you find yourself driving through Kern County along the 99 freeway, or the 5 freeway – don’t forget to stop, explore, and learn more about this beautiful landscape!

Find Natasha on Instagram @tashofalltrades! All photos courtesy of Natasha Van Horne.

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