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Wind Wolves Preserve: Bakersfield's Backyard Bonanza

Hidden Treasures: Part Two

On a recent Saturday morning, my church group and I left Bakersfield city limits for the wide-open spaces of Wind Wolves Preserve, a hidden gem right in Bakersfield’s backyard. Throughout the day, we hiked well-kempt paths, enjoyed sparkling clean facilities, and spotted critters galore, all without paying a fee or driving for hours. If this sounds like your kind of place, grab a picnic basket, walking stick, camera, and oh yes, the family, and make a day of it!

Wind Wolves is the West Coast’s largest non-profit preserve with 95,000 acres located off Highway 166 west of I-5 in the San Emigdio Mountain Range. Open since 1996, it provides visitors free access to about 8,000 acres of impressive landforms, habitats, and wildlife including Tule elk, California Condors, the endangered Buena Vista Lake Shrew, and golden eagles plus rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bobcats, and bears, all amongst rolling grasslands, seasonal wildflowers, several tree varieties, and the Bakersfield Cactus.

First-time visitor Sally Kubo of Bakersfield was surprised to discover so much wilderness beauty so near to home. “It’s such a nice getaway,” Kubo said. “The fact that it’s so close to Bakersfield is amazing.”

On a historic level, a piece of “The Old Road” or El Camino Viejo, runs through the preserve and was at one time the main inland artery between San Francisco and Los Angeles before the Grapevine. Wind Wolves was also home to the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and the Tachi-Yokut Indians.

Besides hiking trails and picnic areas, Wind Wolves offers tent camping and planned educational outings including wildflower, wildlife, and full-moon hikes all free of charge. The main camping area allows drop-ins and accommodates about 80 campers. Other camping areas are reservable but require vehicle escort by ranger staff. Several large, shaded stone structures with fire pits provide great places to eat and enjoy a fire.

According to Dan York, Wildlands Conservancy Associate Director, Wind Wolves is one of several preserves totaling 145,000 acres of California land owned and operated by The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC), the state’s largest nonprofit nature preserve system.

“We have 12 nature preserves statewide; of those, 5 are open for camping and public access,” York said. “All of our acquisitions, public access improvements, staff, and outdoor education programs are paid for by generous donations.”  

Wind Wolves is open 8am to 6pm, 7 days a week. For more information, call 858-1115 or visit

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Tags: Enrichment, Featured Story, Travel

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