Located a short drive from Tehachapi, Tomo-Kahni served as the winter village of the Kawaiisu people for more than 2,000 years. The site's State Historic Park now boasts archaeological remains and scenic views amid a landscape that has been relatively untouched since ancient times.
Visitors get to experience one of the state’s most exclusive parks, which is accessible only by a guided tour. For those willing to make the three-hour hike, the remains of villages, pictographs and hundreds of “grinding holes,” which the tribe’s women would use to pound acorns and seeds, await.
Tomo-Kahni translates to “winter home,” and it’s easy to see why the Kawaiisu people would settle near Tehachapi, in an area with a relatively mild climate. Known for their intricate baskets, the Kawaiisu were peaceful hunter-gatherers who lived in family units and were taught respect for the land and each other from a young age.
One of the highlights of the guided tour brings participants is an ancient village. Kawaiisu used juniper limbs and willow boughs to construct dwellings and storage huts. While the wooden structures no longer remain, the heavy rocks used to secure the buildings can still be seen.
Near the village are the grinding holes and a cave featuring ancient pictographs. When viewing the pictographs, be careful. Legend has it touching them can cause blindness.
In addition to the painted images, rock carvings are visible at several places in the park, although the California Department of Parks and Recreation believes these predate even the Kawaiisu people.
Due to extreme weather conditions, the park is only accessible in the spring and fall months. Tours begin at 8:30 a.m. with an orientation at the Tehachapi Museum, located at 310 South St.
Following orientation, participants must drive to the park entrance. The last mile of the drive is on an unpaved road.
The state parks department describes the hike as moderately strenuous. It spans three miles on uneven terrain and includes an 800-foot elevation gain. In all, the tour usually takes around four hours.
The hike is not recommended for children under 6 years old or those with health or walking limitations.
Beginning at 4,000 feet above sea level, the hike is known for its variable weather. Layered clothing is recommended. Hikers must bring their own water, good walking shoes and sun protection, along with a sack lunch.
The tour fee is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-16 (age 5 and under are free, but not recommended on tours). Tours are limited to 12 people and fill up fast, so reservations are highly recommended (for an additional fee of $10 per party). To make a reservation or for more information call 661-946-6092 or email Mojave.Sector@parks.ca.gov.