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F is for Fort Tejon: A Free to See #AtoZChallenge Post


Some of the buildings at Fort Tejon sit under huge oak trees

I'm living in southern California this year, and decided to use my exploration of the area as my focus for the #AtoZChallenge. I'm concentrating on free to see places, though I will include locations that require a parking fee. This is the sixth post in the series.

Right off the I-5 Freeway north of Los Angeles in the area called the Grapevine, you will find Fort Tejon, an Army outpost that was utilized between 1854 and 1864. There is a small fee to park, but the fort itself is free to visit.

A small visitor's center has displays and printed information regarding the history of Fort Tejon, as well as a QR code to access a free cell phone audio tour. Did you know that the Army experimented with using camels for transportation needs? Yes, folks, had you been in Fort Tejon during some of the years it was being used for military purposes, you would have seen camels! 

A sign in the visitor's center describes the use of camels at Fort Tejon

Outside the visitor's center are some of the original buildings that were used by the Army in the mid 1800s. The barracks building is open, with displays of military uniforms and weapons, as well as rooms set up how they might have appeared when the soldiers were stationed there. 

A room in the barracks with uniforms hanging on pegs on the walls

Mannequins show various Army uniform designs through the years 

The house at the back of the grassy lawn was probably my favorite building. It was the home of Captain Gardiner and his wife, Annie. Some of the signs at the house quoted Annie, and I gather she had a sense of humor. On the sign in the kitchen, her words are: "The cook knows nothing about cooking, and I know even less." 

The kitchen in the Gardiner home, with Annie's quote on the sign in front of it

The two-story home of the Gardiners, with a large front porch

As you wander around the fort, you might hear the sound of a bugle playing. I never caught sight of the bugler, so I'm not sure if the music is recorded or live, but a bugle is heard throughout the day. The visitor's center has a paper listing what songs are played at what time of day. 

Besides the barracks and the house, the other buildings that are open to the public to enter are the jail and the guards room, but there are also several signs and fenced-off areas showing where other buildings had been located. There is a very large grassy area, picnic tables, and towering oak trees, and easy freeway access, so a stop at Fort Tejon would be a great place to get some wiggles out if you are traveling with small children. Be aware that on some weekends, there are reenactments that take place at Fort Tejon, and those events do charge a minimal fee. Other than that, though, and the parking fee, Fort Tejon is free to visit. 


  1. I'm enjoying my virtual travel with you. I can see a new Southern Californian itinerary taking shape.

  2. I vaguely remember a movie I saw long ago about the experiment with the camels out West. It didn't work out, if I remember correctly they aren't adapted to our kinds of deserts.

    1. That could very well be. The brochure at Fort Tejon said that the camels they received were "in poor condition and expensive to feed," and so were transferred to another location before being sold at auction. I've also heard that the Civil War disrupted the idea of camels being used by the Army, as many of the camel-supporters were Confederates, so the Union lost its camel advocates. In any case, it's an interesting tidbit from history.

  3. I'm going to assume the camel experiment was a bust or the Cavalry would sure have looked a lot different! Isn't there a Tejon pass? Is that part of the Grapevine? I remember from living in SoCal that any time it snowed, the Grapevine closed

    1. I will turn to the "Commonly Asked Questions About Fort Tejon" brochure I picked up on my field trip: "Is 'Grapevine Canyon' the same as 'Tejon Canyon?' Grapevine Canyon and Tejon Canyon are not the same. Tejon Canyon is east of the mouth of Grapevine Canyon about 15 miles. The 'Old Headquarters' of the Tejon Ranch was located at the mouth of the Tejon Canyon. Tejon Canyon also has many more grapevines that does Grapevine Canyon, while Grapevine Canyon is the home of Fort Tejon and leads to Fort Tejon Pass. Things can become quite confusing!" Now, I don't know if the news reporters distinguish that finely. Like you, I always mentally lump the Tejon Pass with the Grapevine!


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