At the very end of the long drive known as the Grapevine on Highway 5, sits a beautiful historic state park called Fort Tejon. People often overlook it as it is usually at the end or beginning of your road trip, but it is a historic spot with lots of things to see. Stopping here doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, and while there, you can learn about everything from the expansion into California to the camel army that may or may not have been stationed here. Read on for all the information.
- Cost: $3 for adults
- Hours: Every day from 8 AM – 4 PM, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day
- Location: 4201 Fort Tejon Rd, Lebec, CA 93243
- Information from my visit in 2016
After arriving in the small parking lot, you can check out the historical plaques then make your way into the park itself. When you walk into the park, you do need to pay the fee, but this fee is small, and it is good to support these parks so that they can keep these places going as fantastic resources for years to come.
Before walking into the fee area, be sure to stop into the small one-room visitors center that has a lot of the area’s history.
You can see a brief historical summary below or read the full thing here.
At the top of Grapevine Canyon, Fort Tejon State Park sits in a beautiful meadow surrounded by trees. Between 1854 – 1864, it was used as an Army outpost to protect people who lived in the surrounding area. The area became popular in the 1850s as the discovery of gold brought many people West, confounding the trouble between settlers and Indians. In 1859 the US Army experimented with using camels in the arid CA desert, and many of them were stationed and trained at Fort Tejon. When the Civil War broke out, many of the people stationed here were transferred, and the fort eventually closed in 1864. In 1940, five acres were deeded to the CA State Park system to be restored. The park was opened in 1947 and continues to be visited often to this day.
After checking out the visitor center, you can head into the park and explore many of the buildings that are still there. There are a bunch that are just plots of land though, so when you get the map, don’t worry if you expect a building to be somewhere and only see a small plaque, such as the hospital. Here are a few of the buildings you will see there.
The barracks is the first building you will see as it has a commanding presence in the center of the park. You can enter the barracks and explore lots of old relics from the history of the park, including uniforms.
Kitchen and Mess Halls
These buildings are pretty much just shacks on the outskirts of the park. You can’t go in them, but you can see them from the outside.
The officer’s quarters is the most impressive part of the park. The building is in a Colonial style, and it features many rooms that have been meticulously recreated.
You can walk throughout the building and even go upstairs to see how the rooms would have looked in the heyday of the area. I enjoyed exploring these quarters as it gave you a taste of what life was like for the people in command during this time.
This area is not like the Officers Quarters, but I did enjoy seeing the full chicken coop that was right outside, complete with many chickens running around.
Peter Lebeck Grave
Located right next to a big tree, this grave marks the resting site of Peter Lebeck, and on it talks about how he was attacked by a bear, pretty crazy.
The jail was anti-climactic as it was just a few small rooms/cells in an old wooden building.
There are, of course, more things to see in this park, and I would recommend at least an hour to walk around and explore. While the park is not that big, it is a great place to stop on a road trip, as you can let the family stretch their legs and enjoy a beautiful piece of CA history. Let me know if you have been and what you thought in the comments.