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  1. #1
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    Anybody ridden the Carrizo Plain?

    I'm planning a trip from SF most of the way to LA in late March. I'm planning to take the inland route, including Soda Lake Road and Elkhorn Grade through Carrizo Plain. I've seen various blog posts about riding there, but I'm wondering if anyone here has done it? I'll be on a road bike with 28 mm and am experienced riding on dirt, but I'm hoping the roads in Carrizo aren't excessively sandy or loose? Thanks for any intel.

  2. #2
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    My main concern would be water: there is no water available for at least 50 miles of riding, perhaps as much as 75. It is very hot in the summer, and often in the spring and fall too. And there is almost no shade. I wouldn't try to ride through there unless I had at least 3 gallons of water starting out. Also, it's very isolated, so you would have trouble getting help in an emergency.


    Having said that, if you like deserts (I do) the Carrizo Plain is an awe-inspiring place. Supposedly, it's like what much of California was before the advent of cities and farming. A must-see is the view of the dry Soda Lake from a Overlook Hill a few hundred yards south of Soda Lake Road. Also, the visitor center is quite informative. There are many side roads (mostly dirt) to explore. One in particular heads up the southern hills toward Caliente Mtn: great views if you like climbs.


    I car-camped in the Carrizo Plain one night a couple of years ago. I watched the sunset from my (primitive) campsite, then turned my chair around and watched the full moon rise. An owl flew about 10 feed over my head. I then pulled out my hardtail MTB and did a moonlight ride on some dirt roads; it was awesome.


    I think the bike you described would be fine on Soda Lake Road: all but about 20 miles is paved. The dirt section is pretty well maintained, although some of it may have washboard, depending on the time of the year and how recently it was graded. I don't know about Elkhorn Grade Road; but you could just take Soda Lake Road to 166.


    Your trip sounds exciting. Let us know how it goes.

  3. #3
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    I have spent many days on the Plain, though only in my truck. I would have no problem riding it with 28's, unless it had rained in the last few days. In fact I think a bike may be one of the best ways to see the plain.

    You should be able to get water at the visitor center. There is water at Selby campground, which is about 3 miles off of the valley floor. There may be water at KCL campground-I would call the visitor center and inquire. South of KCL your next water would be in Maricopa or New Cuyama, which is ~40 miles if memory serves correctly. North of the Plain I think water would be from ranches and houses. Most of the people I've interfaced with in that country are quite nice, though quiet/private. There is also a CDF Fire Station in California Valley, just south of 58 and an elementary school on 58 near the Plain.

    It is truly a special place. In March the wildflowers should be in full bloom. When I was there in December it was very green. Greener than I've ever seen it, so the show should be spectacular. Look for the Elk, Antelope and Wild Boar.

    Also, I would add Bitter Water Road coming down from 46 to 58 to the ride as well. It's lousy asphalt, but very lightly trafficked and beautiful.

  4. #4
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    Thanks very much for the info on the Carrizo Plain.

    I had a great trip -- if you're interested, I wrote up a trip report that was published in the SF Chronicle's bike blog, here.

  5. #5
    lead on macduff!
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    wow! what a great write-up! i could definitely picture myself there. it's simply incredible that such a beautiful place gets lost in the embarrassment of riches we have in california.
    i'd rather be alive wrong than dead right

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