Carrizo Plain flowerThe Car­ri­zo Plain is a very spe­cial place, tucked between the coast range east of San Luis Obis­po and the rolling moun­tains flank­ing the west periph­ery of the San Joaquin Valley. 

There are few year­ly vis­i­tors here, large­ly from the recipe of a long dri­ve to get there, a dry, high desert-like envi­ron­ment most of the year, and the out­side chance the San Andreas fault, which runs all the way down its length, could make it’s big move any time.

To recen­ter map below, click on home but­ton at left cen­ter on map.

Look­ing for a map of the area?  Click on the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter icon (“i”) on the map below. Click on cam­era icons to open images in a sep­a­rate tab.


The plain becomes ver­dant after a big rainy sea­son, as it did in 2017, and its lakes return, and all of the seeds that were hes­i­tant to ger­mi­nate in Cal­i­for­ni­a’s drought years, made their play all at once like fire­works. The dis­play is the best in many years, but unfor­tu­nate­ly if the cycli­cal ten­den­cy to return to drought rejoins us, there may not be anoth­er show like 2017 for some ten years.

Elkhorn Road, Carrizo Plain

Elkhorn Road, goin’ south.

Arriv­ing from the south from High­way 33 along Soda Lake Road and lat­er depart­ing from the north from High­way 58 along Elkhorn Val­ley Road, we found the road sur­faces through­out the val­ley gen­er­al­ly well-packed, but dusty.  For­tu­nate­ly, the dust set­tles quick­ly and does not remain sus­pend­ed in the val­ley air.  The high­ways lay about 35 miles apart, between which are many old range roads once used by the ranch­ers who set­tled the val­ley.  The ranch­es are large­ly gone now, but a few pri­vate prop­er­ties remain and use the old roads to access their parcels.  In oth­er words, you may encounter a num­ber of locked gates.

The roads were bet­ter than we expect­ed, from 10 feet wide sec­tions to 20 feet wide along dirt sur­faces, and wider for the paved roads where avail­able with­in a few miles from either of the state high­ways.  Roads stem out every­where, they climb the moun­tains, they tra­verse the ridges, they poke through the San Andreas fault here and there, but routes tra­vers­ing across the val­ley  from Soda Lake Road to Elkhorn Road are but few. 

Click on any pho­to in the pho­to array below to enter man­u­al slide show.  Pho­tos by Lee McComb.