Peak 4,175ft P500
Peak 3,562ft P300
Peak 3,465ft P300
Peak 3,900ft P300
Peak 3,502ft P300
Peak 3,187ft P300
Elkhorn Hills P300
Peak 3,505ft
Peak 3,575ft P500
Peak 3,509ft P300
Midway Peak P500
Peak 3,275ft P300
Peak 3,775ft P300

Wed, Apr 3, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 GPX Profiles: 1 2 3


My second day in the Carrizo Plain National Monmument was a full one, going from sunup to sundown, tagging more than a dozen summits. It wasn't an arduous day by any stretch, with plenty of driving between summits to give me ample rest and quite a few drive-ups. I started the day in the Caliente Range and ended up in the Temblor range on the opposite side of the monument. Most of the hiking was done in the Caliente Range with easy driving, while the Temblor Range had short, easy summits with some rough driving.

Peak 4,175ft

The peak is the third highest and third most prominent in the Caliente Range, lying about 2.5mi east of the range highpoint, Caliente Mtn. I had hoped to include it with the previous day's tour of five other peaks in the area, but I had run out of daylight and energy. I spent the night camped at the saddle where I'd ended the previous day's hike, getting up in the morning to move the car up a spur road about 3/4mi closer to the peak. This left me with a five-mile roundtrip hike. The first mile is pretty tame with easy hiking in the upper reaches of the Middle and Horse Creek drainages. I then climbed onto the crest of the range via a steep subsidiary ridge, followed by more easy hiking along the crest. There was a mix of clouds and blue skies, cool temps and a brilliant display of yellow flowers in at least three varieties. An old road cut helps some with the last mile, but it didn't make a significant difference. It took me a bit under an hour and a half to find my way to the summit with excellent morning views. Caliente rises more impressively to the west while a fog temporarily shrouded Soda Lake to the northwest. To the north and east stretched the vast Carrizo Plain, with the Cuyama Valley to the south and southwest. I particularly liked the view looking south down the Horse Canyon drainage with the softly-lighted, flower-covered slopes descending to the bottom of the canyon. I left a register at the summit before returning back down the same way, taking less than an hour for the return.

Peak 3,562ft/Peak 3,465ft/Peak 3,900ft

I spent the next hour driving back to the Carrizo Plain, southeast on the main Soda Lake Rd, then back into the Caliente Range for a trio of peaks. The road I traveled was in good shape, apparently maintained as a utility road for the transmission line that runs over the range here. The road goes just west of Peak 3,562ft's summit, leaving a 100ft of hiking to reach the rounded top. The road then continues downhill, making a long switchback to reach a a saddle with Peak 3,465ft before climbing up to the second summit. The road goes directly over the top of this one before continuing down into Cuyama Valley. I turned around after passing over the summit, parking near the lowpoint before the road climbs back up to the first peak. Peak 3,900ft, the highest of the trio, lies about 1.3mi to the WSW. I had to hike down into and out of two branches of Quail Canyon before climbing the NE Ridge of Peak 3,900ft. With carpets of yellow and some magenta, on mostly-open slopes, it made for a pictureque hike with fine views. The summit offers a good view of Long BM to the northwest about a mile away, the second most prominent summit in the range. After snapping a few photos from the summit of Peak 3,900ft, I made my way back via the same route, returning around 12:30p.

Peak 3,502ft/Peak 3,187ft

I drove only about half the distance back to Soda Lake Rd before finding a nice track that took me southeast through the rolling hills towards the last two summits in the range. The driving route took me into a lovely, high valley at the head of a drainage emptying south into Cuyuma Valley. I parked at the base of Peak 3,187ft, about 0.4mi away, and about 1.2mi from Peak 3,502ft. Another fork of this road continues down into Cuyama Valley, but I don't think it is accessible to the public from that direction. I chose to visit the further peak first, following a branch of the drainage to the east, with a badlands-like stretch in the upper reaches before gaining a saddle. Though steep on this side, the east side of the saddle drops off gently into another high valley at the head of the adjacent drainage. I crossed this green valley, finding an old fenceline that needed hopping before starting up the northwest side of Peak 3,502ft. I paused at the summit to take in the views and enjoy a rare snack that my wife had hidden away in my daypack. I took a slightly different descent line before crossing back between valleys over the same saddle. I passed by a game guzzler near where I'd parked before heading up the North Ridge of Peak 3,187ft. I left a register atop this summit before heading back down to the jeep. Not surprisingly, I found no registers on any of the day's summits.

Elkhorn Hills

Having finished up with my objectives in the Caliente Range, I next turned my attention to the Temblor Range on the other side of the Carrizo Plain. By now I had reached the southeastern tip of the Carrizo Plain so there was little driving to get from one range to the other. The Elkhorn Hills are a small collection of low hills separating Carrizo and Elkhorn Plains. My driving route to the Temblor Range took me into the Elkhorn Hills with a short diversion to visit the highpoint. There are two closely-spaced points vying for highest. The northernmost one can be driven to, but the southern one is a few feet higher and requires a few hundred feet of walking to reach. The summit had a spectacular view of a large field of purple to the northeast in the Elkhorn Plain, which I visited next. There were several cars parked there, with expensive cameras being deployed to great effect in the idyllic setting.

Temblor Range

After leaving Elkhorn Plain just after 3:30p, I spent the next three and half hours driving into the Temblor Range to tag half a dozen summits, a few of which actually involved walking. There is a very steep road that climbs out Elkhorn Plain to get one to the crest of the range, 4WD definitely needed. Though it is the steepest section of road I traveled, there is still plenty of adventurous driving in this range. Unlike the Caliente Range with its more nicely graded roads, the main road following the crest in the Temblors seems to just go directly up and down the various bumps with little in the way of grading. The first four peaks up to Midway Peak were all either drive-ups or nearly so. I had to walk maybe a hundred yards for a couple of them. It was 6p by the time I got to actually hike. Peak 3,275ft sits off the crest to the northeast with a spur road forking off in the direction of the peak. There was a very nice couple camped atop a knoll on the ridgeline to Peak 3,275ft, so when I pulled up and parked short of their campsite, I immediately let them know my intentions to run off and tag a peak before leaving them in peace. They were very nice about it, even offered to share a glass of wine with me as they were preparing their dinner. I thanked them for the offer before running off to tag the summit with a surprisingly steep finish up from a saddle for the last 200ft or so. The peak was carpeted in shades of orange, yellow and purple, the most colorfully cloaked summit I found in the Temblors over this day and the next. There were a lot of clouds throwing shade on the peak all during the ascent, but some sunshine on my way back was able to cast it in a most glorious light as I was nearly done. I was less than half an hour in managing the 1.4mi roundtrip to the summit and back. The last summit, Peak 3,775ft, took me to the northern edge of San Luis Obispo County. This peak, too, sits off the east side of the main crest, with a road approaching within half a mile of the summit. One can actually drive right to the top on an old, rarely used spur road, but I chose to hike the last peak in the last half hour before sunset. This summit was rather blase compared to the last, but the place where I parked made for a very fine campsite that night, overlooking the lights of Taft and those of the oil fields that dominate the east side of the range. Not finishing up until after 7p, it was a pretty cool shower I took outside with a breeze blowing. I cooked dinner and did some light reading before hitting the sack - it had been a pretty full day and I was fairly tired tonight...


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