San Luis Obispo County Highpoint Trip Report
Caliente Mountain (5,106 feet)
Date: November 25, 2000
Author: Ken Akerman
After my successful, but long, ascent of Big Pine Mountain in eastern Santa Barbara County, I drove back
to CA Route 166, returned to the convenience store in the town of Maricopa for a snack and water re-
supply, and then traveled west again on CA Route 166 to Soda Lake Road, where I turned right at an
abandoned gas station and followed the directions in Gary Suttle's book to the Caliente Ridge Parking
Area. Although the elevation here (about 3,500 feet) was higher than the elevation at the Big Pine
Mountain trailhead, it was warmer night, so I didn't feel cold. Because I got to sleep fairly late, I slept
later into the morning, and began my ascent on mountain bike at about 8:20 am.
The trail begins across the parking area, but this is actually just a shortcut that intersects the old road to
the summit. You could also proceed to the locked gate and begin the ascent from there. The road is
generally straight but undulating. I rode my bicycle the majority of the way to the summit. At about
4,600 feet, the surface became soft and sandy, making riding very difficult, so I parked my bike and hiked
the rest of the way. I hiked on the remainder of the road remnants as it curved eastward to surmount the
summit ridge. Tire tracks near the summit indicate that some other climbers did attempt to ride their
bicycles all the way to the summit.
Inside the dilapidated lookout is a register, an old beach chair, a table and some trash. I put my camera
on the table and took a picture of myself lounging on the beach chair. An interesting piece of literature in
the register can is a diagram identifying the location of other peaks using compass bearings. I was able to
identify Big Pine Mountain and Mount Pinos (8,831 feet), high point of Ventura County. Walk around
the lookout building to locate two benchmarks. I was the only person on the mountain that day, and it
does not appear that this peak receives a large number of visitors - entries in the two small register
notebooks go back to as early as 1977.
After eating lunch on the peak and taking my pictures, I hiked back down to my bicycle, then rode back to
my SUV. I returned before 3:00 pm, so one could expect that a round-trip to the summit and back takes
about 6-7 hours, including a leisurely respite at the summit.
I drove to San Luis Obispo and ate a burger dinner at Firestone Grill
(1001 Higuera Street, (805) 783-1001),
recommended to me by a Cal Poly - SLO student, and a recommendation that I highly endorse
because the establishment offers excellent food at reasonable prices. I then drove south on US 101 to
Santa Barbara and spent the night at Banana Bungalow Hostel (210 E. Ortega St., (805) 963-0154).