San Luis Obispo County High Point Trip Report

Caliente Mountain (5,109 ft)

Date: October 18, 2003
Author: Roy Wallen

Six members of the Hundred Peaks Section of the Sierra Club set out to walk the Caliente Ridge to this remote highpoint. Caliente Mountain lived up to its name as it was quite warm, although there was a good breeze most of the day. I took 3.5 liters of water and drank it all.

From I-5, drive west on Route 166 (Maricopa Highway) into the town of Maricopa. Continue west on Route 166 for 9.2 miles from the stop light in Maricopa to Soda Lake Road. At Soda Lake Road there is an old Union gas station (called Rea's Station). Turn right. Follow Soda Lake Road, which alternates between paved and dirt sections. At 24.2 miles from Route 166, there is an intersection; proceed straight. After another 5 miles, there is a sign on the right for Selby Campground to the left. Turn left and proceed 3.8 miles to a fork. Selby Campground is another mile to the left, a remote camping site with no water or services. The trailhead is to the right, up a rough track (high clearance recommended). At 7.1 miles from Soda Lake Road, there is a sign to the right advising a gate at 10 miles; to the left, is a locked gate. Park here.

The hike starts at the locked gate and follows a dirt road then a narrow track to the summit. At approximately 2 miles, you will pass a small tower where you can likely see the summit past a rounded hill to the north. At a little over 4 miles, you will pass a dilapidated house trailer with a cattle paddock and a picnic table. At around 6 miles, you will pass a wildlife guzzler (water collection area). The route ascends the ridge where you will get a view of the summit with its run-down World War II lookout building. There are sweeping views to the north down to Soda Lake and the Carrizo Plain, now a National Monument). Views to the south are across the Cuyama Valley to the Sierra Madre Mountains and Big Pine Mountain (Santa Barbara County's highpoint).

The final stretch is a bit rockier than the previous 7+ miles. Ascend to the summit and enjoy the views. There are a series of registers inside the lookout that date back to the seventies.

Total distance to the summit was 8.2 miles (by GPS) and took 4.5 hours in this group. The return took 3.5 hours.