San Luis Obispo County Highpoint Trip Report

Caliente Mountain

Date: October 18, 2008
Author: Peter Maurer

After spending the night in Bakersfield, the old haunt of my hiking buddy, we arose before dawn and headed toward our mountain destination. We stopped and carbo loaded at Jo's Family Restaurant, a great diner in the town of Taft, then proceeded on through Maricopa, the turn-off onto Soda Lake Road, and across the Carrizo Plain to the trailhead. The roads were well marked and there was no problem finding the turn-off to Selby campground and the Caliente Ridge parking area. Follow the direction in Suttle’s book from either the north or south.

We unloaded our bikes and were on our way at 9:45, after lots of stops for photos on the way to the trailhead. With the exception of a few steeper pitches, the road climbs gradually and is an easy mountain bike ride for anyone in decent shape. It basically just follows the ridgeline. At about the half- way point the road passes a small microwave tower, then narrows considerably. It got more interesting at that point but also a little steeper in areas where we had to walk the bikes. Finally at about mile 6 to 6-1/2, we stashed the bikes at the base of a steep climb, just after crossing the dam of a former stock pond. We could have gone further on the bikes and would have made for a quicker return trip but the hiking was just as enjoyable and we got to get close-up views of horned lizards and fossils along the trail. We did follow tracks of someone who road all the way to the summit a couple days before us.

After a couple of false summits, we finally got a glimpse of the true summit with the badly-deteriorating lookout. Very interesting sandstone outcrops and banding that we crossed during the last 1/4 mile. Made it to the top in about 2-1/4 hours (1-1/4 cycling, 1 hiking) with temps in the 80s. Had a leisurely time at the summit and, although it was a bit hazy, great views of the Cuyama Valley, Carrizo Plain, the Sierra Madre and other ridges of the coast ranges to the south and west.

We then strolled back down to the bikes. The ride back took no time and was well worth any of the pushing on the way up. Total trip time was 5 hours for 16 miles and 1600 feet of elevation gain. A great outing, only seeing one pair of hikers near the trail head and a game warden looking for poachers.