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Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

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San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,507
reviews: 41
Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

These are tough questions to put on a specific forum, because this is a remote area without any major cities. Most of the nearby hamlets don’t have TA forums at all. So I’m hoping I can glean a few ideas from the experts for Santa Maria, Bakersfield, and Lebec.

I’m thinking of going to Carrizo Plain National Monument during the last week of March. I may head south afterward, but NFT Santa Clarita or Simi Valley. I’m thinking of going from I-5 and Hwy 58 through McKittrick. Carrizo Plain has a couple of campgrounds, so depending on weather and the overall ambience, I may stay a night in the preserve. But just to be prepared, I want to know about nearby alternatives between it and the Los Angeles metro area.

I’ve probably been through Taft a few times in my travels, but don’t know what it’s like for an overnight stay. Its visitor info website lists a few motels, all apparently indies with rates from about $30-70 with varied TA reviews; and a few restaurants. I know it is an oil town, and it has an oil museum. Is this a good town for dinner, a stroll along Main Street USA, and overnight?

I also saw that Maricopa has a place called the Motel 8, but pretty limited choices in both lodging and restaurants and the town is much smaller. I couldn’t find a visitor info website, so maybe there isn’t much to do there?

Maybe Frazier Park is a better choice for lodging. A road called Cerro Noroeste goes from the south end of Carrizo Plain through Los Padres National Forest to Frazier Park; is it a generally good road? I think this is a fairly high elevation and might have snow. I’ll have a sedan instead of my own 4wd. Would it be better to take 166 from Maricopa to I-5?

For the trip home, I’m thinking of Hwy 126 to Ventura, following the route that I talked about in my thread about the St. Francis Dam collapse and the resulting flood along the Santa Clara River;

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,231
reviews: 3
1. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Hi Frisco_Roadrunner

While I've never been out on the Carrizo Plain, I have been to Taft. My best friend used to live there when I lived in Bakersfield, so lots of great memories from there. However, it's been at least 35 years since I've been there, so not sure what the town is like now. There are certainly plenty of dining options, though. Just don't ask me what. We were kids then and got lots of KFC and pizza back then, lol! I think Taft would be fine for an overnight stop.

Don't bother with Maricopa! That Motel 8 sits at a VERY busy intersection and lots of big rigs pass through there. Maricopa is decidedly a blip of a place. It had 15 minutes of fame in the early 80's when they filmed the completely forgettable and horrid Neil Diamond starring movie 'The Jazz Singer", lol!!

166 from Maricopa to I-5 is mostly dull. Lots of rollers where it's hard to pass because you can't see what's coming from the opposite direction most of the time.

I've also driven part of Cerro Noroeste Road and it's fine. It's an interesting drive with some view of the San Andreas Fault. Again, it's been decades since I've been on it, but I'm sure it's well maintained and it's a good way to get to Frazier Park or Pine Mountain. It's been a light snow year in the lower elevations. I have a friend who lives in Big Bear and the photos she's been posting on Facebook lately show very little snow, so I imagine there would be less in Frazier Park. Maybe someone on the forums who's driven through the Grapevine recently can comment on the snow levels in FP. Or maybe the Caltrans website has current road conditions listed for the area.

I would choose the mountain route over the 166 to I-5 route, if possible. BTW- If you choose the 166 to I-5 route...watch your speed. If the CHP catches you, you'll be ticketed. I learned that the hard way a few years back.

And yes to Hwy 126. That's a lovely scenic drive.

Have fun in the Carizzo Plain. The wildflowers should be out in full force right now.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,231
reviews: 3
2. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Oh, and another thing......

If you choose Cerro Noroeste Road, take Soda Lake Road south until it ends at Hwy 166. The turn for Cerro Noroeste is right by there. You would make a right turn onto Hwy 166 toward Cuyama (A pretty nice drive in its own right all the way toward Santa Maria), drive a few feet to Cerro Noroeste and make a left turn.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,507
reviews: 41
3. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Ooooh, thanks for all that info, Kibble.

I understand that part of the Soda Lake Road is dirt, so I’ll have to see what the weather conditions are when I get there. Since I’ll have a sedan, I won’t stick my neck out as far as I would with the Silver Mule, my regular ride. In Death Valley I might, because I know it inside-out, but I’ve never been to Carrizo and there are no services anywhere on the preserve. But if I have to return to the north entrance, I can still go to Taft or down to Cerro Noroeste Road; it would add maybe 25 miles, NBD.

I looked up info about the Cuyama area, and that seems like another interesting and scenic trip. If I planned to come right back north after Carrizo Plain, it would work because I could take 166 west, which on the maps looks nicer than 166 east because it goes through hilly and forested areas. But I do want to revisit the San Francisquito Canyon and 126 (I talked myself into it with that thread about the dam, lol). I may also revisit Mentryville, a ghost town in Pico Canyon west of Santa Clarita that was home to the world's longest producing oil well for decades. I think Chevron considers Pico Canyon its birthplace. I visited the ghost town when I had the employer in Santa Clarita, but it's been 15-20 years since I’ve seen any of those places.

On my way back to 101, I want to make a detour to Santa Ynez and Solvang, just because it's been maybe 30 years since I was there. So Cuyama will have to wait.

"The Jazz Singer" was filmed in Maricopa? I’d never have thunk it. As I recall, the story is set in NYC and LA, right? Does Maricopa have a synagogue? Now I'll have to try and look up the movie again to figure out why any of it would have to be set in Maricopa.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,231
reviews: 3
4. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Yes, Highway 166 between Maricopa and Santa Maria is a nice drive. The Cuyama Valley is surrounded by stark barren mountains on one side and the Los Padres Forest on the other. Cuyama is a farming community and some of my former co-workers actually live or lived out there and drove into Santa Maria for work. At one point, the highway becomes curvier and goes through some mountain passes. Then there's this tall, curved, narrow bridge that crosses Twitchell Reservoir. There have been a few times over the decades where the water made almost made it up to the bridge roadway!

There's also another section of Highway 33 off of Highway 166 as you near Cuyama. That route takes you to Ojai and down into Ventura. I've been on that road once, but that was like in 1969 or 1970. I was pretty young, but I remember the Cuyama River being filled with shattered logs from fallen trees due to a huge storm that had passed the area that winter. It was a similar scene as that of Highway 126 between Valencia and Ventura that same year.

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"....."The Jazz Singer" was filmed in Maricopa? I’d never have thunk it. As I recall, the story is set in NYC and LA, right? Does Maricopa have a synagogue?".....

At one point in the movie, Neil Diamond's character bails on his life, hits the road and that's when you see the scenes involving Maricopa. Desolate, barren tumbleweeds rolling, etc., lol!!

Santa Ana, CA
posts: 2,408
reviews: 12
5. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

HI, FRR...

I was in that area last April, 2012 with the Desert Explorers club. We were following and studying the earthquake fault.

The Cerro Noroeste Road, which later changes name to Mil Potrero Hwy, is an ordinary mountain road. It is paved and the usual curvy and winding. It's very scenic and has several "vista" stops. It does get up to 6,000 ft elevation so you'd want to check the weather so you don't get caught in a snowstorm up there. It's been very warm here the last week or so so I doubt there's any snow on the ground. If there is snow on the ground and the road is plowed then no big deal.

The Soda Lake Road is a well-graded gravel or dirt road. Any passenger vehicle can drive on that.

Parallel to this road on the east is Elkhorn Road. This is mostly well-graded also. The only time the Desert Explorers needed four-wheel drive was taking some side canyons off this Elkhorn Road. If you decide to turn onto a side canyon you'll figure out real quick when to put your car in reverse.

All there was in McKittrick was a drive-in where we could buy ice cream cones. They also sold the usual burger-joint foods and drinks.

Pine Mountain has a B & B you could stay at but I don't know where you'd eat. It's not a real town but there are a lot of houses scattered around the hills, a golf course, and a number of church camps in the hills.

My usual place to spend the night in that area is now a Motel 6, Lebec. To me, it's Frazier Park but the postal service sees otherwise. Right off the freeway is the very nice Flying J truck stop with a Denny's. The adjacent motel was the Best Rest Inn for almost 20 years since it was built but it became Motel 6 in 2011. I'e stayed there many times over the years. I rarely write reviews but I wrote one for this on Sept 8, 2011:

tripadvisor.com/…REVIEWS

If you decide to stay there heed my words about the tiny bar of soap and no shampoo.

The freeway exit has a few other businesses and an excellent Mexican restaurant.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,507
reviews: 41
6. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Thanks again, Kibble, and thanks, Danny. I’ll check on the weather and road conditions in the Frazier Mountain area and keep that boring piece of 166 as an alternative.

Cuyama Valley sounds like a scenic area, and I even found a story about it in the Los Angeles Times from a few years ago. Maybe I'll have a chance to explore it some other time. Unless I change my plans for this trip, it doesn't fit in this time.

I stay at Motel 6's a lot in my travels, so I know about the limited amenities. The advantage is that I know what I'm getting, and it works when ambience is secondary and I just need a bed, electricity, and indoor plumbing. When I travel I always pack a full toiletries kit, so matchbook sized soap is no problem.

Q’s for both of you, if you know. Is Denny’s the only restaurant near that Motel 6? Does the wide spot in the road at Gorman have any local, less generic restaurants? I also found a motel mentioned in Frazier Park, the Frazier Mountain (aka Koko’s Mountain) Motel on Mt. Pinos Drive, with a restaurant not far away called Big John’s that serves only B-L. Know anything about those places? Are there any places for dinner in town?

Edited: 1:37 pm, March 20, 2013
Santa Ana, CA
posts: 2,408
reviews: 12
7. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

Across the street from the Flying J and down about a block is Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant. This is where the Desert Explorers group ate. It was very good. There's also one or two fast food places here.

At Gorman is the Ranch House Coffee Shop which occupies the former Sizzler. There's also a Carl's Jr. next door.

All these places have a Lebec address.

We didn't mention it before but there's a nice Best Western and restaurant at the bottom of the Grapevine. Also a Lebec address.

I've never spent any time in the little "town" of Frazier Park so I can't help with that.

8. Re: Visitor services near Carrizo Plain

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