What is a better Springtime activity than dancing through wildflowers? We were able to experience the Superbloom at Carrizo Plain, and it was a magical Spring experience.
Does anyone else search the explore tab on Instagram to find new places to adventure? This is the BEST way to find local hidden gems that are both adventure and insta-worthy. Last year my explore tab was blooming with photos of the historical Superbloom at Carrizo Plain. The Plain is the last Because of the heavy rainfall last year, the hills were full of diverse flowers. I knew we would have to go and experience it too!
Getting to Carrizo Plain
There are only two entrances to the national monument. We came from the southNorth, and entered Soda Lake Road off of the 58 through Santa Margarita. From the south you can access Soda Lake Road through New Cuyama on the 166. Soda Lake Road is the only paved road that runs continuously through Carrizo Plain, and this is where you will find the Guy L. Goodwin Education Center with restrooms and the map.
Preparing for Your Visit
Visiting Carrizo Plain is definitely an adventure you have to prepare for!
- There is no access to gas, food, or water once inside the park. Make sure you fill up ahead of time!
- Pack a lunch! The closest food is over 30 minutes away so once you’re in you won’t want to go back and get food.
- Carrizo Plain participates in the Leave No Trace program so there are no trash cans. Make sure you bring bags or containers for your trash.
- There is only one restroom and depending on the season the line can be long! Make sure to schedule bathroom times for little ones that includes wait times!
- The roads are mostly dirt and some get rough. I drive a Honda Civic and it got a little rough sometimes but be aware on the map of where the rough roads are if you want your car to avoid them!
- While you can just drive through the park and pull over for pictures, there are also tons of areas to get out and walk around. We didn’t know this prior to arriving, but were lucky to have on good shoes so we could do parts of the hike! Strollers won’t work here so bring your baby carrier!
- Charge your phone for tons of pictures! But switch it to airplane mode because there is no service. Make sure you have your directions written down ahead of time as well, your GPS won’t be able to guide you all the way to Carrizo Plain!
- Entering Carrizo Plain is free. BUT if you would like to see the Painted Rock, a Chumash cultural site, you need to go on a guided tour. These tickets must be reserved ahead of time and according to their website only costs a processing fee. Our day was sold out so make sure to get them ahead of time!
Arriving at Carrizo Plain
The drive to Carrizo Plain is already beautiful. You drive through green hills and ranches full of green trees and you can already spot quite a few wildflowers from the highway! Once we turned onto Soda Lake Road, we saw people were stopping at some of the first hills. We thought about getting out but decided instead to check out the Education Center first. Here there is a small buildings with facts on Carrizo Plain, free map print outs, and the restrooms. We asked the park ranger where we should start, and he gave us directions to where the most flowers were.
Our first stop was at the Soda Lake. This area has designated parking spot, so make sure you keep driving until you find a good place to park! The road space is limited, and it was so frustrating when people would stop on the road to take pictures. Once we had parked, we started to walk the paths through the wildflowers. When walking through Carrizo Plain make sure you stay on the designated paths! Stepping on the flowers can damage the plants.
Everywhere we looked the colors were breathtaking! Even though we went late in the season, the colors were still so vibrant. The yellows and purples looked amazing against the green hills. When you look at the patches of color closely, you can see how many individual blooms make up each color!
We followed the paths down to Soda Lake. During the winter the basin can be full of water, but during the spring the dirt here is dry and covered in white. The basin is highly concentrated in salt, that leaves behind the white sulfates. The white looks beautiful against the colorful hills! This would be a fun area for kids to explore, the area is muddy but the sulfates make the top crunchy. It feels so interesting under your feet!
After exploring the lake, we followed the ranger’s directions and headed toward the flower covered hills. We towards Elkhorn Road through Panama Road. Panama does not have a clear street sign, so make sure you are watching for landmarks on the map! The road out to the hills was pretty rough, but my car made it just fine.
We stopped at the parking area where we saw many people getting out to hike. The gate opened up to a trail that led straight up into the hills. This was a pretty easy hike, there was an incline but there were kids walking as well! When we came to the first flat area the view was amazing! You could see almost the entire grassland. We decided to keep climbing, and went to the second level. Here there is a close up view of the hills, and you can see Soda Lake and even some of the towns in the distance. We made sure to get lots of pictures! There was a second trail that led to the top of the large hill, but our lack of preparing meant we did not have enough water or the right shoes to continue up. We took our time going back down, pointing out the colors and animals for Aaliyah.
Unfortunately, the weather this year means there might not be any blooms at Carrizo Plain! Hopefully these rains we are getting will continue because we would love to go back. Now that she is older I know she would love to explore the flowers. Carrizo Plain is definitely kid friendly, and even if you walk the easy trails with your little ones you will still be able to get great views of the flowers!