San Louis Obispo County

Date reviewed - 3/04
Fun . . . . . . . . 3
Difficulty . . . . .Low
Traffic . . . . . . Light
Driveways . . . .None
Condition . . . . Poor (dirt)
Length . . . . . .45 miles

On the map, Soda Lake road is an awesome proposition. Connecting Hwy. 58 and Hwy. 33, two of the best roads in SoCal, with 45 miles of deserted roadway through the middle of nowhere with no cross streets or development would seem like a dream come true. However, as is often the case in stories like this, it is too good to be true.

Roughly 15 miles (and don't quote me on this, it's been a while since I've driven this road) from the intersection with Hwy. 58 the road turns to dirt. It's not as bad as it sounds, though, as it is the nicest, smoothest, best maintained dirt road I've ever seen. While passing a "Pavement Ends 500'" sign at just a bit over the speed limit can get your heart racing, my day didn't end in tragedy. Some quick work with the brakes and a few heel-toe downshifts and we stopped to consider our options.

Which aren't many if you've come this far. It is a long way back around to Hwy. 58 and down the 33 or all the way out to the 101. So we swallowed our pride, said good-bye to our suspensions, and kept going. As you can see from the picture at right, it's a little desolate out here, but on the plus side it is a pretty nice dirt road. If you've driven Cat Canyon Rd., you know that paved roads can be much, much worse.

Almost as surprising as the condition of the road were some of the other vehicles we passed. The pizza delivery guy was strange enough (I never could figure out where he was coming from or where he was going), but we actually passed a lone crotch-rocket as well. Other than a few farms there really isn't any place to go out here, and with the exception of Maricopa to the south there really isn't any towns either. Still, it was fun to play in the dirt with my car and test the traction control (it REALLY works good).

The northern, paved, section is pretty much a straight shot with the occasional turn or high-speed sweeper. As you can see in the picture there are some pretty long straights in the dirt section as well, but there are plenty of corners to keep you from getting too bored. As you get closer to the southern end there are more turns per mile, and eventually you will reach the intersection with Hwy. 33 at the end. There is an old 76 gas station there but it looks like it has been quite some time since it has seen a paying customer.

At the northern end Seven Mile Rd. (grey) cuts off to the east to meet up with Hwy. 58, and to the south Cerro Noroeste Rd. heads to Frazier Park. This road is pretty good looking on a map as well, but seems to be pretty heavily traveled much of the time. A better bet is to take Hwy. 33 south towards Ojai, as this is one of the better drives you will find. While a dirt road isn't for everyone, if you've got an Evo or WRX, or just good rally tires, Soda Lake can make an interesting alternative to the usual fair. Just think how your friends will react when you told them you took your sports car offroading last weekend.

- Back to Region

Blue: Soda Lake Rd.
Red: Hwy. 58 - Carissa Hwy.
Cyan: Bitterwater Rd.
Yellow: Pozo Rd.
Purple: Hwy 33
Green: Cerro Noroeste / Mil Potrero / Cuddy Valley / Frazier Mtn. Park
Grey: Seven Mile Rd. (it's actually only 6 miles)

Blue is paved, red is well graded dirt.
If nothing else, it's a big difference than taking the 5.
Looks like they are going to need a wash when we get home.