Kern / San Louis Obispo Counties

Date reviewed - 2/06
Fun . . . . . . . . 5
Difficulty . . . . .Medium to High
Traffic . . . . . . Light
Driveways . . . .None
Condition . . . . Good
Length . . . . . .70 miles

I love this road, it's great. No really, it's awesome, unless you've driven it you won't understand. A seemingly endless smorgasbord of great driving styles running through the middle of nowhere (apologies to the few people who actually live out here), Carissa Hwy. is a dream come true. I was riding here recently with some friends and actually wished the leader would stop because my arms were getting sore - but the road just won't end. All in all, a pretty good problem to have.

While at 70 miles end to end it isn't the longest road you can find in the state, see Hwy. 36 at 140 miles!!, that's still a pretty long stretch. And it isn't just how long it is; from high-speed sweepers, hairpin switch-backs up the side of a mountain, roller-coaster dips and hills, long and flat straights with the occasional 15mph corner thrown in to keep you awake, and mile upon mile of winding country road this road seems custom built for our kind of driving.

I've driven (or ridden) this road a handful of times, but always in the east-to-west direction. On a recent outing a fellow rider commented that he had never done the eastern section from east to west before but actually enjoyed it more. Leaving Hwy. 33 north of Taft (not much of a town but they do have gas stations and fast-food joints) you start by winding your way through a small valley with the occasional hill to give you some variety. Watch out for a corner marked with a 35mph warning sign, you will hit it coming down from a small hill and the "double the speed" rule of thumb won't hold on this one. My last trip through here in a car gave a couple ranchers standing in a nearby field a nice demonstration of drifting, and there are tire marks indicating I'm not the only one surprised by that little corner.

Once past the valley you start to climb up a fair sized mountain. Here the road begins to follow the side of the hill and you are in for some pretty tight corners. And if they County plans on building guardrails they haven't quite got around to it yet. After you've wound your way to the top, the drop down the other side isn't nearly as long as the ascent. Perhaps part of the reason I really enjoy this direction is the drop is not that technical, difficult, or dangerous. Just a few miles of downhill grade with enough corners to make it interesting, but not so tight that you can't have a little fun here.

Once dropping to the valley floor the road once again changes it's character; now the corners are almost non-existent but the up-down roller coaster motion sets in. Instead of the side-to-side motion you were used to on the other side of the mountain, out here is nothing but dips and hills to give any passenger's stomachs cause for concern. Some of them can be quite severe as well, a "friend" of mine actually got his car just a bit light out here when he misjudged how fast the drop would be on the other side. Still, good fun all around. While there are plenty of straights, don't get caught out by the occasional corner as the road winds its way around various property boundaries. These corners are well marked with large signs, but it's easy for speed-blindness to set in out here, and it's not uncommon to see dirt on these corners from tractors entering the roadway.

Eventually the hillocks die out and you are left to a straight, flat run across the valley punctuated with a few 90 degree corners - again well marked but pay attention. There is also a school out here with a 25mph school zone so on weekdays pay attention for that. It is in this section you will find Soda Lake Rd. which can take you south and a few miles farther west is Bitterwater Rd. which heads north. And we are only at the halfway point!

After Bitterwater Rd. (headed west), the next 32 miles are pretty much the same. This isn't to say that it boring, quite the opposite. Mile after mile of curves, elevation changes, great scenery, and a conspicuous absence of cross streets, driveways, or any sign of civilization. The only roads you pass out here are worthy of exploration in their own right.

Heading west you will come to a stop sign at Hwy. 229 (eastbound doesn't have to stop). Heading north on 229 can be a nice little diversion, see review below, but continuing west will bring you back into a stretch of tight corners and some downhill grades for about 3.5 miles until another stop sign at the intersection with Pozo Rd. Turn right and another 1.5 miles will bring you to a railroad crossing and a "T" intersection. Turn left to head into Santa Margarita and to Highway 101. Or even better, turn around and do it all again in the other direction.

- Back to Region

Red: Hwy. 58 - Carissa Hwy.
Blue: Soda Lake Rd.
Cyan: Bitterwater Rd.
Yellow: Pozo Rd.
Purple: Hwy. 229 - Webster Rd.
Green: Hwy. 41 - Creston Eureka Rd.

A veritable rainbow.
Red: Running through the valley
Orange: Climbing up the pass
Purple: Winding down the backside
Blue: Roller coaster ride

Red: Running through the valley
Blue: Back into the canyons
Yellow: Pozo Rd.
Purple: Hwy. 229 - Webster Rd.
Orange: La Panza Rd.
Green: Hwy. 41 - Creston Eureka Rd.

Dropping out of the mountain. Don't let those straights fool you, they are anything but flat.
Heading past Hwy. 299 towards Santa Margarita and the Hwy. 101.