Clean, spacious, and perfect
Carrizo Plains National Monument is the largest single native grassland remaining in California in SE San Luis Obispo, and my husband and I have been wanting to visit. We found Kern Cattle & Land Ranch which has now been turned into a campground for people to enjoy.
[ PROS ]
- FREE camping is the best camping! It’s first come first serve, but there was only one other camper there the weekend we visited.
- There are about 12 dispersed sites and all of them are under or near eucalyptus trees that offer really lovely shade from the harsh sun.
- Each sites comes with a picnic table, fire ring + grill, 1 parking spot, and gear pole with hook (for hanging lanterns/trash bags/food/etc.)
- There are 2 gender neutral vault toilets that are clean. The restroom is stocked with toilet paper and there is hand sanitizer available. No sink.
- So much nature to see around! We saw kangaroo rats, bats, hawks, rabbits, ground squirrels (that are going extinct), and lots of fun insects. In the evening we heard lots of coyotes in the distance.
- The evenings here are spectacular -- very little light pollution so you get a clear view of the night sky and all of the stars. The Milky Way was so vivid and we saw shooting stars the entire evening.
- I’ve been wanting to see an owl in nature for so long, and I was able to see one in broad daylight. It was so insane and magical. We heard the owls all night (they are very loud) but I love falling asleep to the sound of nature. The owl sighting was the highlight of my trip!
- There are tons of trails and places to explore. We even got to explore the last standing structure of the original ranch. You can visit the San Andreas Fault Line, Soda Lake, and Painted Rock which are all driving distance.
[ CONS ]
- The drive to and from KCL campground is a little rough. At some point you get on a dirt road that is quite bumpy and has potholes.
- It’s super hot in this part of California during the summer so make sure you pack LOTS of water. There is no water available on the campgrounds or for miles.
- No showers, obviously since there isn’t any water available.
- TONS. OF. FLIES. EVERYWHERE. It’s a little unbearable during the day having to spend the majority of your energy swatting flies. It is so arid out there that flies are constantly landing on every part of your body to lick the sweat off of you. The toilets are clean, but TONS OF FLIES. Not little house flies, but super juicy big fat flies. Luckily they go away when the sun sets.
- No fires allowed! They have fire pits, but you’re not allowed to burn wood. I believe you can use the fire pit with coals since there is a grill provided.
- No gas stations, stores, shops around for miles. Make sure you come prepared with everything you need unless you’re prepared for a long drive on the dirt roads.
Note: Pack in. Pack out. Please folks, remember to take your trash with you and leave the place better than you found it. It was sad seeing beer bottles and bullet shells littering the area. We did our best to pick up what we could and take it with us, but LNT!!
A small remote site on a BLM land, so it is free but it is a first come first serve site. Not many facilities or gas stations nearby so it may be a good idea to bring extra gas if you plan to explore Carrizo Plains. It is right off of Soda Lake Road, about half a mile from the road at a shady little grove. Went on a windy weekend, but campground was nestled under eucalyptus trees so it helped. There are owls in those trees, so they were hooting loud into the night. Some may like it, but it was pretty loud. There are two restrooms (vault toilets - no water), fire pits and picnic tables. Bring your own water. No trash service so pack in and pack out. Views are nice especially if you get sites facing the open plains. Went in June so it was already fire season so no camp fire was allowed. It was a non-busy weekend, but campers arrived late throughout the evening and it was almost full. Weekdays may be pretty deserted out there. Weather can get very hot so make sure to check weather forecast before heading out.
Very nice space. No staff on duty. No restrooms but cool spot. Nice trees. Benches at each spot. Very remote. Just you and the plains.