A rare glimpse of untouched California as it once was, the Carrizo Plain National Monument spans nearly 250,000 acres (1,000 sq km) east of Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo County. The area, which was made a national monument in 2001 and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2012, is home to a vast array of wildlife, flora and natural phenomena, including North America’s fastest land animal, the pronghorn antelope, as well as condors, kit foxes and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. Chalky-white Soda Lake stands at the center of the plain and is a seasonal body of water that is one of the largest alkali wetlands in the state; but wildflowers are what this region is perhaps best known for, blazing a riot of color up the hillsides each spring, attracting travelers from near and far.
In addition to silence and solitude, visitors to the Carrizo Plain National Monument will enjoy Painted Rock, an outcropping of rocks painted by the native peoples who once hunted and traded in this area, as well as the nearby seasonal Goodwin Education Center, which offers interpretive displays, exhibits and programs. Campsites and hiking trails are also available; please follow safety precautions and use discretion when entering this rugged and undeveloped region.