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San Marcos Pass - 154 Hwy
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San Marcos Pass on Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County, California

 

 

Sometimes you just have to take the scenic route, even if the hills are windy, the fog is heavy and the cars twist and turn along the mountain roads. When drive on Highway 101 between Orange County and San Luis Obispo so many times, you need a break once in a while.

 

San Marcos Pass is a well-paved road with warning signs about rock slides, twists, turns and even deer warnings or fire levels. Sometimes the road is beautiful and clear; sometimes it is foggy and you can barely see in front of you. The prettier drive is heading north. You come to some vistas where you can see Cachuma Lake and spectacular, scenic valleys.  This is Michael Jackson country.

If you seek a change from the ordinary, take Highway 154 on your next trip north.  Just beyond the State Street exit where the car dealer and shopping center is located, you'll see an exit from Highway 101 indicating Highway 154. 

 

The journey is not for everyone. If you are older and don't see or drive that well, avoid this road and stick with the easy 101.  If your kid is just learning to drive, don't send him up this pass to test his skills. The road is only dangerous if you do not follow the speed limit signs. There are several passing lanes along the route but someone is always in a hurry and trying to pass another vehicle, especially one of those big, slow trucks that can barely make it up the mountain.

 

Off to your right after you reach the peak of the mountain and begin heading down, there are several turn-offs for Cachuma Lake.  Veer off gently and take a look. It is a fabulous lake for boating and fishing.   At the official turn-off, there's temporary parking for a limited time but you'll be charged a fee to enter. Another "vista" turn-off has picnic areas, restrooms and a view of the damn.  This exit is free but doesn't provide access to the lake. 

 

Cachuma Lake is a Santa Barbara County operated facility with camping available.