The Chimineas Ranch is part of the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve, located in San Luis Obispo County, owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). CDFW sets the regulations for public access and use of the land. The information provided here is for general guidance only. For specific information, please check out the CDFW link at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Carrizo-Plains-ER or contact CDFW directly at 805-594-6152. A CDFW access map is provided below.
As a general rule, lands designated by CDFW as ecological reserves have higher levels of protection than lands designated as wildlife areas. This is an important distinction as ecological reserves are managed primarily to conserve sensitive habitats and threatened and endangered species. This means public use is more restricted.
The Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve has 5 units, two of which include the Chimineas Ranch. The North Chimineas Unit encompasses the northern part of the ranch including the headquarters facility. This unit is closed to public access except for special events. The South Chimineas Unit includes the southern part of the ranch which is open to general access and hunting.
Permitted activities: Hiking, bird watching, and photography. Hunting during appropriate seasons (see Hunting Access page). Group activities, including equestrians, require a Special Use Permit from CDFW.
Open hours: Sunrise to sunset
Prohibited activities: ATV riding, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping, and target shooting
Dogs: Dogs are permitted on the property if they are on a leash of less than 10 feet, or inside a vehicle. See exception for hunting dogs on Hunter Access page. Rattlesnakes are abundant on the property so be aware if you bring a dog on site. Snake avoidance conditioning for your dog is highly recommended.
Access Permits: Access permits for the South Chimineas Unit are required for all visitors. These free permits are available at the main entrance kiosk on Highway 166 or can be downloaded ahead of time from CDFW’s website at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Carrizo-Plains-ER#956390-recreation. Scroll down to Recreational Opportunities and click on Chimineas Access Permit (PDF).
Be advised that individuals found in closed areas of the property or without a written access permit may be subject to citation by CDFW law enforcement.
The ranch is a very wildlife rich area complete with rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, deer, elk, and wild pig. Roads and trails on the ranch are primitive and visitors travel at their own risk.
Directions to the South Chimineas Unit: San Luis Obispo County, Hwy 166, 45 miles east of Santa Maria and 20 miles west of New Cuyama. Parking lot and entrance gate are at mile marker 45 on the north side of the highway.
In 2021, the Chimineas Ranch Foundation installed a new kiosk for the public at the Hwy 166 entrance to the property. A property map and CDFW regulations are posted and the free access permits are available in the attached boxes.