When considering a weekend getaway to Southern California, there are many options to choose from. A weekend poolside in Palm Springs. Take a ferry to Catalina Island. Exploring the desert at Joshua Tree. Cruise along the coast to sip wine in Santa Barbara. There is only one problem with all these destinations: everyone knows them. But that’s no problem at Cuyama Buckhorn, a newly renovated 1950s motel nestled in the rural Cuyama Valley, about two and a half hours north of Los Angeles. If spending a night in a decades-old motel surrounded by carrot fields sounds like the setup for a horror movie, don’t worry – this place ticks all the boxes for a weekend getaway. Great food, great wine and lots of desert charm – the Buckhorn certainly deserves a spot on your hit list this year.
The Buckhorn was built in 1952 as a motel, located in New Cuyama, a town established in the 1950s after the discovery of oil in the valley. It changed hands several times over the years before the current owners, two Los Angeles-based architects, purchased the property in March 2018.
They set out to thoroughly refresh the Buckhorn while preserving its history as a meeting place in the valley. The result? A 21-room boutique hotel with a farm-to-table restaurant, cafe and bar serving handcrafted cocktails for locals and visitors alike. The large car park has become a welcoming outdoor space with olive trees, a pool table and pÃ©tanque court, fire pits (each guest receives an s’mores kit at check-in), a Jacuzzi, a swimming pool and a sauna.
The Buckhorn has long been a popular stop for motorcyclists, automobile clubs, farmers and local ranchers, and it remains true today. From the two-lane highway that runs through town, you’ll first notice the massive hotel sign (now restored to its mid-century glory) and, as you get closer, you’ll notice vintage cars mingling with the bikes and farm trucks parked in front.
The valley is surrounded by mountains, surrounded by kilometers of hiking and mountain biking trails. It is also a stellar place for stargazing. But this is only a sample. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a visit.
Where to eat
For fine dining, the Buckhorn is pretty much the only game in town, although that hardly sounds like a compromise. The Kitchen (led by Chef Daniel Horn) has established a network of relationships with surrounding farms to source fresh, local ingredients for a range of creative dishes. Comprising everything from locally raised eggs to olives grown a few miles away, the menu celebrates the valley’s abundance as well as Central California cuisine, like the Santa Maria BBQ. Don’t come home without tasting the fantastic tri-tip sandwich, made with meat smoked on the Buckhorn’s red oak grill.
The bar is another strong point. The menu offers delicious cocktails, wines from the valley vineyards and craft beers. The decor leans on the cowboy theme: you will be joined by several mounted males looking from the wall. If there is daylight left, grab a drink and step outside to play pool as the sun sets behind the San Rafael Mountains. It is certainly better than an evening spent in a dark and dusty dive bar.
Things to do
Most wine tastings follow a similar format: show up in a trendy display case or patio, get information about each pour from the sommelier, sip and move on. Sagebrush Annie’s is a very different experience. The tasting room is a clapboard storefront that looks straight out of an old western, and the owner is real cowboy Larry Hogan, who worked in the cattle industry before starting the winery with his wife, Karina. Sit back and he feasts on stories as you sip award-winning red wines made from grapes grown directly on the property.
Hidden Creek Ranch
Archery is fun. Horseback riding is fun. Why not combine them and unleash your inner Mongol warrior with the horseback archery experience at Hidden Creek Ranch? Seasoned horse trainer and horse archery expert Heather Lomax will be your guide to learn the basics of working with a bow, notching an arrow, hitting a target, and then doing it all on horseback. Even if you miss your goal, you will definitely end the day multitasking better. And when you land on target? You will feel like Genghis Khan (for a moment).
Los Padres National Forest
The Cuyama Valley is surrounded by spectacular public lands and wilderness areas, including the Los Padres National Forest. There are miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore – hike the McPherson Trail for great views of the valley and head to the McGill Trail for a taste of twisty and technical mountain biking. the region.
Carrizo Plain National Monument
The Carrizo Plain protects the largest expanse of native prairie in California and is home to the highest concentration of threatened and endangered wildlife in the state. If you are visiting in the spring, this is the perfect place to admire spectacular wildflowers. Winter rains can also create a blanket of wildflowers that covers the entire valley floor and surrounding hills.
The area around the Buckhorn, with its minimal light pollution, is one of the best areas for stargazing in the entire state of California. On a clear night, grab your sky map and drive to Mount Pinos, an 8,800-foot peak that offers incredible views of the night sky. (See this guide for tips on proper stargazing etiquette.)
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