Culms 20-145 cm tall, (1.3)1.8-4.8 mm thick, usually erect. Ligules of larger cauline leaves 3-9 mm; widest cauline blades 3.6-18 mm wide. Panicles (3)5-25 cm long, (1)2-14 cm wide, 1.2-5.75(7.5) times as long as wide, narrowly to widely conic, ovoid, or obovoid. Spikelets 3.6-6.9 mm; florets (3)4-8. Lower glumes 0.7-1.6 mm; upper glumes 0.9-1.8 mm; lemmas 2.2-3.3 mm, truncate or obtuse to acute; anthers of lowest floret 0.5-0.7 mm.
Torreyochloa pallida var. pauciflora grows in western North America, from sea level to 3500 m. Robust plants from Pacific lowland forests are often taller than 1 m; plants from farther east and higher elevations tend to be shorter.