After many trips to the Central Coast over the years, in early December we finally hiked to the top of Bishop Peak — one of the Nine Sisters, the scenic volcanic morros spread out between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Recent rains (finally!) have left the hillsides carpeted in green, foreshadowing a (hopefully) early spring, and contributing to stunning views from the trail.
At 1,559 feet, Bishop Peak is the highest of the morros, the lowest being Morro Rock at 576 feet. These are volcanic plugs that haven’t been active for 20 million years. The hike is 3.5 miles round-trip, with 950 feet of gain.
The trailhead is right in the middle of San Luis Obispo, but finding it was a bit of a challenge — every hiking site I checked seemed to have different directions. We took the route that starts at Highland Drive (see the end of this post for our trailhead directions).
The trail at first passes through a lush oak woodland. A little less than a mile in, we shimmied through a gate that points the way to Bishop Peak. One way to add miles (about 2.5) is to go right and do the Felsman Loop Trail.
Continuing on to Bishop Peak, the trail eventually opens up to widespread views. Along the way, we encountered rock climbers roped to Bishop’s rocky flanks.
The trail ascends gradually, with clear views of SLO, and rising just beyond town, green Cerro San Luis (1,292 feet), another of the Nine Sisters.
A series of switchbacks leads to two benches just below the summit, which is basically several piles of rocks which can be scrambled over to get even better views.
If Blue misbehaved — even tho she’s female and not human — we threatened to take her to the California Men’s Colony, which was prominent in the landscape below:
The trail is pretty exposed, so I wouldn’t want to hike it in summer. Even in early December, the sun was warm and Blue took a nap once we got to the summit.
To the west were pastoral views of Los Osos Valley, where turkey vultures soared.
We hung around the summit, then retraced our steps, enjoying views of SLO 1,500 feet below us, and encountering a lot of hikers, undoubtedly heading up to enjoy an early-winter sunset.
To find out more about the Central Coast’s Nine Sisters and hiking them, check out the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter’s site. The way we got to the trailhead was to take Highland Drive from Highway 1, and follow Highland until it ends in a cul-de-sac. Park on the street and pick up the trail on the left side of the street, along a fence. Our trail track from the MotionX GPS app is below.