My fourth place to recommend for those seeking to explore San Luis is Bishop's Peak. This hike is not for the faint-hearted. I would rate it as an intermediate hike. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to climb. A third of the trail is a steep, broad trail and the rest is a zig-zagged rocky path. I'm not an expert on hiking and I definitely haven't climbed anything I would call "difficult", but I will say that this hike definitely did a number on me. (I guess I hadn't been very active the weeks prior, but still).
It's a 4 mile hike roundtrip, reaching it's height at 1,546 ft (the tallest of the Nine Sisters). The hike may be strenuous with a 950 ft elevation gain, but the reward at the top greatly outweighs the searing pain in your thighs. The panoramic view of San Luis is probably the best you can find in the city. I can only imagine how magnificent the sight would be at night with all the city lights and clear starry skies. I've been told this is the best place to see the sun set due to the expansive view looking out towards the ocean.
If you are one for exploring you can continue to climb up onto the boulders for an even greater view. A 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks, the Irish Hills, the city, and the miles of fields along Los Osos Valley Road.
Now, I would like to tell you about my journey up the peak. If you'd rather stop here, then I welcome you to browse the remaining photos, and consider about taking this trail yourself.
After months of driving down Foothill, passing this boulder covered peak, I finally pulled over, parked my car, and climbed to the top of the ever-popular Bishop's Peak. Of course I chose a steeping hot day (not like there's been anything to the contrary lately), and to my befuddlement, barely half way up and I was getting my butt whooped – I had greatly underestimated the severity of this trail. I found myself wishing I hadn't left my water bottle in the car. (I'm one of those carry nothing kind of hikers; I like to be free of burdens, ready for the maximum amount of adventuring.) My punishment was an astonishingly dry throat and a mind poisoned with the notion "Today's the day I faint and fall down a mountain?". As I am currently sitting at a local coffee shop typing this post, you can be glad to know that I made it down alive!
The base of the peak is wide and you can see a large part of the trail from the bottom (or so I thought). I trudged up the dirt path, heaving as I went. I finally found relief under an oak tree at the top? – not a chance. I looked up and gazed longingly at the huge boulders perched atop the mount. I closed my eyes and dreamed I had Hulk powers and could just jump up to them. I opened remembering I was just an ordinary girl (pretty thankful actually; I don't look that good in green.) My only hope was continuing forward on the trail.
I followed the trail to a sketchy-looking, dusty path. I had to use my hands a bit to get past large rocks embedded in the trail and walk sideways at some points to ensure not slipping in the dust covered rock. I got past the hard part entering onto a more normal trail. There were two directions I could take and people walking in both – none of them looked like they came from where I was. I asked two sweaty old men which way was up, not wanting to find myself descending the mountain. They pointed me in the right direction and before they were out of reach I asked where the opposite direction led. They let me know that there was another trailhead leading from a different side of them mountain (I'm finding out where that trailhead is before hiking this peak again).
I passed a father and daughter sitting for a snack break. That was probably the extent of their climb, even-so, I greatly appreciated the efforts of that dad. The girl was about 5 years old and was already learning to take advantage of the adventures within her reach. Just a few feet past them I turned a blind curve and almost ran head-first into a surprisingly in-shape 70-year-old man. We were both startled and he proclaimed, "This is the only blind curve on the entire trail!" We both laughed and proceeded in safety.
I was getting closer and closer to the ever-growing boulders. Then finally, before I knew it, I was there!
I took a step toward the mounds of rock and suddenly froze. Nerves set in and I was debating whether I should just head back down for water. NO! My inner-explorer wouldn't let me. I forced myself in the direction of a safer climb and found an oasis of easy climbing for us jittery explorers.
Squeezing myself through crevasses in the rocks, I found myself climbing higher. There were rocks poking out over the mountain. I scooted forward onto them and enjoyed the breeze while I sat in amazement at the beautiful place I live. It's true that the SLO hills are magnificent when they are watered with rain. They turn bright green. Nonetheless, the view is still glorious if you look at the parched grounds as gold instead of brown.
I could have stayed up there for hours finding more rocks to pull myself on top of and new views to wonder upon. It's safe to say that the fun at the top is well worth the rigorous climb. Next time I'm definitely taking a backpack with water and maybe snacks too (that little girl's gold fish were looking mighty tasty).