San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo

Seventy three miles north of Solvang is the cultured yet laid back city of San Luis Obispo. Set amid green rolling hills, San Luis has the best of what the Central Coast has to offer. A central plaza surrounding the lovely old San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission is the city’s 1772 era centerpiece, the seventh in the line of churches founded by the Spanish in Alta California.

San Luis Obispo is a great place to spend the day, walking the downtown with its myriad of shops, coffeehouses, restaurants and eclectic galleries. Besides its proximity to the glorious Hearst Castle up the coast in San Simeon, a Performing Arts Center at the California Polytechnic University, festivals, and a famous Thursday night Farmers’ Market, San Luis Obispo has great outdoor activities, too.

There are several great hiking and biking trails within the city’s environs that take advantage of the area’s perfect Mediterranean climate and fresh air. San Luis Obispo is surrounded by mountains including the 1257 foot, Bishop’s Peak, the tallest of the “Seven Sisters,” a chain of ancient volcanic peaks stretching from the city to the Pacific Ocean. The trail up Bishop’s Peak is the premier hiking venue in San Luis Obispo and the place for a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Bishop’s Peak is actually comprised of three peaks and got its name from the San Luis Obispo Mission padres’ making a comparison of the mountain to a bishop’s miter.

Four and a half miles roundtrip, the hike starts out in a grass and oak woodland and climbs upward across steep granite rock faces. This is not an easy hike, there are switchbacks and much of it goes straight uphill. In the summer months it can get very hot on the exposed mountain. Take water and a hat and take care on the rocks. Sudden wind gusts can surprise unprepared hikers. But the views from the top are incredible, extending 360 degrees from Los Osos to the south and Morro Rock and beyond to the north.

Directions to the trailhead: From San Luis Obispo, go west toward Los Osos on Foothill Blvd., then make a right at Patricia Drive. Go straight ¼ mile after you pass the stop sign at Highland Drive. On the left, you’ll see three black posts blocking an open driveway. There will be a sign “TRAIL” marking the entrance. Park on the west side, the Bishop Peak side, away from area homes.

A less strenuous hike, easy to moderate in difficulty, is Reservoir Canyon which follows the perennial Reservoir Creek into a lovely wooded gorge with pools and sometimes spectacular waterfalls, especially in the spring. Roundtrip, the hike is 2.8 miles and unlike Bishop’s Peak which reaches 1559 feet, the Reservoir Creek Trail only gains about 200 feet in elevation. The trails can get narrow and muddy and be aware that cow pastures overlap the hiking areas. The 484 acres is designated as a natural reserve within city open space and originally was part of San Luis Obispo’s watershed system until the 1950’s.

Reservoir Canyon is accessible one mile north of Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo, right on Reservoir Road, and park in the dirt lot at the end of the road. A gate leads to the trailhead.

There is a lot to do in San Luis Obispo but check out the local hikes. They are some of the best in California.