Spring is here! I admit I’ve allowed an insane amount of time to pass without going out and hiking, but in my defense I haven’t had a free weekend in what seems like forever. Between skiing, going home to Oregon, catching up with friends, hosting family, and seeing the Olympics in Korea, I have been much too busy to hike over the past few months. Luckily, on my trip down to see my sister in California, we were able to squeeze in a trek up to Bishop Peak. While the out-and-back hike is only 3.4 miles long, it is quite steep and the peak is the tallest of San Luis Obispo’s Nine Sisters.
We started from the Foothill side of the peak, where we parked in a small dirt lot on the side of the road. A huge difference between hiking in the PNW and hiking Bishop Peak was that there were almost no trees. While we had a little shade closer to the middle and end of the trail, the California Oaks were significantly smaller and sparser than I am used to seeing on my hikes. We could see the top of the peak from the start of the hike, and made our way up the initial clearing and eventual switchbacks. The dry dirt path made it easy to slip, and I was amazed to see one brave hiker going barefoot down the trail.
At the top, there are a couple of benches marking the end of the official trail, but there are two main scrambles up large rocks that hikers can take to get the full 360 views of SLO. We decided to take the closer one to the right of the benches, and the view was absolutely gorgeous. We had the area to ourselves while we were there, so we took a few pictures, rested and started to make our way back down.
We made it about 1000 feet down the switchbacks before realizing that we had taken the way down to the wrong parking lot (the Patricia side). A friendly group of hikers who clearly knew the area helpfully directed us towards the Foothill lot path. By the time we got back to our car, the lot was full and I was ready for lunch and a cold soda!
Overall, Bishop Peak was so much greener than I imagined California would be, and it was neat to see vultures and dozens of little brown and gray lizards during the two hours we spent on the trail. I would highly recommend the hike if you’re ever in the area, and would 100% do it again someday.