Just across from Cal Poly’s campus is Bishop Peak, the highest of the region’s nine rocky morros, or ancient volcanic mountains. At 1,559 feet, Bishop’s a favorite hike for many SLOcals and for rock-climbing aficionados, who take on routes with names like Civilized Evil. To get to the summit, you’ll have to scramble up some granite boulders, but the effort is worth it, with views of SLO, all the morros, and the Coast Range down to the ocean. Our advice: Start before noon—there’s no shade—and bring water. It’s 4.5 miles up and back.
With more than 8,000 acres of rugged coastal cliffs, nearby Montaña de Oro State Park is a playground for all kinds of outdoor-lovers. The “Mountain of Gold” lives up to its name along the 3.4-mile (round-trip) ocean-hugging hike on the Bluff Trail. (You can also cruise it on a two-wheeler.) Low tide offers opportunities for exploring the tidal pools at Spooner Cove. Picnic benches are welcome places to stop and smell the salty sea. Intermediate and advanced mountain bikers should check out the network of singletrack like the Ridge and East Boundary trails. The latter’s fun whoop-de-dos should put a smile on your face.
BONUS: Montaña de Oro is also your best camping option around San Luis. Make a reservation at one of the two environmental campsites (less than a .5-mile hike in), Badger Flat (Env. #3) or Deer Flat (Env. #4). Both are perched high up on a bluff, overlooking the blue Pacific. All for $15.
Directions to Bishop Peak: From downtown San Luis Obispo, head north on Santa Rosa St. (Highway 1). Turn left onto Highland Dr. and drive about 1 mile to the end of the road where the trail starts.