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Bishop Peak via Highland Drive

Santa Maria Valley + Santa Lucia/La Panza Mountains, California

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Bishop Peak via Highland Drive

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  • Parking along the top of Highland Drive.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The trailhead begins by jogging along a fence.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • A scenic oak-covered woodland along the bottom of the trail.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The trail emerges beside an old stock pond before it begins climbing.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Wildflowers along the lower portion of the hike.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • First views of Bishop Peak.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Wildflowers along the hike.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Wildflowers with the steep western slope of Bishop Peak in the background.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The trail wraps back around the mountainside before emerging on the sunny southern slope for the remainder of the climb.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Thistle.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • A plaque along the trail.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Wildflowers along the hike.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • As the trail climbs, it opens up to views over downtown and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • View of Cerro San Luis, one of the Nine Sisters, with Pismo and Guadalupe beaches behind.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Shady oaks along the trail.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Parking along Patricia Drive.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The trail to Patricia Drive.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The climb from the Patricia Drive Trailhead.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The trail near Bishop Peak.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Wildflowers along the hike.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • Grassy meadows near Bishop Peak.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • The fork with the Foothill Boulevard trail access point.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
  • A bench sits atop Bishop Peak. Adventurous hikers can climb the boulders from here.- Bishop Peak via Highland Drive
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Most scenic of the hiking trails to Bishop Peak.
Cons: 
Hike can get crowded. No shade near the top.
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Region:
Santa Maria Valley + Santa Lucia/La Panza Mountains, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Net Elevation Gain: 
900.00 ft (274.32 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
3.50 mi (5.63 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
535.00 ft (163.07 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Highland Drive Trail to Bishop Peak is a beautiful and diverse hike up the tallest peak of the Morros.

Bishop Peak today is the hardened plug from an ancient volcano. Its stone is believed to be over 20 million years old. After hardening into stone, much of the landscape around the plug has since eroded, leaving the rugged topography visible today. Bishop is also the tallest of the Morros, or the Nine Sisters, a series of nine such land formations stretching from San Luis Obispo and ending at Morro Rock in Morro Bay.

Although the peak is accessible in a more direct route from the Foothill Boulevard Trailhead, the trail beginning at Highland Drive manages to avoid the steep exposed scrambling climb and takes a much more scenic meandering route, passing a pond and walls popular with climbers. The Highland Drive Trail also goes through two different sections of oak woodland and passes wildflowers on the mountain's shadier western face.

Parking is in a neighborhood just before Highland reaches a private community gate, and signs warn of the trail's closure between sunset and sunrise.

As you gradually climb, bird and insect songs can be heard, and as the trail emerges from the shady oaks to the sunnier south-facing side, views over the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus open up, along with views of wildflowers, if the season is right, that put on an aromatic and visual display.

As the trail wraps around, it crosses the fork to the Foothill Boulevard Trailhead at an old sign shortly before beginning the final switchbacks to the peak.

This trail is very popular with hikers, runners, and dog walkers. Expect to see other people unless you make a point of going during the off-hours on the weekdays.

There is no water along the trail.

Another alternative is to park at the trailhead located on Patricia Drive (860 Patricia Drive, San Luis Obispo). There is curbside parking here, though beginning here will add an additional 240 feet in elevation gain to the Highland Drive Trailhead.

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(4 within a 30 mile radius)

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