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Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,125.00 ft (342.90 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
4.10 mi (6.60 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Cerro San Luis is a mountain peak, one of the "Nine Sisters" or "Nine Morros" rising above the city of San Luis Obispo. It tends to be called by a few names, including Madonna Mountain due to the a portion of the mountain standing on property bought by Alex Madonna, who constructed the eclectic Madonna Inn. 

Cerro San Luis has numerous trails skirting, climbing and circumnavigating its bulk, and it is popular amongst hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. While numerous residential streets on the mountain's north side offer trail access, a popular parking area is adjacent to the Madonna Inn property in a parking lot at 1177 Fernandez Road. Here, several trails soon diverge, including the Lemon Grove Trail, named for the citrus groves that were once located on the slopes. Heading up the steeper slopes will lead to the mountain's southern face, where a 2-mile trail gradually winds around the mountain, heading in and out of shady oak-lined trail. Along this route, choosing the uphill forks will eventually lead to the peak standing just below 1,300 feet.

Alternatively, a wide dirt fire road offers the most direct, if also the most shadeless, path to the top. The wide path winds around the mountain while gaining in elevation, its slope making for a good sweat-inducing walk. 

At the top, a wide wooden stage sits on a dirt flat. A 40-foot scramble up a cluster of boulders leads to a panoramic view of the San Luis Obispo area, with green rolling hills stretching out the sea.

The Cerro San Luis trail system is a part of the larger Cerro San Luis Natural Preserve. The trail is open from dawn until dusk. Be wary of the lack of shade along most of the hike to the peak, and watch for poison oak along the trail. And if you haven't been inside, the interesting architecture and features of the Madonna Inn definitely make it worth stopping in for a post-hike beverage or snack.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Different trail options. Beautiful views.

Cons

Little shade. Can get crowded.

Trailhead Elevation

175.00 ft (53.34 m)

Highest point

1,300.00 ft (396.24 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,125.00 ft (342.90 m)

Features

Family friendly
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Horseback riding

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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

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