Hiking Bishop Peak – A Fun Day Hike in San Luis Obispo, California

by Jackie
Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, reaches the peak of Bishop Peak hiking trail in San Luis Obispo, California

Bishop Peak is one of the most popular day hikes in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California. The peak provides some beautiful views of the San Luis Obispo County and surrounding areas. The trail is not too difficult and a fun place to get some exercise in 2-3 hours. Plus, it’s free to access this trail. 

As you know, we’re always looking for new hikes to complete whenever we travel. One of Justin’s colleagues recommended this hike and we loved our time on this mountain during our SLO weekend

In this Bishop Peak hiking guide, we’re sharing how to hike to Bishop Peak, how to get there, and other important details to make your hike enjoyable.

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Bishop Peak Hiking Overview

This Bishop Peak day hike isn’t too difficult, yet can be challenging with the heat and some steep hills. 

  • Challenging level: Moderate 
  • Distance: 3.5-4.4 miles round trip (Our Garmin watch listed 4.37 miles)
  • Elevation: 1,492 feet (455 meters)
  • Time to complete: 2+ hours round trip
  • Helpful tips: 
    • Use the bathroom before you arrive at the trail. We didn’t see any bathrooms at the beginning of the hiking trail. 
    • Take a photo of Bishop Peak’s trail map at the main entrance so you know where to go.
    • The beginning of the hiking path has markers on where to go. Once you’re on the trail, it’s easy to follow the path as the dirt is packed and well-traveled.
    • To make your hike longer, add the Felsman Loop which is another 1.7 miles round trip. This can be connected from the Patricia Drive trailhead. 
    • We saw some dogs on the trail, and they were well-behaved. 
    • If you don’t want to hike, there are climbing routes. 
Views of the San Luis Obispo County area from Bishop Peak hiking trail in San Luis Obispo, California

Who wants to see views like these?

How to Get There

There are two places to start the hike – Highland Drive and Patricia Drive. It’s about a 10 minutes drive from Downtown SLO. 

How to Get to Bishop Peak from Highland Drive

We’ll start the directions from Downtown SLO. There are two ways to get there:

  1. Head to Santa Rosa Street (Highway 1) and stay for a mile. Turn left onto Highland Drive and drive a mile to the trailhead. From the trailhead, follow the path until you reach the top. Click here for the directions.
  2. Head to Chorro Street and stay for .90 miles. Then turn left on Foothill Blvd for .70 miles, and turn right onto Patricia Drive. Turn left onto Highland Drive. Check out the directions here.

Note: There isn’t a parking lot, visitors must find parking in the residential area. Highlands Drive is a narrow road and is on a hill so parallel parking is needed. Please be respectful of the people living in the area and do not make loud noises, block the driveway, or leave trash. 

**Bicycle Parking: We saw two bike racks for any cyclists who decide to cycle to the trailhead and park the bikes there. 

How to Get to Bishop Peak from Patricia Drive

Follow the instructions above and then turn right on Patricia Drive from Highland Drive. The sign is easy to find along Highland Drive. Click here for the driving directions. 

When To Hike Bishop Peak

Bishop Peak is open one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset. If you plan to hike up to see the sunrise or after sunset, don’t forget to bring headlamps for safety. 

It’s recommended to start this hike as early as possible. The weather in San Luis Obispo can be really hot in the mid-morning and afternoon. The average temperatures can reach 65-80℉ throughout the year. 

We started the hike at 11:00am and finished in over 2 hours. While the hiking was fun, the weather was a bit warm for us and we needed to drink lots of water. You do not want to be dehydrated on this trail as there isn’t any water. 

Weekends will have more crowds so parking may be harder. Otherwise, it’s a good spot for exercising. 

What to Wear for the Bishop Peak Hike

  • Technical t-shirt – Wear a moisture-wicking t-shirt to absorb the sweat.
  • Comfortable hiking pants or shorts – Wear long hiking pants or comfortable shorts.
  • Comfortable walking shoes or trail running shoes – The course isn’t too technical so you don’t need hiking boots. As long as the shoes have traction, then you’ll be fine to wear them on the trail. We wore Altra trail running shoes and they held up well for the hike. Buy Altra Superior Men Shoes or Altra Superior Women Shoes here. 
  • Comfortable walking socks or moisture-wicking socks

What to Bring for the Bishop Peak Hiking

  • Daypack (optional) – While it’s not necessary to have a backpack with you, it’ll be easier to hold snacks, water bottles, and other necessities that you need on hand. Check out our favorite daypacks here: men day pack option / women day pack option.  
  • Water Bottle – There isn’t any water along the trail so you’ll need to bring a large water bottle to stay hydrated. These are our favorite reusable water bottles to bring with us everywhere.
  • Snacks 
  • Hat – Most of the trail isn’t covered so you’ll need a hat to block the sun. Buy this hat.
  • Sunscreen – Protect your skin from the sun as it can be brutal. Check out this sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses – Here are our favorite sunglasses.
  • Trash bag – Do not litter. Let’s keep the trail clean. 

What to Expect on the Bishop Peak Day Hike From Highland Drive

We started the trail from Highland Drive, so we’ll share our experience from there. 

As we said earlier, parking may be a challenge as we went on a Saturday morning. Luckily, we drove to the end of Highland Drive at the start of the trailhead and found a parking spot. 

The hiking path was easy to find and we just followed it. There is some signage along the way to point you to the peak, especially at the fork where Felsman Loop (from Patricia Drive) meets up. 

View of Cal Poly SLO University and the mountains from Bishop Peak trail, San Luis Obispo, California

We’re still at the start of the Bishop Peak hiking trail and you can already see the awesome views.

The first part of the hike is shaded, while the rest of the trail is out in the sun. We saw a couple of people climbing up the rocks in the climbing areas. 

Justin Huynh, Life Of Doing, walk into the forest area of Bishop Peak hiking trail in San Luis Obispo, California

You’ll appreciate the shade, especially in the heat!

Bishop Peak Natural Reserve sign on a rock along Bishop Peak hiking trail in San Luis Obispo, California

We came across this sign of the donated lands from Lena Negranti, Vera Miossi, Hilda Giacomazzi, and Josephine Johnson.

While hiking up, there are some windy spots so hold onto any hats and sunglasses. We felt the wind on the side where you can see Mount Madonna (Mount Cerro San Luis). 

What we enjoyed about this hiking path is that it’s very clean and not technical. There are some narrow and steep paths, but hikers are cordial and stay to the side to allow people to pass through.  

Justin Huynh, Life Of Doing, hiking along the Bishop Peak trail with rocks on both sides of the trail.

We’re almost at the top of Bishop Peak.

Jackie Szeto, Life Of Doing, hiking along Bishop Peak trail, San Luis Obispo, California.

We’re practically at the top of Bishop Peak now.

Once you reach the top of Bishop Peak, relax on the bench to refuel and rehydrate. It’s a challenging hike so you deserve to take a rest. 

You can decide whether you want to scramble up boulders to see unobstructed views of the San Luis Obispo County area. We tried to go up the boulder but couldn’t figure out how to get to the top without any ropes or anything to hold onto. Going down also seemed tricky as two women needed help on where to step and slide down the boulder. With these barriers, we decided to not skip it and say that we reached the top of Bishop Peak. 

A hiker resting on a boulder at the top of Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo, California

Depending on your comfortability, you can climb up the rocks for more views of the area.

It’s the same route going back down so it’s easy to navigate. You could extend the hike to do the Felman Loop for extra mileage. We decided to just return to the car and go to the next hike at Mount Madonna. 

Final Thoughts

We loved hiking Bishop Peak and can see why it’s a popular hiking spot in San Luis Obispo for locals to visit. Next time, we will return to go up from Patricia Drive and see what the difference is. 

Even if you haven’t hiked before, with a little preparation, you can enjoy your morning or late afternoon day hike at Bishop Peak. Enjoy your time here!

Looking for other places to visit after your hike? Check out the posts below:

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