Route: San Luis Obispo Tri-Tip Challenge (CA)

Submitted by crfredric on Thu, 03/25/2021 - 08:04pm
California, US
12 mi
Vertical Gain
2,500 ft

The central coast of California is known for its beautiful volcanic mountains, rolling farmland and vineyards, and its special cut of beef known as tri-tip. This route is a classic Cal Poly challenge that many students attempt before they graduate and features the best of all the central coast has to offer. The three most popular hikes in the area are the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) "P" (a large concrete P located on the hills behind campus), Bishop's Peak, and Cerro San Luis Obispo (locally known as Madonna Mountain). The peaks can be accomplished in any order, but the GPX file follows the order listed above. Many students drive or bike between hikes, but to get the FKT you'll have to travel by foot. The importance is not how you get from peak to peak, but that you get to all three peaks and finish at the best tri tip sandwich restaurant in town, Firestone Grill.

The P -- Starting on the East side of campus in parking lot R1, the P is the easiest of the three peaks in this challenge. It is a 1 mile out and back along a wide dirt road that gains just under 300 ft of elevation. There is an option to continue to hike to the crest behind the P, but save that for another day. 

Bishop's Peak -- Bishop's Peak has several routes to the top, but the most popular trailhead is at the end of Highland Drive. This route is 3.4 miles out and back and gains 1,130 ft. Its summit is the highest point in San Luis Obispo County and offers great views of all 9 Sisters (the volcanic mountain range that goes from Cerro San Luis out to Morro Bay). 

Cerro San Luis -- At 4 miles in length, Cerro San Luis is the longest of the three peaks, but only has 930 ft of elevation gain and significantly less switchbacks than Bishop's. This hike follows a wide road all the way up and gets rocky near the top. 

Firestone Grill -- To make this route truly special, it must end at Firestone Grill a local favorite for Tri-Tip sandwiches. Finish your day with a delicious sandwich to celebrate a job well done.

GPS Track


Is parking lot R1 the required starting point? And can you get to and up each peak any way you want?

And is the scramble on top of Bishop's and Madonna required? I vote yes because if not then you do not truly summit them

I have the same two questions. It seems to me that the R1 gate would be a reasonable starting point and that getting to the summit by any means should be acceptable (different trails / trailheads, especially for Cerro San Luis). Stoked to try this one out!

Chris Andrews and I plan on attempting this FKT tomorrow (April 18), we're excited to climb some mountains and avoid red lights! We are doing it based off of these assumptions: start at parking lot R1, make your own route, and do the popular scramble at the top of CSL and Bishop