This 2.2-mile loop explores a 120-acre open space between Cerro San Luis and downtown San Luis Obispo. With just three hundred feet of elevation gain, this is a quick hike on its own, or an easy extension to the steeper trek up Cerro San Luis. The abandoned lemon grove that gives the trail its name is less exciting than it sounds, but the views over this city are rewarding.
Begin hiking north from the trailhead at the end of Marsh Street. After a tenth of a mile, a smaller trail breaks off to the right. This is the lower half of Lemon Grove Trail. As loops go, you could turn here, or continue straight up the wider main trail.
The start of Lemon Grove Loop
Stay to the left to ascend further up the main trail toward Cerro San Luis. Beyond a bench nestled between patches of prickly pear cacti, and half a mile from the start, stay to the right as the trail to the summit breaks off to the left. Continue to the right through a junction with another trail heading toward Cerro San Luis. Progress north along the east side of the mountain on a slope dominated by black sage. Just before reaching a strip of eucalyptus trees, turn left and look up at the white M on the side of the mountain. The M represents Mission High School, which can be seen next to the historic mission in the city below.
Take a left passing through a gate within the eucalyptus grove to maintain your elevation around the peak. After a short distance, pass through a second gate and continue around the mountain. Just before reaching a third gate, there is a turnoff on the left into the unimpressive grove where lemons were grown a century ago. Since there are no lemons today, loop back to the trailhead. In front of the gate at the north end of the open space, follow the trail to the right to circle back toward the eucalyptus grove. Continue on this track as it progresses back to the trailhead just above the houses and apartments bordering the trail.
An outcropping along the lower side of the loop
To extend this hike, pass through the gate at the north end of Maino Open Space to get a nice view of Bishop Peak from a ranching pasture north of Cerro San Luis. Make the ascent on Cerro San Luis for an even grander hike. Bicycles are permitted. No fee or permit is required to hike Lemon Grove Loop Trail, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From downtown San Luis Obispo, take Higuera Street southeast to Marsh Street and turn right. Pass beneath the 101 Freeway, and turn right on Fernandez Lane (the only road on the right before Marsh Street turns on to the 101 South). Turn right into the dirt parking area, and you have arrived.
Trailhead address: 1183 Fernandez Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Trailhead coordinates: 35.274897, -120.672369
Use the map below to create your own directions. Cerro San Luis Trail is in blue, the alternate trail is in green, and Lemon Grove Trail is in gold.
|Cerro San Luis|
This 4-mile hike summits one of the Nine Sisters just west of downtown San Luis Obispo.
|Cerro San Luis from Laguna Lake Park|
This 5.7-mile hike reaches the summit from a nearby park.
This 3.5-mile hike ascends 950 feet to highest summit in the Nine Sisters, offering excellent views of San Luis Obispo and the surrounding Morros.
|South Hills Ridge Trail|
This 1.5-mile round trip hike ascends 450 feet to the highest point in a cluster of hills near downtown San Luis Obispo, offering fine views over the city and surroundings.
This 3.15-mile hike in the Irish Hills Natural Reserve delivers panoramic views over Los Osos Valley and the full chain of Morros.
|Froom Creek Trail|
This 3-mile loop explores a canyon on the east side of the Irish Hills, ascending 500 feet to a nice view over Laguna Lake, Cerro San Luis, and Bishop Peak.
This 1.8-mile round trip hike climbs 550 feet to the top of San Luis Obispo’s easternmost Morro.
This 5.35-mile hike ascends 1,350 feet past a waterfall and a collection of junk sculptures on the way to a treeless summit overlooking San Luis Obispo.
|Poly Canyon Design Village|
This 2.5-mile hike visits an experimental architectural village designed by Cal Poly students at the base of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
|Felsman Loop Trail|
This 2.7-mile loop crosses oak, sagebrush, and grass-covered slopes around the base of Bishop Peak, providing excellent views of that notable rocky summit and its San Luis Obispo surroundings.
|More hikes in San Luis Obispo|
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park and Montaña de Oro State Park.