Terrace Hill Open Space hike San Luis Obispo California Terrace Hill Loop

An interesting chain of conical volcanoes, or volcanic plugs called the Morros, graces San Luis Obispo County. Terrace Hill is one of the smaller and harder to identify Morros within the city of San Luis Obispo County. Unlike the other Morros, Terrace Hill has a broad flat summit. The top of the hill was removed for use as construction material in the 1920s, leaving behind a flat mesa-like mountaintop. After being considered for its own development, Terrace Hill was set aside as a 23-acre open space. A loop trail goes around the edges of the flat mountaintop, offering great views over the city and its surrounding peaks, mountain ranges, and valleys. A dirt road accessing Terrace Hill Loop facilitites a hike up around the loop and back that is 0.55 miles long with 110 feet of elevation change.

Terrace Hill Open Space Trail
Terrace Hill Access Road

The entrance to Terrace Hill Open Space is located on Bishop Street, southeast of downtown San Luis Obispo. Parking is not available on Bishop Street, but can be found 100 yards away on Augusta Street. Pass through the gate and enter the park at the bottom of a wide dirt road.

Hike up this access road, which curves to the left before swinging back to the right. Informal paths break off from the main route and can be used for additional exploring. On the hike up, look over your shoulder for views east toward Murray Hill and the Santa Lucia Mountains, the region’s main mountain range. Leaving an area of brush you will rise to new views to the south and east. The appropriately named South Hills lie to the south, with grasses covering uneven serpentine soils. The Railroad District of San Luis Obispo is below the hill to the east, where you’ll see the Amtrak Station and may even hear arriving trains.

Terrace Hill Open Space Access Road
The top of Terrace Hill Access Road

Proceed up the access road to a T-junction with Terrace Hill Loop, a dirt single track that tours the flat summit. On the left side of this junction, which is just 0.14 miles from the start, you’ll find a shade-casting oak and a bench. Benches are placed around the top of Terrace Hill, allowing visitors to relax as they absorb multiple views. The top of Terrace Hill is almost completely flat. It is covered in grasses as well as a few oaks and boulders.

Cerro San Luis and Bishop Peak from Terrace Hill
A bench with a view of Cerro San Luis and Bishop Peak

Turn left to begin around the loop in a clockwise direction. You’ll discover views over San Luis Obispo toward Cerro San Luis and Bishop Peak, the county’s grandest Morros.

On the north side of Terrace Hill Loop, across from the access road you took up to the mountain top, you’ll find a spur leading a short distance out and slightly downhill to an outcropping on the north side of the hill that offers a nice perspective toward downtown San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly. Skipping this spur will shorten the hike from 0.55 miles to half a mile round trip.

Terrace Hill San Luis Obispo
A path out to a viewpoint on the north side of Terrace Hill

Continue around the loop, looking over the east end of San Luis Obispo. Islay Hill and Edna Valley will come into view to the southeast as the trail weaves between a few oaks to return to the junction with the access road. Turn left to descend the way you came up.

Terrace Hill View San Luis Obispo
Looking southeast toward the Santa Lucia Mountains, Edna Valley, and Islay Hill

This hike on Terrace Hill is just 0.55 miles long with 110 feet of elevation between the trailhead and the flat mountaintop. Those wanting to draw out this hike could do so by adding extra laps (about 0.21 miles each) around Terrace Hill Loop. Bikes and dogs are allowed on these trails in Terrace Hill Open Space. No fee or permit is required to visit Terrace Hill, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: Take Highway 101 to exit 203C for California Avenue (From the 101 South offramp, you’ll need to drive a block down Taft Street to reach California Avenue). Head south on California Avenue for half a mile to an intersection where it meets San Luis Drive. Turn right, drive 0.3 miles, and turn left onto Johnson Avenue. Drive just over half a mile and make the third right onto Bishop Street. Go two blocks to an intersection with Augusta Street, turn left, and find street parking. Walk back to Bishop Street and head to the left (uphill in the direction you were driving) to find the trailhead on the right.

Trailhead address: 1300 Bishop Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Trailhead coordinates: 35.2725, -120.64886 (35° 16′ 21.00″N 120° 38′ 55.89″W)

Trail Map
View San Luis Obispo in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Central Coast trails and campgrounds.

Photos

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These photos were taken in July of 2016. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
South Hills Trail South Hills Ridge Trail
This 1.5-mile round trip hike ascends 425 feet to the highest point in a cluster of hills near downtown San Luis Obispo, offering fine views over the city and surroundings.
Islay Hill Islay Hill
This 1.8-mile round trip hike climbs 550 feet to the top of San Luis Obispo's easternmost Morro.
Murray Hill Hike Murray Hill via Sydney Street Trail
This 2.8-mile round trip hike rapidly ascends 1,275 feet up a rugged trail to a stone seating area at a summit with panoramic views.
Lemon Grove Trail Lemon Grove Trail
This 2.2-mile loop visits a historic lemon grove on the eastern slopes of Cerro San Luis.
California Hike Cerro San Luis
This 4-mile hike summits one of the Nine Sisters just west of downtown San Luis Obispo.
California Hike Cerro San Luis from Laguna Lake Park
This 5.7-mile hike ascends to the summit from a nearby park.
Bishop Peak Trail Bishop Peak
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.
Felsman Loop Trail 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.
Irish Hills Morro View Trail Morro View
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 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.
Reservoir Canyon Trail Reservoir Canyon
This 5.35-mile hike ascends 1,350 feet past a waterfall and a collection of junk sculptures to a treeless summit overlooking San Luis Obispo.
Cal Poly Canyon Design Village Trail 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.
San Luis Obispo hikes More hikes in San Luis Obispo
Explore other trails around San Luis Obispo including Morro Bay State Park and Montaña de Oro State Park.
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Tagged with · Free Trails · Morros
Distance: 0.55 miles · Elevation change: 110 feet

One Comment on Terrace Hill Open Space in San Luis Obispo

  1. Josh Bilker says:

    WHO FUNDS TERRACE HILL? WHO OWNS TERRACE HILL?

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