The Tri-Tip Challenge

Three beautiful hikes + one glorious sandwich = The Tri-Tip Challenge.

We got up early on Saturday morning to get a head start on our adventure. Forty five minutes into our drive, we stopped at a coffee shop in El Ranchero Market to fuel up on caffeine. We walked through the door and were instantly engrossed in that small town charm. The workers seemed to know everyone, greeted each customer with enthusiasm, and made delicious drinks! We got two large vanilla lattes and will definitely be going back.

We got into San Luis Obispo (SLO) around 9 am and parked at our first hike—Bishop Peak. This is one of the most popular hikes in SLO. It’s about 3.4 miles, but our tracker said it was 3.8 miles. Most of the trail is exposed and there are plenty of man-made rock steps which made us feel like we were still getting our usual Saturday morning stairs workout in. It took us 45 minutes to get to the top where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the city before hiking back down.

For our next hike, the Poly P, we drove to the Cal Poly campus. Toward the hillside sits a large P with a fire road and paths leading to its location. Close to where we parked were a bunch of goats on campus! We weren’t expecting that but it made the experience all the better.

The trail is decently steep, but only 0.5 miles to the top. Once we got to the P, we saw an awesome view of campus and the two other mountains in the Tri-Tip Challenge—Cerro San Luis and Bishop Peak.

We made our way down and hopped in the car again to complete the last hike of the challenge.

The Cerro San Luis trail was the most confusing of all three, but it would have been unusual if we didn’t get lost at least once while hiking. There were many different paths to choose from so we ended up making a 5 mile loop combining various routes. One of our detours led us to the Madonna trail where we saw the large M and another view of the city.

We kept on hiking, thinking we were making a loop, until we realized we hadn’t seen any other hikers in awhile—despite a full parking lot when we arrived. That’s when I pulled out my All Trails app and selected a route. We made a couple more wrong turns but quickly corrected with the app tracking our location. We weaved in and out of beautiful shady trees and open grass.

Finally we passed some hikers and felt much better about the trail we were on. We eventually made our way around the mountain and back to the parking lot where a majority of cars we’d seen earlier had left—making us feel much more sane about the lack of people on the trail.

After hiking nearly 10 miles and completing the Tri-Tip Challenge, we were ready for some tri-tip sandwiches from Firestone Grill.

We ordered two sandwiches and a large basket of fries, of course. It was 2:30 pm when we sat down to eat and there was still a long line out the door at this place! That’s how you know it’s good—and the fact that anyone who’s ever had their tri-tip will tell you it’s the best.

When we first moved to California, we had never heard of tri-tip—and that’s saying something coming from Texas. Nearly every restaurant in Santa Barbara has tri-tip on the menu in some shape or form. For our friends in the Midwest, tri-tip is just a triangular cut of beef from the lower part of the sirloin.

We quickly learned there are two types of tri-tip people in California, those who eat it topped with BBQ sauce and those who prefer it with pico de gallo. Both options are good, but if Firestone Grill chooses to smother their sandwiches in BBQ sauce then that’s the choice for me!

With our bellies content and our legs shot, we rolled out of there as Tri-Tip Champions.