She rises 663 feet from the sea-level town of Morro Bay and is the second to the last of the Nine Sisters, a series of volcanic plugs in the Santa Lucia Range of Central California. The last of the Nine Sisters is Morro Rock, which is a scenic photo shoot from the crest of Black Hill. The rock on this easy climb is 20 million years old, making the hike for this 62 year old a seemingly very small matter.
She is an unimposing piece of rock, compared to others that are within eyesight. Morro Rock, the iconic photo op for residents and tourists, and Hollister Peak, the gorgeous ragged outcropping just south of us, are both much more eye-catching. But you can walk up neither of those landmarks. Morro Rock is off-limits to all, Hollister Peak is a hike, not a walk. Black Hill invites everyone to scale its easier heights.
We start from a small parking lot about half-way up the hill. You can walk from the nearby campground or the golf course at the bottom of the hill, but there are controlled burns today, and so we end up at the parking stop. It’s the official trail-head, so why not?
This urban, small town climb is not a crowded trail, but we pass several groups and three or four single walkers on our way up and down the hill. It is a really unimpressive beginning, starting at the end of a golf course and looking like a child’s climb up a tiny hillside. It is an easy climb on a well-tended trail, but the scenes along the way
are only the first course to the main dish: the peak, and a peek into the area around. On clear days, people climb Black Hill to spot whales in the distance, but today we have a lovely cloud layer, so we get cool weather but short views.
West, we see the Pacific Ocean and south, the near-by town of Los Osos. We also see the cage of the oyster company in the bay – looking like they are on their lunch break – , and the road to San Luis Obispo winding through the salt marsh.
North, we see the town of Morro Bay, Morro Rock, farmlands and Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway.
It takes us less than an hour for the entire trip, even with the leisurely pace. Thank goodness for urban parks that seem rustic and bring the natural world up close. One last view to that 20 million year-old hill side that makes me contemplate how young I should feel.