Point Lobos State Reserve Park, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Point Lobos State Reserve enjoys a spectacular location on the California coast in Carmel. Trails traverse the coastline and its nearby surroundings. Migrating whales can sometimes be seen offshore by lucky visitors. We saw a couple of them from a trail in early March. The Reserve offers a variety of coastal environments to explore and splendid views to enjoy.
Point Lobos State Reserve is part of the California State Park System. There is an eight dollar fee per vehicle to enter the park and a park map is available for one dollar. The map is worth the buck in that it shows the locations of the parking areas and trails. The entry fee will allow a visitor to visit any other State Parks on the same day without paying again. The ranger at the entry booth gave us some valuable advice as to which trails to visit during our visit to the Point Lobos.
This is a beautiful and very scenic state park. There are plenty of hiking trails for all levels and will see plenty of seals. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of some sea otters and migrating whales. At the southern end of the park is a nice beach called China Cove. Also, scuba diving is permitted at Whalers Cove. The entrance fee to the parks is approximately $8.00 per vehicle.
Point Lobos State Reserve is widely considered the greatest location in the California state parks system. Just south of the Monterey Peninsula, it is just a short 5 minute drive from Carmel. This area is famous for its wildlife, scenic vistas, hiking trails, scuba opportunities, and interesting history.
Over the last 150 years Point Lobos has hosted Native American inhabitants, Chinese fishermen, Japanese abalone harvesters, Portuguese whalers, an abalone cannery, a coal mining business, a granite quarry, a military base, and numerous film productions.
During our visit, we hiked about half of the park's coastline in about 2 hours. Our starting point was Whaler's Cove where the water is calm and full of harbor seals, sea otters, and divers. We followed the North Shore Trail along the steep cliffs to Bluefish Cove, where the seals rest on the sandy beach. Further along the same trail through the quiet woods, we passed Guillemot Island and Big Dome before coming out at the Sea Lion Point Visitors Center with its little gift shop, restrooms, and displays of animal furs and skulls. Our last stop was at Sea Lion Point, an interesting area with rough oceans, unique geography and a bunch of sea lions out on the rocks in the distance. We continued along the South Shore Trail along the water a little further then cut across the center of the park back to the park entrance.
Vehicle admission to Point Lobos costs $8 per car. There is parking for about 100 vehicles along both shoulders of Hwy 1 just outside the park where you can legally leave the car and enjoy the park for free. Don't be lazy... walk. The park is open from 0900 to 1700 with later summer hours.
I'm not an especially avid hiker, so when my boyfriend suggested we hike Point Lobos I agreed and tried not to think about the pain I'd be in the following morning. This was a great hike! The trails are very well marked and the terrain is easy. We passed a number of older people enjoying a nice stroll on the paths. There were plenty of picnic areas and bathrooms (which were quite clean) and families with kids were having a blast.
The trails take you past cliffs and lagoons, through fields and across sandstone shorelines. It's exquisite. You can choose how far you'd like to walk, from a few yards to over five miles. Wildlife is everywhere, we saw sea otters and harbor seals, ground squirrels and a ton of birds.
Parking: if you'd like to save a few dollars, park outside the gates to the State Park and walk in. It's only an extra quarter or half mile to the shore and the trails come right out to the roadside. For a shorter trip, get a pass to drive in and park at one of the numerous parking lots along the trails.
Scuba Diving: I haven't been out there yet, but I will be checking it out as soon as I can. There are 2 main dive zones and 11 "must see attractions" (you can check out the map on the website). Diving is free but you are required to make a reservation in advance. Weekends fill up quickly, so try going on a weekday to have a better shot at your desired date.
The park closes at sunset, so don't get too lost on the trails or you'll end up wandering around in the dark.