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Wonders of Wildlife at Point Lobos State Reserve

Sea lions, shore birds and more share this gorgeous chunk of Pacific Coast south of Carmel, California
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview:  You can cram all the charms of California's amazing coastline into one stop at Point Lobos State Reserve, about 100 miles south of San... more »

Tips:  Entrance fees (summer 2010): Passenger cars: $10; vehicle with a senior citizen: $9; disabled discount: $6.

If you see a volunteer... more »

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Points of Interest

On busy days you might have to park along Highway 1 and walk into the park. Stop by the entrance kiosk to pick up a map and make a donation. Don't worry, you'll get your money's worth.

2. China Cove

From a small parking area, Bird Island Trail climbs to a ridge overlooking China Cove and Bird Island. It's about four-tenths of a mile one way.

Shorebirds are abundant and you might see the occasional sea lion. Views of the coast heading south into Big Sur are excellent, especially in late morning or early afternoon as the fog burns off.

It's ... More

3. Tide Pools

With a parking lot nearby, this is a nice centralized location for checking out the western half of the park. It's always amusing to watch the seagulls' squabbling for mooching rights (don't feed them, it just encourages their bad habits).

South Shore Trail runs a for a mile north and south just above the water's edge. You can walk down to the... More

4. Sea Lion Point

Your best chance to watch sea lions is at this point, accessible via a .6-mile out-and-back hike from the nearby parking area.

Exploding waves and unusual formations of conglomerate rock (think nature's concrete) make this one of the essential stops on any Point Lobos outing. Use extreme caution near the water's edge: it's far more dangerous than... More

5. Cypress Grove Trail

This is the Number One must-see section of Point Lobos. Cypress Grove Trail is a .8-mile out-and-back loop past a grove of the rare Monterey cypress -- this is just one of two naturally occurring stands of the tree.

Pelicans often fly in formation at just above eye-level, and keen-eyed visitors may spot sea otters lounging in the kelp near the ... More

6. Whaler's Knoll Trail

This half-mile trail to a scenic ocean overlook is the only significant climb at Point Lobos: about 180 feet.

The highest point looks far over the Pacific, where lookouts were once posted to announce the spouts of migrating whales.

If you've not seeing a glorious panorama from the heights, it means you've strayed onto the bypass trail.

7. Whaler's Cove

Popular with scuba divers, this section of the park also includes a a small whaling museum that offers a fascinating (and appalling) glimpse into the era when whales were hunted to the brink of extinction.

From the Whaler's Cabin, take the Cabin Trail up to North Shore Trail for a fine view overlooking the cliffs. North Shore Trail is 1.4 miles ... More

8. Granite Point

Easy 1.3 mile hike out to a rocky overlook, with more chances to spot sea otters and sea lions.

Watch for poison oak near the trail.