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Review of Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve
Route 1, Box 62, Carmel, CA 93923
831 624 4909
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Ranked #1 of 28 Attractions in Carmel
Type: Nature/ Wildlife Areas, State Parks, Beaches, Hiking Trails
Activities: Hiking, Viewing wildlife, Whale watching, Scuba diving, Walking, Birdwatching
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Attraction Details
Owner description: Watch whales in winter and sea lions all year round at this Bay Area nature reserve, which offers hiking, walking, bird watching, scuba diving and magnificent views.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
11 attraction reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2014

Point Lobos State Preserve

Absolutely breathtaking. The hikes are easy with great rewards. I recommend allotting between 3 and 5 hours, giving yourself time to do this leisurely and having lunch midday. Also take extra camera batteries because there are so many awesome shots. I should have brought binoculars. If you happened to have done another state park the same day, save the parking receipt because its good at all the state parks same day.

To avoid parking issues, get there when they open. Another plus is that you get to see more wildlife like deer before human presence scares them off. $10 admission. Buy the map for $2. It's a must. The ones I printed online, as well as info I gathered wasn't enough to properly plan my day effectively.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, park at “information station” at beginning of sea lion point trail (also starting point for cyprus grove trail). I would allot at least one hour per every mile of trail because there are so many scenic photo opportunities where you would want to stop and gape. Bring water to replenish all the lost drool. The beauty of this parking spot is you can first do the cyprus grove trail 0.8 miles where there are spectacular views of the ocean, islands and rocks, orange moss covered trees.
Once completing the loop, you are back at the lot. You can take another 0.6 mile loop trail called sea lion pt trail where you can see sea lions far far far off on a rock island. BRING BINOCULARS or get laser vision correction or a tripod to get stable zoom shots from so far. On this trail you get to explore along the beach and rocks by the water. There are beautiful rock formation and with varied colors to see. We saw dolphins swimming, cormorants & turkey vultures flying, and of course the barking sea lions on the rock or swimming.

Next you could choose to go back to the car but I would recommend breaking off from the sand hill trail (which is the southern end of this trail) and turn right and follow the south shore trail at least until the next parking lot. You could CAREFULLY navigate the rock formations and all its cool colors, and shapes while the sea surges nearby.

At this point I took the road back to the lot and drove to the China Cove parking. Follow the Bird Island trail 0.8 miles to a gorgeous green-watered cove with caves. DO NOT SKIP THIS. IT WAS MAGNIFICENT & THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR TRIP! The stairs to the beach were unfortunately out when we were there. You can call 831-624-4909 to find out more details of its opening and park info.

Don't forget to turn around a lot because sometimes the views are even better looking back. There is a spot on the Bird Island trail where you have to look back to notice arches in the water with waves surging through. I guess it depends on which way you start your loop.

I did the northern section of the reserve but felt it was more of the same, still lovely but unnecessary. I didn't see any whales. Skip all the inner trails unless you like looking at trees (and there are plenty of trees on the trails above).

Visited January 2014
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los angeles
11 reviews 11 reviews
3 attraction reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Beautiful and Accessible”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2014

Absolutely beautiful with well marked trails. The main trails are pretty flat and easy to navigate. Lots of wildlife including barking seals. Worth the $10 entrance fee.

Visited January 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cary, NC
Top Contributor
240 reviews 240 reviews
48 attraction reviews
Reviews in 50 cities Reviews in 50 cities
96 helpful votes 96 helpful votes
“Beautiful Views”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2014

If you are in the Carmel area, this is a great place to take a short hike and admire the amazing views of the Pacific. If you are lucky, the seals will be close enough for you to get a good look at them.

Visited November 2013
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San Jose, California, United States
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Great place to stop and take a short hike”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2014

The sights here are on par with anything else on the CA coast. I've been all the way up and down it, and though some places might be more famous (e.g. the 17 mile drive just a bit to the north) Point Lobos can't be beat for its sheer wild beauty. There's lots of wildlife in the area, plenty of hiking opportunities with well-worn trails and lookouts, and paved roads for easy access. Some of the trails are a bit steep and rocky, but others are easily accessible to anyone on foot. You can see a good portion of the area in an hour, but 2-3 would be better if you want to cover it. It's also apparently a great spot for scuba diving if you're into that, and they have some ramps where you can get in the water (saw some guys doing that this last visit).

It can get a bit chilly in winter or late afternoon, so dress warmly. The trails and points of interest are well documented and signs tell you how long and how strenuous the hikes are. Rangers and docents are on hand to answer questions.

Note: the signs said parking lot full, but there was plenty of space inside. I think they just don't bother to change them, because it probably usually IS full. Drive up and find out. On the flipside, if you don't mind walking a bit you can park on the side of the freeway and just walk in, which will save you $10 (there's no fee for walk-ins). However, this can add quite a bit to the hike. If you don't have much time or don't want to walk far, try to drive in.

Visited January 2014
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Houston, Texas
Top Contributor
193 reviews 193 reviews
61 attraction reviews
Reviews in 74 cities Reviews in 74 cities
99 helpful votes 99 helpful votes
“Wonderful Views from each stop”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 4, 2014

You do need to pay $10 to get in the door, unless you park on US1 and walk into the park. We enjoyed a lovely sunset evening taking pictures and seeing pods of dolphins swimming. If you are hiker, there is much more to see but we were into photography and sunsets for this trip.

Visited January 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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