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“Magnificent, but access is limited”

Point Lobos State Reserve
Ranked #1 of 110 things to do in Carmel
Certificate of Excellence
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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.
St. Helena, California
Level 3 Contributor
11 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Magnificent, but access is limited”
Reviewed January 7, 2014

We visited Pt. Lobos between Christmas and New Year's 2013. The park itself is magnificent, not to be missed, with breathtaking views of the ocean and shoreline. A natural wonder.

But,… it is hard to enjoy and see the park when you get in, can't park, and it is overcrowded. We arrived at 9:30AM, and the only parking left was at the far end near China Beach. We could not park at the Cypress Grove or Cannery areas, and since we had already walked miles (and lost our parking space) we couldn't see the attractions at these sites.

By the time we left at 11:30, cars were backed up to the highway trying to enter and "freeloaders" were parked for at least half a mile along the highway north and south of the entrance. I say "freeloaders" because it costs $10/car to enter (and park if you can!), and those parking on the highway get in for free unless they make a voluntary contribution. They should pay their fair share for the upkeep of this magnificent treasure.

Visited December 2013
Thank Ross_Julie_CA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Singapore, Singapore
Level 2 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Fascinating view of the coast”
Reviewed January 6, 2014

Point Lobos State Reserve is a short 15-minute drive from Monterey. Parking is $10. You can also take MST Bus 55 which stops right at the entrance (check online schedule for timings). A round hike in Point Lobos takes about 5 hours with rewarding views of the beach and rocks, or take a short 10-minute walk to the nearest cove. Remember to bring binoculars as you might see feeding whales during winter. Recommended for you to bring your own picnic lunch. Don't miss the Cypress Grove and South Shore trails.

Visited December 2013
1 Thank KTYeo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 4 Contributor
45 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
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
3 Thank 101seasonedtraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
los angeles
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Beautiful and Accessible”
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
Thank luvstotravel11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Marlborough, Massachusetts
Level 6 Contributor
238 reviews
46 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 99 helpful votes
“Beautiful Views”
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
Thank glftrvl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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