We arrived just five or ten minutes before closing, and they were very accommodating! We didn't have to plead (or even ask) whether it would be okay for us to possibly go up in the lighthouse - the staff suggested it, and told us that it would be fine. It was about a five or six minute climb, but it seemed a little strenuous because we were trying to rush, and I'm out of shape. If I had taken my time, it probably would have taken about ten minutes to get to the top, and I wouldn't have been huffing and puffing so much. But either way, it was nice, and I'm glad we went up. I wish we could have arrived earlier in the day, because we had to skip the museum. If you have to choose, I think this lighthouse is a better option than the one at Point Cabrillo, because (1) you can climb up the stairs to the top, and (2) you can park right at the base of the lighthouse, so you don't spend too much of your valuable time hiking out to the point.
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