Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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About

Summary

Offering romantic ocean vistas, contoured and rocky shores, colorful trees and wildflowers, and plentiful opportunities to see wildlife, it is no wonder Point Lobos is aptly named the crown jewel of the California state park system. All these wonders lie at your fingertips a couple hours’ drive south of San Francisco.

Written by

Marta Haftek

Distance

12.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

91.0 miles

Difficulty

1 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

3 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

December-April is the best window is best for seeing grey whales.

Dog Friendly

No

Fees Permits

Yes

There is a $10 day permit to enter by car. Parking is free along highway 1. Please adhere to the 15 mph speed limit.

Review

Intro

Offering romantic ocean vistas, contoured and rocky shores, colorful trees and wildflowers, and plentiful opportunities to see wildlife, it is no wonder Point Lobos is aptly named the crown jewel of the California state park system. All these wonders lie at your fingertips a couple hours’ drive south of San Francisco.

What Makes It Great

Let us thank engineer Alexander Allan. In 1898, he began purchasing the land around Point Lobos with an intent to preserve its beauty, and by 1933 the area joined the state’s park system. Since then several more acres have been acquired, most notably a fantastic 775 acres of underwater terrain (known as the Point Lobos State Marine Reserve). For those skilled in diving, the marine reserve is considered one of the best underwater areas to explore along the California coastline: clear water, varied terrain, and incredible marine life living amongst a 70ft tall kelp forest. Reserve one of the 30 daily permits for the area here.

At the parking area of Whaler’s Cove, a fantastic 3D Model of the submerged topography is available for all to examine. A simple swim in the cold teal surf is currently allowed only at Gibson Beach. As for the folks who intend to stay on land, near to Whaler’s Cove is the Whaler’s Cabin. It is an old structure renovated to house several fascinating archeological and cultural artifacts of the area (many excavated from the floorboards of the cabin itself!). Next door is the Whaling Station Museum and a collection of whale bones - another interesting dive into the past.

When it comes to hiking, several easy to moderate trails meander and connect throughout the park. The Cypress Grove Trail is a popular trail (0.8 miles) that guides you through one of two remaining naturally growing clusters of Monterey cypress trees on earth. These rare trees are shrouded with a unique orange cloak of green algae making for a stunning sunset ambiance. Another bonus is the section of jagged cliffs where one can look out over the Pacific and take in the barking of sea lions sunbathing on a collection of rocky islands offshore. The southern sector of the park provides close views (almost too close - beware of the stench!) to colonies of Brandt’s cormorants and seagulls.

Stroll along the South Shore Trail (1.0 mile) to experience the beauty and thundering crash of the waves against the irregular rocky margins. Guided nature walks are also offered daily. In addition, there are four wheelchair accessible trails. To the north and adjacent to Point Lobos is Carmel River State Beach. Open from 7AM-10pm, this mile-long stretch of coast is great for sunbathing, birdwatching, fishing, and a popular launch spot for kayaking and diving.

Who is Going to Love It

The combination of a long history and exceptional beauty allow Point Lobos to offer many varied opportunities to visitors; hikers, trail runners, naturalists, bird-watchers, historians, artists, scuba divers, snorkelers will all find attractions within the park. The park’s mild terrain and several educational displays makes it suitable for families with children.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From downtown San Francisco, head south on US-101 then continue onto I-280 S toward San Bruno. Next, look out for exit 5B for I-280 toward San Jose. Stay on this stretch for 31 miles. Take exit 12 to merge onto CA-85 S heading for Gilroy. Drive about 19 miles, then merge onto US-101 S. Now stay put for almost 40 miles. Take exit 336 toward Monterey/Peninsula and merge onto CA-156 W. Drive about 6 miles before the road becomes CA-1 S. Continue another 20 miles. Keep your eyes peeled for a sign marked Point Lobos on the ride side of the road, then proceed into the park. Point Lobos has four parking areas, several restrooms and drinking water sites.

Collection of natural objects is prohibited. No fishing in the Reserve waters. Biking and climbing on natural features is not allowed. Picnicking is permitted only in Whalers Cove and Bird Island parking areas, and Piney Woods. Fires are strictly prohibited; leave your stoves and barbeques at home.

Location

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

36.515761, -121.946402

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