What? : Point Lobos Park landscape includes headlands, ocean cliffs, coves, small sandy bays, open meadows and one of the most beautiful cypress trees forest in California.
This Park is considered by many to be the "crown jewel" of the California state park system and there is a good reason for that.
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Where? : Located just south of Carmel-By-The-Sea, about 15 minutes’ drive south of Monterey on highway 1.
Google Map Link
Due note 1: There are no pets, bikes, fires, rock climbing, or camping allowed.
Due note 2: The offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world and it is popular with divers.
Due note 3: On nice weather weekend it is a crowded park, many time, over crowded.
The parking lots are getting full early in the morning and the entrance is closed to traffic.
People are parking their cars on highway 1 roadside (although there are "do not park" signes) and walking into the park.
Drive carefully and slow down near the park entrance.
Due note 4: As for the rest of California shore, during winter months, migrating gray whales may be visible from the viewpoints.
Due note 5: Your visit here can be as part of your highway 1 road trip or as a few hours activity when you are staying at Monterey.
Unfortunately, I visit here only 3 times, and I enjoy it very much. My "problem" with visiting this park is that during weekends, especially when the weather is nice, the park is overcrowded with visitors.
Last time I visit here was at a winter rainy day and I enjoy it very much, it rain all day and I got soaking wet but on the other hand almost no one else was on the trails. I enjoyed the winter fogy atmosphere especially in the cypress trees forest.
Point Lobos is a “the” destination for ocean shore viewing.
The ocean clear blue water crashes on the jagged cliffs and rocks below and there is a trail that will take you along the entire ocean cliff-edges of the park.
You can spot sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and maybe even whales (in season), as well as pelicans and other shorebirds.
The reserve has several excellent hiking trails that range from short and easy walk to more challenging longer one one. There is no major climbing in any of the trail so even if you chose to do a longer hike it is relatively flat and not difficult.
Try to find a parking spot at Sea Lion Point parking lot (or if it is full at Piney Woods picnic area) and take the Cypress Grove Trail (Blue).
This hike is less than a mile long on mostly easy terrain, it winds through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth.
The trail loops through cypress forest outlined by cliffs with dramatic and spectacular ocean views of Headland Cove from your south.
I think this is a must walk for anyone visiting the park, the enchanted forest and the tree shapes is something unique and interesting to explore.
Once you hike the Cypress Grove Trail you can take the short hike to Sea Lion Point Trail (Purple in the above map).
Walk up the stairs to the viewing point, and from there follow the South Shore Trail all the way to the parking lot at the end of the road.
This is one way 1.4-mile-long, easy going, trail on the cliff edge. Here you have few opportunities to walk down and access the beaches, explore the rocks and tidepools.
From Bird Island Trail Parking lot, at the end of the road, I recommended hiking the Bird Island Trail (Orange in the above map), viewing China cove from the north and Gibson Beach from the south.
You can also follow the side-trail and walk down the stairs and visit the sandy Gibson Beach.
Another option is to hike the entire park loop trail:
This hike is 7.5 miles long that following the park ocean cliffs.
You can start in any place along this loop, including from the park entrance station near highway 1.
I did it counter-clockwise but you can also do this loop clockwise direction, do it all or shorter section of it.
I started my hike at Whalers Cabin Museum parking lot that is located at the end of the road.
from here I hiked west on the North Shore Trail, I use every opportunity there was to explore a side short trails that leads to different viewing points.
after walking for you will reach Cypress Grove & Sea Lion Point Parking Lot, here you need to turn right and explore the amazing Monterey cypress trees, use Cypress Grove Trail loop for that.
This loop is less than a mile long, winding through the forest on mostly easy terrain and on the ocean cliffs.
From here you will flow the Sea Lion Point Trail to another open viewing point and from there follow the South Shore Trail. along this section of the trail you will find few locations that you can explore the rocks and small coves.
Hike south all the way to Bird Island Trail Parking lot and from here walk to the nearby Bird Island Lookout. here you can also follow the stairs down to the sandy Gibson's Beach below.
From this point I left the ocean cliffs and went hiking into the inland forest, heading on South Plateau Trail in the direction of the park entrance station.
After crossing the park main road I kept walking until I reached Granite Point Trail. I turned right and explore Coal Chute Point Lookout, Granite Point and Moss Cove Beach.
From here I walked back to my car, visiting on my way Whalers Cabin Museum.
Overall this was easy 7.5 mile that cover most of the park attractions and viewing points, I walk slowly and had many stops along my hike and it took me 4 and a half hours to complete this hike.
Whalers Cabin Museum:
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