How to spend half a day at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey in California

things to do at point lobos state natural reserve near monterey california

January 18th, 2022

The scenic Point Lobos Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is arguably the most scenic of all the California State coastal parks - and all of them have their own picturesque sights - so if you ever find yourself near the vicinity - Point Lobos is a travel destination you really should not miss. The name Point Lobos comes from "point of the sea wolves" - so called because of the sea lions that tend to congregate in the rocks off the coast of this reserve and whose barks you will probably hear being carried by the wind from the distance on a visit to this place. Sea Lions are just one the many attractions in this park. Miles of trails loop around the park where you can experience for yourself the breathtakingly stunning scenery of the rugged pacific coast in Point Lobos. There are beaches around the park and this is also home to one of only two wild Cypress groves in the California coast and for the more adventurous, there is access to scuba diving as well.

What can you expect on a visit to Point Lobos: Absolutely stunning vistas of the rugged coast with the waves crashing against the rocks. Miles of hiking trails following the shore and also venturing higher into the hills for elevated views. Wildlife ranging from sea lions and smaller birds to the large Turkey Vultures that can be seen surveying the land and sea with their impressive wing spans. Beaches and scuba diving access and even a small Whalers cabin from the past that serves as a culture museum today. A wild Cypress grove with a trail to walk through and experience the mystical feel of the place. Access to a large island just offshore - Bird island with different sights, including avian varieties as it is named.

Know before you go:

  • Entry fee is collected to park inside the reserve. Typically an entry fee paid at one California State park is good for all parks for the day.
  • Many people prefer to park outside the park - if doing so be prepared to hike roughly a mile to reach the shoreline.
  • Parking spots can be hard to find at the first lot near the Cypress grove, but driving further inside leads to more lots where you should be able to get a spot.

Do I need the full half day?: 1-2 hours to just experience the sights along the shore and the sea lion point and perhaps walk in the Cypress grove. Half a day if planning to hike to all the other main sights like Cannery point, the Whalers cabin and Bird island.

What to pick if I have less time?: Definitely do the Cypress grove trail which combines scenic vistas of the sea with the beauty of grove itself. If just a little more time, also walk along the shore trail as long as time permits.

Other Suggestions: Drive to different parking lots to access some other points of interest directly if you don't have the time to hike the trails connecting them.

You made it to Point Lobos - Take a Hike

If this is just a stop on your longer journey through the region, definitely stop by and take the sights as suggested by the in a hurry section above. But I do believe this place warrants a longer visit - and take the time to at least hike a couple of miles around and you will leave with seriously beautiful memories.

It is possible to actually hike to all the main attractions at Point Lobos if you have more time and the energy to hike it. If you like, check out this article from my hiking site for a more detailed hiking itinerary to cover all the highlights of Point Lobos. Alternatively, you can enjoy the place just as much by just doing or picking sections of the two best trails - the south and north shore trails.

The south shore trail is easier as it is mostly flat and is also closer to the sea with access points to a few beaches along the trail. The South shore extends from the Sea Lion point all the way to Bird island.

point lobos south shore trail 1

point lobos south shore trail 2

point lobos south shore trail 3

The north shore trail does have some climbing to do at points but the views from the higher points are the rewards for the effort. The highlight of the north shore trail is probably the area around Cannery point.

point lobos north shore trail 1

point lobos north shore trail 2

point lobos north shore trail 3

Listen to and try to spot the Sea Lions

You will probably hear their barks before you actually see them in the distance. A camera with a powerful zoom will help you spot them congregating in packed groups in the rocks in the distance from the so called sea lion point, but you might get lucky and see them venture closer and at other points along the park.

point lobos sea lion point

Visit the wild Cypress tree grove

A short 1 mile hike allows you to loop the entire grove, but venturing in only for a little bit is enough to get the feel of the grove. The vistas of the sea from amidst the cypress trees on the cliff is part of the treat.

point lobos cypress tree grove

Visit Bird Island

A short hike across a bridge to get closer to the rocks near the sea and spot some wild life.

point lobos bird island

point lobos turkey vultures

And round up the trip with other points

The Whalers cabin was used in times past, but is a museum to the whalers lifestyle today. Near the cabin is the scuba diving access point and more points further with hikes to Cannery point and Granite point. Or take a break from the sea hugging trails to explore some of the woods through the inland trails.

Whether you want to spend a half day or just an hour, have an active day or a leisurely time, the important thing is to enjoy yourself and enjoy the breathtaking scenery while you are here.