Hiking, Backpacking, Camping

Day Hike in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the California coast. The Monterey-Carmel area is a highly desired place to live, and it's not hard to see why when you visit Point Lobos! 


  • Date: 2.28.16
  • Miles: 5 mi
  • Elevation Profile: +/- 920 ft
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Cost: $10/ vehicle entry fee. OR park on the highway and walk-in for free.
  • Considerations: Day-use only, strict hours. See website for information.


What I absolutely love about this loop that encircles the whole reserve is that you get to see a little bit of everything. Yes, you could drive the loop and get out at different parking lots and do smaller hikes, but this loop is the best way to see the whole reserve!

You can start anywhere there's a parking space, but we drove all the way down to China Cove and Bird Island to get started. This was a good idea since there were fewer people in the morning, and we got to see so many seals on the beach!


The trail meanders around the backside of this beach, but access is blocked off many months of the year to protect the seal breeding grounds. You'll then continue on the trail to the Bird Island trail to get another view of China Cove. The water color is absolutely gorgeous, and yes, it really is this color!

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After you circle the Bird Island trail, you'll make your way back to the trail junction at the beginning of the "island" trail. Follow signs to the South Plateau trail, which will take you uphill through the woods and back to the entrance booth. Cross the road, staying on the trail, and you'll end up at a little bay on the other side of the reserve! Visit the Whaler's museum for a little break and to admire the cool trees in the area.

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After hanging out in the museum, head across the parking lot and climb up to get great views of the ocean. 

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This trail is very easy to follow: its the only trail that hugs the coast line! To be sure of the names of the trails you are on, you can purchase one from the entrance station. So, just continue on the trail, soaking in all of the ocean views, and you'll eventually end up in the parking lot for the Cypress Grove trail.

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Along the Cypress Grove Trail on a subsequent visit.

Along the Cypress Grove Trail on a subsequent visit.

Another cool thing about the Monterey area: the migrating Monarch butterflies! Definitely keep your eye out for them when you're hiking.

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Once you exit the Cypress Grove trail, you have to take one last loop detour to look out at seal rock! If you look closely, you'll see many sea lions on the main rock! We were treated with a group of sea lions playing in the ocean!


After seal rock, you'll head south, staying along the coast all the way back to your car near China Cove. The beaches are beautiful and definitely worth the detour and relaxing and exploring before getting back to the car.

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Point Lobos is a must-visit! Such a beautiful place, and so much wildlife, especially in the spring! This is an easy hike, and can be made easier if you just want to do little hikes from the parking areas. If you are a scuba diver, you can inquire about diving in reserve, which I'm sure would be amazing (I can't wait to get out there)!