Round trip from Sea Lion Point parking area; 0.6 mile. Includes cove overlooks and offers best view of sea lion rocks offshore. This the upper part of the trail connects with the Sand Hill Trail to make a loop around Sand Hill that is fully accessible. Lower portions of this trail are not accessible.
This trail forms, along with a section of the Sand Hill Trail, a fully accessible loop of stunning ocean views. It begins under the cypress trees on the west side of the Sea Lion Point parking lot. Go right at the fork and head directly toward the ocean. This takes you through one of nature's seaside gardens to a magnificent ocean view. On the way, ground squirrels scurry and sparrows perch on bushes to sing. On the right in Headland Cove, look for sea otters in the kelp and for harbor seals that sometime bask on the low rocks across the cove at the water's edge. In Sea Lion Cove, look again for hauled-out harbor seals just below you. This spot is often staffed by a docent with a spotting scope who is eager to show you close-up views of the animals.
From this spot, you can walk down the broad steps to your right to a slightly lower area with different vantages of Headland and Sea Lion Coves. A steep, uneven staircase leads to a lower trail and a pebbly beach. If you go down, take care to stay away from the edges and watch out for rogue waves. This area is often closed during winter storms. The rock conglomerate here, known as the Carmelo Formation, has been shaped by the sea into marvelous formations. Let your imagination soar to relate the shapes to animals and human faces.
Barking California sea lions are seen further out on offshore rocks. The Devil's Cauldron between Sea Lion Point and Sea Lion Rocks is often a churning display of ocean power. Remain at a safe distance.