Drive-in Visitors

When you drive in the Reserve, please remember that the 15 MPH speed limit is necessary for the safety of other visitors and of resident animals.

If you have one hour to spend…
Drive straight down the road from the entrance to the Sea Lion Point parking lot. If parking is available there, park and take the Cypress Grove Trail. You may pick up a free trail guide at the Information Station.

This walk covers 0.8 mile on mostly easy terrain with short sections of irregular surfaces. Sturdy shoes suggested.

You will get excellent views of the rocky shoreline and may see large waves crashing on the rocks, sea lions barking on offshore rocks, sea otters floating in near shore, a grove of ancient Monterey Cypress trees, and deer. In season you can see wildflowers or whales.

If the Sea Lion Point parking lot is full, drive a short distance down the road from Sea Lion Point and park in the Piney Woods picnic area. Walk back down the access road and across south shore road. Take the trail to the left and walk on the relatively level South Shore Trail as far as you would like, then retrace your steps back to Piney Woods.

If you have two hours to spend…
Park in Piney Woods and walk back down the access road and across south shore road. Veer to the right and walk up the trail to Sand Hill and Sea Lion Point and climb the stairs. Go left at top of stairs and loop around past the overlook to the offshore sea lion rocks. You can often also see sea otters in the water or harbor seals on rocks. If you are lucky, a docent will be there and let you share a spotting scope for close-up views of these animals. Depending on how fast you move, you may also have time to walk the Cypress Grove loop trail. A docent at the Information Station at the trailhead can answer your questions and loan you binoculars. To return to your car, you can take the Lace Lichen Trail, turn right at the Pine Ridge Trail, then go right at the fork.

You will be on ocean’s edge during most of this walk, where you may see sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, whales (in season), pelicans and other shorebirds, and deer on the Cypress Grove loop. And stunning rocky shores, of course, as well as our gnarly Monterey cypress trees.

Walk-in Visitors

If you have one hour to spend…
Take the Carmelo Meadow trail to your right as you walk past the entrance kiosk. It will take you to the edge of Whalers Cove. Take the Granite Point trail to the left a short distance and stop at the Whalers Cabin museum, where a docent will explain the historic displays and help you appreciate the diverse people who lived and worked at Point Lobos. Return to the entrance by retracing your steps, or go straight ahead for a view of The Pit and points beyond.

There is an excellent chance that you will see sea otters and/or harbor seals in the cove and a variety of shorebirds in the water or on the rocks. Listen for songbirds along the Carmelo Meadow Trail, and you may also see woodpeckers in the pines.

Point Lobos forest path. Photo credit: Janet Beaty.

Visitors with Disabilities

If you have one hour to spend…
Drive out to Sea Lion Point (ADA parking is available) and visit the Information Station. Borrow a pair of binoculars and head out on the ADA-compliant Sea Lion Point Trail loop. You may see sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, whales (in season), pelicans and other shorebirds

If you have two hours to spend…
Park in one of the three parking spots before you get to the entrance kiosk and take the Carmelo Meadow Trail out to the edge of Whalers Cove. Turn right on the Granite Point Trail and go out to the bench overlooking the Pit. The Carmelo Meadow trail offers the sounds and sights of a variety of songbirds. Once you get to Whalers Cove, look for sea otters and harbor seals in the water or on rocks. There may be shorebirds visible in the cove. The Pit is a nesting place for pelagic cormorants (on the cliff faces on the left side of the Pit) and great blue herons (in the pines on Coal Chute Point) in spring. The huge heron nests are visible all year.

If you have three hours to spend…
Drive out to the Bird Island parking lot, and go up past the restrooms to catch the ADA-compliant trail up the hill. It’s a tough haul, but you will be rewarded by views into iconic China Cove. Follow the ADA-compliant trail past the cove, around the hill, and out to Pelican Point for the sights and sounds of nesting birds (cormorants, Western gulls, black-crowned night herons in spring).

Point Lobos Bird Island path. Photo credit: Joseph Cothem.