I've been all over the California coast and Point Lobos is my favorite place to hike. We have hiked every trail in this reserve and never tire of this magical place. You can see many animals, such as sea otters, seals, elephant seals,sea lions, squirrels and deer that are often in little pockets near the trails.
Most of the hikes are easy to moderate, you can make them longer by combining them or just hike smaller parts. There is a whalers cabin that has been transformed into a little museum at one end of the reserve.
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The Best Stop on an Iconic California Road Trip
I had been to the beautiful Monterey Bay area of central California's coast a few times and had done the iconic road trip down Highway 1 before, but somehow I kept missing Point Lobos State Reserve. Then last year people started insisting that I visit Point Lobos, describing it as the most beautiful natural beauty they had seen. I made it there on a sunny day in January, and it didn't disappoint.
Point Lobos is a dramatic headland that juts out into a part of the Pacific established as a marine preserve. Fish, animals, and plants thrive here, from a kelp forest to sea otters and seals in the water, and from rare plants to mountain lions and bobcats in the forest. The landscape is stunning, with cypress-covered cliffs and huge rocks that create ice-blue and turquoise pools. It is best enjoyed in a series of hikes, each bringing completely different views and experiences. My favorites were the Cypress Grove and Bird Rock hikes. Bring a picnic lunch and plan to spend a few hours here.
Point Lobos State Reserve is located just 3 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. Entrance is $10 per vehicle. No dogs are allowed, even in cars.
As a world traveler who gets paid to write about the best beaches in Hawaii for my Backroads and Byways of Hawaii book (Countryman Press, 2013), it is tough to find a decent stretch of coast in California that inspires. My special place in just south of Carmel, hidden in a grove of trees, and so well-loved that you'll never believe it has remained so beautiful.
Point Lobos State Reserve.
Not only are there kid friendly hiking trails along the coast and through the dramatic Monterey pines, but also a glimpse of a sea is so pristine, cluttered with mammals and sea birds that it is take-your-breath-away stunning.
Get there early and bring a picnic. You.Won't. Want. To. Leave.
Stroll the rocky coast of Point Lobos State Reserve
Named “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by landscape artist Francis McComa, Point Lobos State Reserve is a just a short drive from Carmel, CA. There are enough trails to hike and natural beauty to take in to make it a full day trip, so pack a picnic for lunch and park outside the reserve and walk in to avoid the $10 vehicle fee. Take your time, stop often to breathe in the fresh sea air, and be on the lookout for the obvious and not-so-obvious aquatic life around you. The sea lions are easy to spot (and hear) near Sea Lion Cove, but you’ve really got to keep your eyes open to find my favorite animal, the otter. Park employees and volunteers are set up throughout the reserve with telescopes and binoculars to help you catch a glimpse of these lovable characters, which often just look like logs floating in seaweed from a distance. While I only got to hike a portion of the reserve, I can definitely say that it’s a workout for the body and a reset for the mind.
Learn more about my recommendations for things to do in Carmel, CA here: