Classic California Coast, Right Next Door

Beaches, Big Sur, Geology, Hiking, Photography

Point Lobos is a crash course on the California Coastline.

Point Lobos State Preserve is always our first stop when guests come to visit us here on California’s central coast; it’s a close-by, immersive experience on the coastal ecosystems that puts you face to face with the Big Sur images and experience you’ve heard about all of your life. You know you’ve somehow seen all this before, but now you can smell it, hear it, reach out and touch it. And it’s all right next door.

It’s the quintessential California coastline: Big rocks and big surf, tidal pools of startling color, otters, sea lions, pocket coves with true pacific blue water and geology that expose the crushing forces at work just underneath your feet. Hiking trails take you through moss draped forests and along shoreline trails that reveal tree-framed views of the rocky coastline. Other trails take you on rocky points that jut right out into the Pacific.

There is excellent access to tidal pools, rocky shorelines, meadows and small coves. You should be able to view sea otters, California Sea Lions, the occasional Stellers Sea Lion, herons and gulls. From December to May, you might also see migrating Gray Whales offshore. The reserve’s boundaries extend almost 8 miles into Pacific, offering protection for ecosystems below the waterline as well as above.

An ADA-compliant trail to Bird Island offers fabulous accessibility to the sights, smells and sounds of this completely unique coastal environment. My 86 year old mom and her scooter could readily navigate the trails out to views and atmosphere of China Cove and Bird Island.

There is a small museum at Whaler’s Cove that explores the sober history of the whaling era, complete with pictures and harpoons. I walk away a little saddened, but relieved that chapter of the area is now relegated to history… at least in California.

Access Factor:  Because of its close proximity to Monterey and Carmel, this park is very popular and access can be limited, if not impossible, especially on weekends. Get there early and try to visit on weekdays. Park information can be found here.

Kid Factor:  (+) Tidal pools, sand beaches, wildlife, nooks to explore, whaling museum.  (-) Sharp rocks, strong waves, tidal currents, cliffs, poison oak.

Photo Factor:  Fill your albums with California coastline shots, Monterey cypress, outrageous tidal pool colors. Think tripod, slower shutter speeds, longer lenses. If it’s blowin’ hard, remember salt spray and cameras don’t mix well; wipe it all down as soon as you leave the area. As always, early morning or later in the day is best. Fog very likely May through September.

Fitness Factor:  Easy hiking and bike trails, minor elevation changes. Swimming if you insist, but it’s cold, cold water. ADA trail to Bird Island is one of the best ideas around.