Hike Point Lobos Natural Preserve

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos, just south of Monterey, offers smooth, well-maintained trails for easy hiking, trail running, and bike cruising. 

Point Lobos contains headlands, coves and rolling meadows, and its offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world, popular with divers. Wildlife includes seals, sea lions, sea otters, migrating gray whales (from December to May), and thousands of seabirds, who also make the reserve their home.

Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves. The area used to be the home of a turn-of -the-century whaling and abalone industry – a small cabin built by Chinese fishermen from that era still remains at Whalers Cove, and is now a cultural history museum.

You have the option of driving into the park (entrance fee of $10), or parking along Cabrillo Highway and walking into the park (signs suggest $1 donation per person). To get the full experience of this park, start your adventure right at the park entrance station. The entire trail map system is one big loop with little loops that shoot off here and there, making it very easy to get around.

A quick word of caution: this place is littered with poison oak – read the signs and stay on trail.

Head south on South Plateau Trail, walking along a sand and dirt mixed trail. The trail is very well groomed, making for an easy breezy stroll, and setting the tempo for the entire trip. You will pass Rat Hill and Vierra Knoll along your way to Gibson Beach, where you will have your first smashing view of the coastline. Take the stone stairway down if you would like to enjoy the beach.

Just south of Gibson Beach, along the Bird Island Trail, you will come across the aptly named Bird Island. Surrounded by beautiful beach alcoves and sheer cliffs, this island is home to nesting black-crowned night herons, Brandt's cormorants, western gulls and pigeon guillemots in May through July. This area is also home to China Cove – an absolute scenic gem, walled in on either side by bluffs, which serves as a seal rookery for part of the year.

From this point on, you will be jumping from trail to trail along the coast, in and out of bluffs, making your way around to the north side of the reserve, to Whalers Cove. Though your legs are doing all the walking, your arms may be tired from snapping so many photos – this area is riddled with gorgeous photo ops. It is also a very popular spot for artists to set up and paint the scenery.

Be sure not to miss the Whalers Museum at Whalers Cove, and check out the HUGE whale bones scattered around the property. Whalers Cove is also a very popular area for divers to explore the world underneath the water's surface.

This park is highly recommended for scenic walkers and hikers, artists, photographers, runners, divers, bird watchers, families – pretty much anyone that wants to put their spin on how to enjoy this phenomenal reserve.

Pack List

  • Water and snacks
  • Camera gear
  • Layers
Show More
RT Distance 4 Miles
Elevation Gain 400 Feet
Activities Chillin, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Family Friendly
Groups
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Allan Memorial Grove

Don't miss the Cypress Grove Trail (Allan Memorial Grove), which is the best of the several little loops in the Point Lobos Area (we did all of them). Also, I would suggest to go there in late spring when the vegetation is most beautiful.

One of my favorites

I visited with my family in late June- we went early in the morning and it was a bit overcast and foggy, but still- I had never seen anything like it. We took so many pictures that I’d recommend limiting yourself or you might wear yourself out (or worse run out of storage)

Great Weather Every Day

Go in the afternoon for excellent lighting


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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