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Point Lobos Natural Preserve Loop

Carmel, California

based on 17 reviews



7.14 miles

Elevation Gain

640 ft

Route Type



Added by Nick Tort

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.

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Point Lobos Natural Preserve Loop Reviews

Point Lobos is truly a treasure! It gets VERY crowded, so I recommend getting there right when the open. You'll want to hike the coastal trail to see all of the viewpoints and wildlife. Also look for wildflowers along the way.

This is one of the most scenic hikes near monterey. The parking lot can fill up very fast

Did this back in February and the water was so beautiful! The trail gets extremely crowded get here as early as possible.

The ocean water near Monterey is insanely beautiful. The blue in contrast to the seaside cliffs is mesmerizing. This was a wonderful hike that all levels can do!

This is one of the best coast lines I have ever seen in my life. It was a major highlight of a road trip through Big Sur. Mostly easy parking but can get crowded especially on weekends. This place deserves more attention. It’s beautiful.

Mostly flat trail with stunning views of the ocean! Mid morning was a perfect time to go. Hiked to the beach to have a picnic lunch.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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