Hike Point Lobos Natural Preserve

4 Miles Round Trip - 400 ft gain - Loop Trail

Point Lobos State Reserve - Search Nearby - 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.


Family Friendly


4 Miles
400 ft elevation gain
Loop Trail

Stay Nearby

Pacific Grove, California

Asilomar Hotel and Conference Grounds

From $176/night

Big Sur, California

Big Sur Lodge

From $199/night

Moss Landing, California

Moss Landing KOA Express

Prunedale, California

Salinas / Monterey KOA


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Nice view

This was a very chill hike. Not very challenging, but the views were beautiful. The waters are very clear and it was peaceful. I liked this hike, but as for my partner he wanted a more challenging hike. This was more like just taking a stroll and enjoying the scenery. But it definitely is for one to see!


I would love to go back again!

Simply amazing

Being only 2 hours from SF, this is a perfect full day getaway. We did the loop backwards, parking at the last lot by Bird Island (got here at 9 am on a Sunday, we were the first in this lot). We did the Bird Island --> China Cove (saw dozens of pregnant and juvenile harbor seals!) --> South Plateau --> Carmelo Meadow --> Granite Point --> Cabin --> North Shore --> Old Veterans --> Cypress Grove (definitely do this small loop!) --> Sea Lion Point (saw tons of sea lions laying on rocks and playing in the cove!) --> Sand Hill --> South Shore all the way back to the car. Total mileage according to my Runkeeper GPS was 5.35 miles and took 4 hours (at a leisurely pace with plenty of stopping for photos, surveying the ocean for whales and sea otters, and a detour to the Whaler's Station Museum). This loop is pretty easy, with only moderate elevation gains -- perfect for a relaxing hike, or, if you're the running type, a trail run. There are a few other hikes in the interior of the park as well, though you must go to the ocean. Park maps are $2 at the entry station. You won't need one, but its actually a pretty nice map with trail and wildlife descriptions, so I'd say its worth it :) Can't wait to go back and do some diving here!