Daytrip: Point Lobos (Carmel, California)

Three miles south of Carmel, on a stunning stretch of Highway 1, the entrance to the State Natural Reserve of Point Lobos, is easy to pass without noticing—particularly as there is so much beauty nearby to distract you. But it rightly calls itself one of the “crown jewels” of California’s 280 state parks.

The Reserve hosts 550 fully protected land acres, and its protected underwater area is over eighteen times that size, at 9,907 acres. 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. And the reserve’s Cypress Grove Trail winds through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth!

We stopped on our way home from Big Sur this past Sunday, as we happened to reach it right at low tide.

The parking lots inside the park can fill up quickly, but we got lucky on that account and headed inside the park to Weston Beach. However, if you do need to park on the road (and make a suggested donation rather than pay the $10 car entry fee), you can follow the trails through Eucalyptus and Cypress out to the shore. I recall that we did this last time and emerged at Gibson Beach only to immediately spot a pod of Orcas just off the the coast!

There are a great deal of grand, sweeping views to take in along the coast, so its really wonderful to get to balance it with some time spent up close—taking in the smallest details.

Kids, in particular, tend to find this much easier to appreciate.

Skyler was fascinated by the Hermit Crabs and their often-iridescent blue homes.

Tidepool Tips: Check the tide tables for best conditions. Be careful of slippery footing; and don’t turn your back on the ocean, especially if conditions are rough. Finally, be sure to watch your step for delicate habitats and leave all shells and animals where you find them. The area is part of a protected State Reserve (but that’s just good practice).

Because we were there relatively late in the day, we restricted our exploration to Weston Beach and Sea Lion Point, but one day we will bring a picnic lunch and spend an entire day hiking the loop trail.

Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves (you can walk it on Google Earth). I’ve heard that Whalers Cove (with its small Whalers Museum) and China Cove are particularly stunning when the sunlight reveal’s the water’s turquoise hue. (Photo above by Backcountry Emily)

The foundation has some suggested routes depending on how long you have.

We stopped at the docent booth beside the beach and borrowed some binoculars. They have lots of information about trails and wildlife, including some pelts and skulls for the children to feel and identify.

Hudson and Skyler loved the check-off identification guides they had on hand for kids to take along—the best kind of scavenger hunt.

We saw harbor seals, sea otters, herons, egrets, pelicans, and a huge colony of sea lions… to name a few.

It was a great end to a beautiful weekend!

Have you been? Any tips to add? 

P.S. Tidepooling near Monterey and where to eat lunch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Also, details from this visit is still forthcoming, but here’s a Big Sur Travelogue from a past trip with lots of helpful details.

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