California Coastal Reserve Is a Treasure Trove of Ocean Views and Wildlife

California Coastal Reserve Is a Treasure Trove of Ocean Views and Wildlife

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Hidden Beach, pictured June 14, 2024. (Summer Lane/The Epoch Times)

Summer Lane
Summer Lane


Updated: 7/9/2024


One of the most popular hiking destinations on the Central Coast is the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey—and it’s easy to see why. Often called the “crown jewel” of the California state park system, its hiking paths wind through craggy rocks, windswept Monterey cypress trees, and blossoming wildflowers.
Point Lobos is characterized by its biodiversity, which is protected both on land and at sea. The Point Lobos State Marine Reserve and the Marine Conservation Area safeguard nearly 14 square miles of natural habitat from the shore to a depth of 1,800 feet, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Originally inhabited by the native Ohlone tribe in Monterey, Spanish missionaries began settling the area in 1769. Ecological preservation began in 1899 when landowner Alexander Allen and his wife Satie purchased property along the coastline to save it from resource exploitation, according to the department.
The park is located on California’s famous Highway 1 near Monterey Bay and Carmel-by-the-Sea. With only 75 parking spots available inside the reserve, tourists often arrive right at the park’s opening at 8 a.m. to claim a space.
Point Lobos features a network of small loop trails that link together throughout the reserve, providing access to breathtaking scenes and wildlife viewing areas. Sea Lion Point is one of the most well-known trailheads for visitors. The path curves near the ledge of a cliff that overlooks a series of ocean boulders. Dozens of noisy sea lions often lounge there.
Point Lobos Sea Lion Point Trail, pictured June 14, 2024. (Summer Lane/The Epoch Times)

Point Lobos Sea Lion Point Trail, pictured June 14, 2024. (Summer Lane/The Epoch Times)

Travelers can link up to the South Shore Trail and continue toward the lower side of the park’s small beaches and alcoves, such as Weston and Hidden Beach. Pathways occasionally divest from the main trail and allow hikers to explore tidepools, where they can get up close to scuttling crabs, purple sea urchins, and mussels.
The south trail also features Bird Island, a steep collection of large white rocks that are home to thousands of pelicans, seagulls, and other seafaring fowl.
Lace Lichen Trail snakes through the center of the reserve. As its namesake suggests, the trees along the trail are replete with lace lichen, sometimes known as “fishnet.” This trail connects with the Mound Meadow Trail and the Pine Ridge Trail, which offer flat and easy terrain for visitors.
Point Lobos South Shore Trail with a view of Bird Island, pictured June 14, 2024. (Summer Lane/The Epoch Times)

Point Lobos South Shore Trail with a view of Bird Island, pictured June 14, 2024. (Summer Lane/The Epoch Times)

Northward, Cypress Grove Trail features a pathway framed by one of the two remaining cypress groves in the world. According to the Point Lobos Foundation, the trees have adapted to survive in the cold climate and harsh winds of the coastline.
Other trees, like the Monterey Pine and the Coast Live Oak, provide a unique forested environment. California coffeeberry, lilac, dune buckwheat, and the seaside woolly sunflower skirt the sunnier points of the reserve. Poison oak also thrives in the cool, foggy climate of Lobos and grows in thick masses along most trails.
Whalers Cove is on the north side of the park. Between 1862 and 1879, the area was the site of a whaling station. Tourists can peek inside the “whaler’s cabin,” and registered SCUBA divers can explore the underwater reserve in Whalers and Bluefish Coves.
Sharp-eyed visitors may glimpse sea otters searching for a meal offshore. Other animals, like rabbits, bobcats, and squirrels, may be spotted. More than 20 species of land mammals live in the reserve, according to the park foundation.
Bird watchers will enjoy searching for sightings of the California Quail, the Scrub Jay, and the Peregrine Falcon on land. Shorebirds like the glittering Black Oystercatcher—a species that builds their nests in the craggy depressions of the coastal rocks—will delight visitors with their loud calls.
For families searching for a fun activity during June and July, the park has also opened registration for the Point Lobos Summer Adventures program. The day camp experience is designed for children aged 8 to 12 and teenagers aged 13 to 15.
“The goal of the program is to expose the next generation to the joys of exploring and recreating in our parks,” the state park stated.
Day campers will participate in hiking excursions, whale watching, kayaking, and habitat restoration projects.
Point Lobos was once called “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by the late renowned Monterey-area painter Francis McComas. Travelers who walk the trails of the famous reserve may be inclined to agree.

Summer Lane is the bestselling author of 30 adventure books, including the hit "Collapse Series." She is a reporter and writer with years of experience in journalism and political analysis. Summer is a wife and mother and lives in the Central Valley of California.

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