Point Lobos: A Must Visit Along the California Coast
Point Lobos will always be associated with the words Francis McComas had for it: “The greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
I tried and tried to stay away from this description, the one that is used almost every time this spot along the California Coast is described. I brainstormed several openings for this post but every idea, every thought seem to circle back to this saying. I had no option than to succumb and use it here.
The sentence may be overused, clichéd and worn-out but, bear with me, Mr. McComas knew what he was talking about.
My visit to Point Lobos was part of a road trip which included Big Sur and other parts of the Central Coast. Now, you probably have heard how people, media and shows from all over the world rave about this area. Many have called CA-1 (the road used to navigate Big Sur), the most scenic coastal highway in the world.
After being amazed by the scenery appearing behind every turn of CA-1, after wanting to stay forever admiring the cliffs, coves and waterfalls of Big Sur, I still think Point Lobos is a must (like in super, hyper, tremendous must). So, after you decide you love Big Sur (and believe me, you are going to love this place), don’t even think about skipping Point Lobos. You are going to adore this place too!
The thing is that Point Lobos is like a mix on steroids of all the different elements you can find on the area. In all honesty, some parts of it look like untamed wilderness (even though you can see Carmel-by-the-Sea from the park).
To start, we can describe Point Lobos (the lobos are the sea wolves or the sea lions that call the area home) as a thin peninsula that shapes the southern boundary of the Carmel Bay. The peninsula coastline is covered by rocks of all sizes and shapes.
This area contains headlands, coves, rolling meadows and caves. In terms of plants, cypresses, oaks and pines are all around. To make things more interesting, the big trees are covered with lichen and moss. Then, there are fallen trees and long branches that get in your way. The pop of color is added by yellow, orange and red wildflowers.
Many visitors to Point Lobos don’t realize that some of the most beautiful landscapes within the Reserve are found underwater. While the Reserve hosts 550 fully protected land acres, its protected underwater area is over eighteen times that size, at 9,907 acres.
In this area, sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals find shelter along the shore and over 300 species of birds can be found benefiting from the abundance of protected food and habitat. The Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area extends three miles offshore and provides shelter for many species of fish living in the kelp forests, sandy bottoms and deep canyons. Cabezon, vermillion rockfish and blue rockfish hide among the kelp, while mola mola may be found basking on the surface offshore.
Some have been lucky enough to observe big mammals (deer) in the Reserve.
As much I was astounded by this place, I have a revelation to make. I only saw a small section of the park. In all honesty, I was bad and didn’t make the proper research. Yup! I kind of went with the flow.
A series of trails form what we can call the Big Loop. That system of trails has a length of about 6 miles (without counting the walk from and to parking lots). The loop takes you around the peninsula and gives access to most of the coastal areas.
We arrived early in the morning and the parking lots were already full. We parked outside the Reserve and decided to walk to the closest “attraction” in the park. After asking around and consulting maps, we realized we weren’t ready for the long walk (we had no water or snacks).
So, imagine how beautiful this place is! Only a small part of it was enough to impress me. Oh, and I should mention I probably missed the most beautiful areas (example, China Cove).
This cove features the Whalers Cabin, a building constructed in the 1850s to house Japanese and Chinese fishermen. This building has been preserved, and now houses a museum dedicated to cultural history of the area. Shore whaling was conducted here by the Carmel Whaling Company from 1862 to 1884 and by the Japanese Whaling Company from 1898 to 1900. The museum also highlights the history of Point Lobos, including its cinematic appearances and plans at the turn of the 20th century to develop the area for densely packed suburban housing.
Trails surrounding the area let you appreciate the cove form different angles. Watch out for harbor seals popping their heads over the water!
The trail between Whaler’s Cove and the next cove gives you access to an untamed and jagged coastline. I felt like I was walking into a scene of Jurassic Park (I even get emotional when I take a look at the photos). Certain parts of the ocean show a light green hue in here.
This cove is known for a big promontory known as Guillemot Island. There is an area of cobble and pinnacles, some rising to within fifteen feet of the surface. These pinnacles and the kelp forest around them are home to many species of sea cucumbers. The cove also shelters a seal rookery during winter.
Well, it is sad to say this but those were the only areas of the park I was able to visit (and that took like three hours). See why I have to return? Next time you you hear Mr. McComas quote, please, nod in agreement.
- Plan your hike. Exploring the majority of the park can take you an entire day. Choose shorter hikes if you have limited time.
- There are several parking lots inside the Reserve. You can drive among parking lots and see the main points of interest.
- Now, the parking inside the reserved is limited. If you visit on a weekend or during a holiday, you should arrive very early (before 9:00 a.m.) if you want to park inside.
- There is plenty of parking on CA-1 (in the vicinity of the Reserve). Park on the street if you want to avoid paying the entrance fee (donations are accepted if you walk in) or if there is no parking available inside.
- Even if you plan to park outside, you should arrive early during high volume days. The day I visited, I saw people walking 2 -3 miles to the park entrance.
- Go prepared with water and snacks (or lunch).
- Use the proper gear to protect yourself from the elements.
- Please, protect this gem of nature. Follow all signs and instructions.
- Take you time to enjoy what the park has to offer (even if that means a second or third visit).
How do you feel about Point Lobos?