8 Best Point Lobos Hiking Trails: Serene & Stunning

California is a pure beauty. Whether you are a mountain lover or an ardent sea fan, California has to offer everything. Just sit in the car, take a drive and you will arrive at the most stunning places in California.

If you are looking for a day to spend in the lap of nature and taking a break from your busy schedule, make a visit to Point Lobos Hiking. From offering beautiful views of the ocean, to the sun-kissed sky and stunning trails to soak the warmth of nature, Point Lobos State Reserve is the perfect place to have fun and make some good memories.

Best Point Lobos Hiking Trails

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A perfect weekend getaway, Point Lobos hiking is great for beginners and even kids. The trails are moderately elevated and carefully railed for maximum safety. On Saturdays and Sundays, you are expected to see a lot of footfall, as it is located in a very convenient location.

There is enough parking spot available just outside the park, however, make sure to reach a little early to get a spot nearby. Another interesting fact about Point Lobos hiking is that you will come across a few volunteers on the trails who will guide you about the history of the park, give descriptions about the birds who are frequent visitors of the park and many other fascinating info about the wildlife.

If you are planning to explore the Point Lobos hiking, here are some of the most popular trails you must check out.

Best Point Lobos Hikes

1. Bird Island Trail

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 75 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Southernmost Parking Area

Bird Island Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails at Point Lobos. If you are starting your hiking experience, Point Lobos hiking routes are some of the easy ones and extremely beginner friendly.

Surrounded by coastal shrubs, pine forest, and a stunning view of the sea with its pristine white sand, Bird Island Trail is a treat to the eyes. Along the trail, you will come across China Cove which has amazing jade-green waters and the view is breathtaking.

Keep your eyes out for sea lions and sea otters feeding their newborns. Make sure to not make noise to avoid disturbing the wildlife. Also, you might get lucky to spot a pelican in the trees while you are on this trail.

If you want to have your little beach vacation out there head out to Gibson Beach which is an accessible beach and can rest there for a while. The entire trail takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Bird Island Trail
Bird Island Trail

2. Cypress Grove Trail

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 20 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead:  Sea Lion Point Parking

Another easy trail at Point Lobos Hiking trails is Cypress Grove Trail which starts at the Sea Lion Point parking area. The trail provides amazing views of Headland Cove. At the start of each trail, there is a hiking map available for easy guidance.

Whether you are coming for a hike or just want to stroll around the large cypress trees, this trail definitely makes for the best Point Lobos Hiking trail with ocean views.

Looking at the huge cypress trees which have outgrown over time due to climate, was certainly a highlight of the trail. I came across many parents with their kids enjoying the trail as it is quite easy and takes only 15-18 minutes to complete. If you are looking for family-friendly hiking trails in Point Lobos, then must check out Cypress Grove trail.

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During our hike, we suddenly spotted a herd of deer peacefully grazing on the green grass. Make sure to keep your voice as low as possible and just enjoy the view of the wildlife.

Best Point Lobos Hiking Trails_Cypress Grove Trail
Cypress Grove Trail

3. North Shore Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain:  70 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Sea Lion Point Parking Lot

Point Lobos hiking trails are known for their beauty and picturesque views. Just a 3-mile drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea, North Shore Trail is great for experienced hikers as they get to experience hiking through tree roots, rocky grounds, and steps.

The entire trail is enveloped with pine forest and it is an excellent option to go for if you are up for a challenge. The open views of the coves such as Bluefish Cove are certainly worthwhile after a long hike.

During the summer you can come across wildflowers, western gulls, and other stunning wildlife. A great highlight of this trail is that you can come across the Old Veteran Cypress at the Old Veteran Trail as both of them fall on the similar path. Make sure to take a picture in front of the 200-year-old cypress tree.

4. Point Lobos Loop Trail

  • Distance: 6.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 666 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Trailhead: Main Parking Lot

Located only 15 minutes away from the beautiful Monterey, Point Lobos Hiking is one such spot that you must explore. It can be a part of your Big Sur road trip as well, as we did the same.

We stopped for a small hike at Point Lobos only to return again for a full-fledged day at the natural reserve. Point Lobos Loop Trail is the longest and the most popular trail among all the Point Lobos coastal trails.

We were greeted by sea lions who were happily basking in the sun and I did not miss a moment to take amazing pictures of them. The entire trail takes almost 3 hours to complete and it gives you a 360-degree view of the entire reserve.

The lush greenery along with the Cypress groves and Monterey pine makes the entire hike extremely rewarding. Once you walk past the Cypress Grove trail, you will come across the Granite Point trail that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean making this trail the best Point Lobos Hiking route with ocean views.

The rocky beaches and the eye-catching blue waters of the coastline will make you stand there and only stare at the beauty of nature. If you are able to complete the entire trail, you will reach Whalers Cove Trail where you can see whaling equipment and also get to know about the area’s history. This trail is not dog-friendly, so if you are a dog parent, keep your puppy at home.

Whalers Cove Trail
Whalers Cove Trail

5. South Shore Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 60 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Trailhead: Bird Island Parking Lot

If you want to have more ocean views then South Shore Trail is one such Point Lobos Coastal Trail that will never disappoint you. The rocky shores are of various shapes and help you to get a very different view of the magnificent ocean.

The varied colored sandstone makes it special and you get a glimpse of the beautiful geography of the entire place. Overall the hike is easy, however, do keep in mind that there are some parts of this trail where it is not wired. So, be careful and safe while hiking through this trail.

This Point Lobos coastal trail provides two amazing spots to visit Weston Beach and Sand Hill Cove. You will be amazed to witness a range of wildlife from turban snails, sea stars, crabs, chitons, and many more at Weston Beach. Also, if you are a bird-lover you might want to carry your binoculars with you to get the sights of pelicans, herons, gulls, and cormorants.

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Additionally, if it’s your lucky day, you may get to experience some red-tailed hawks taking a stroll toward the East. Although we did not get a chance to see them, walking down South Shore Trail along the coastal trails was truly mesmerizing.

South Shore Trail
South Shore Trail

6. Granite Point Trail

  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 70 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Whaler’s Museum

An easy Point Lobos Hiking Trail for beginners with an awesome panoramic view of the ocean is the Granite Point Trail. The best time to visit this trail is during the Spring and Summer as you will be welcomed by varied wildflowers.

The trail starts at the Whaler’s Museum and you will see Carmelo Meadow to your right. When you pass over the Carmelo Meadow Trail, you will come across a small cove that gives you an overall look at the Pit.

Hikers hike along the rugged coastline through dense forests and get to see many scenic points. The Granite Point of this hike is definitely the highlight as it offers a holistic view of the coastline and surrounding ocean. You can witness rocky coves, rugged cliffs, and many more natural formations from this point. You will find picnic benches here where you can sit and relax and enjoy a meal.

Granite Point Trail
Granite Point Trail

7. Sand Hill Trail

  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 16 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead:  Sea Lion Parking Area

Carmel is indeed a very beautiful place and if you’re wondering what are the other things to do in Carmel, then going for a hike at the beautiful Point Lobos natural reserve is definitely a must-do thing.

Sand Hill Trail is another beginner-friendly and kid-friendly trail in Point Lobos hiking routes and this one is accessible for wheelchairs also. The Sand Hill loop also crosses the Sea Lion Point Trail and once again you are surprised by the vast ocean in front of your eyes.

Since this trail is quite short in distance, it can be easily covered if you have limited time or going for a Big Sur road trip. This is a great trail if you want to see sea otters and sea lions and we saw many kids enjoying the sight of the wildlife.

Keep your eyes out to spot rabbits running through the bush. On your right, you will find Sand Hill Cove standing tall in all its glory. The rocky coastline is the result of climate and erosion over the years and looks straight out of a geography book.

Moreover, this can be a great spot for catching glimpses of birds such as egrets, herons, black oystercatchers, and others as they love to feed on the kelp found on the rocks.

We came across one volunteer who happily shared how one can even see gray whales at specific times. Sand Hill Trail offers excellent sunset views, so if you want to relax and enjoy the sun setting down, make sure to reach the trail during sunset. At the end of the trail, you will find Headland Cove where you can sit on the benches and take a few pictures of the spectacular view.

Sea Lion Point
Sea Lion Point

8. South Plateau Trail

  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 30 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead:  South End of the Reserve

South Plateau Trail can be the best way to end your amazing hike at Point Lobos. Also, it is extremely close to the highway making it convenient for people who want to carry on with their Carmel trip.

There is not so much difficulty in any of the Point Lobos hiking, however, on this specific trail, there may be a few uneven surfaces which you should be careful about.

Walking through the forest of pine and oak feels very soothing and calming. While strolling in the Monterey Pine Forest you will come across various plants like sticky monkey flower, blackberry, lace lichen, etc.

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During Spring, this particular trail looks wonderful because of the greenery all around you. Keep your ears sharp to hear the mesmerizing sounds of the birds such as woodpeckers, and brown creepers.

Once again, we got lucky and spotted a woodpecker attentively pecking at a tree. Fresh flowers are abundant in this area, from coffeeberry, and honeysuckle to Douglas Iris, you will see plenty of them. One thing to keep in mind while you are on South Plateau Trail is to stay away from Poison Ivy.

South Plateau Trail
South Plateau Trail

Point Lobos Hiking Tips

  • Before heading out for a hike at Point Lobos, be sure to check the weather carefully, as rain and fog can make the hike difficult and some trails may also be closed.
  • Carrying a binocular is definitely a plus as you get to see better views of the marine wildlife and the birds.
  • Spend some time wearing the right clothes for your hike. Do keep a warm jacket with you as fog can make the weather colder. Also, go for comfy tracksuits and tops as they will ease your hike. Hiking shoes are best for all kinds of surfaces.
  • Carry hats and sunglasses with you as the California sun can be daunting at times.
  • Do keep filter water bottles with you and there are plenty of trash cans, so do not litter them.
  • There are no food stalls available at the reserve. But you can carry your own food and sit on the picnic benches and enjoy your meal.
  • Get a map at the beginning of your trip to know the routes properly.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t bring your dogs to Point Lobos.
  • Scuba diving is allowed here but make sure to carry your gear.
  • There are restrooms available at most points.
  • The reserve does not allow camping but makes for a great day trip.
  • Parking is free outside the reserve. If you want to park inside, you need to pay $10.
  • The park opens at 8 am and you can stay inside till sunset. However, during the noon finding parking can be difficult. So make sure to be an early bird.

Final Words

Whether you are in the mood for a nature walk or just bird watching, Point Lobos has everything in store for you. A perfect getaway on the weekends, it makes for an amazing hike for beginners. If you have time in hand, drive for a little bit after your visit to the reserve and head to 17-mile Drive at Carmel to see great sunsets. The stunning beauty of Point Lobos is irresistible and it will surely feel like coming back for another superb hike at the natural reserve.

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FAQs: Point Lobos Hiking

1. Are the hiking trails at Point Lobos suitable for beginners or families?

A: The hiking trails at Point Lobos are completely suitable for beginners and families with kids. Most of the trails are easy and there are few uneven surfaces. So, anyone can have a smooth hike. However, wearing hiking shoes definitely help with grip while hiking.

2. What safety tips should I be aware of before hiking at Point Lobos?

A: Staying on trails and off-routing definitely helps. Also, getting a map at the start of your hike will keep you safe. Most of the trails are wired so you can be stress-free.

3. Do I need a permit to hike at Point Lobos, and how can I obtain one?

A: You do not need a permit to hike at Point Lobos. Anybody can access the park.

4. Can I bring my dog on the hiking trails at Point Lobos? Are there any restrictions?

A: Dog parents have to leave their pups at home. The reserve rules and regulations do not allow dogs on any trails and you can’t even keep them in your car.

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