Bird Island Trail

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Big Sur Coastline, California

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Bird Island Trail


  • Bird Island in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.- Bird Island Trail
  • As the name suggests, Bird Island is home to a divesity of seabirds.- Bird Island Trail
  • Jade green waters fill the coves along the Bird Island Trail.- Bird Island Trail
  • The Bird Island Trail in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.- Bird Island Trail
  • The Bird Island Trail wraps around China Cove.- Bird Island Trail
  • A common egret (Ardea alba) fishes patiently in the kelp beds. - Bird Island Trail
  • The Bird Island Trail wraps around the headland that forms Pelican Point. Bird Island is the light rock located behind the trail.- Bird Island Trail
  • The trail passes Gibbons Beach. Access is provided via the stairway.- Bird Island Trail
  • Bird Island Trail loops around the headland and Pelican Point. Bird Island is the light island behind the trail.- Bird Island Trail
  • High-demand real estate at Bird Island. Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), Brandt's comorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus), and brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) relax in the waning afternoon sun.- Bird Island Trail
  • Brown pelicans at home on Pelican Point along the Bird Island Trail.- Bird Island Trail
Overview + Weather
Stunning coves. Seabirds. Marine mammals.
Big Sur Coastline, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
0.80 mi (1.29 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
20.00 ft (6.10 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The Bird Island Trail is a picturesque walking path along the southernmost coves, beaches and rocky islands of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Under a mile in length, the trail follows the coastline south through Monterey pine forest and around the jade-green waters of China Cove. China Cove contains a small beach that is accessible via stairway, although accessing the beach is prohibited in spring when harbor seals nurse their pups.

The trail hooks right and continues past Gibbons Beach, which is also accessible by stairway, and then loops out onto the the rocky headland of Pelican Point. Across a small channel sits Bird Island, which is whiter in color than other surrounding rocks from years of of guano accumulation. Brant's cormorants, brown pelicans, and western gulls are the most common seabirds calling Bird Island home, but keep an eye out for egrets, great blue herons, and the elusive black crowned night herons. Other marine life frequently spotted on and around the island include harbor seals and sea otters, which are are often seen feeding amongst the kelp. 

The trail loops back to Gibbons Beach and reconnects with the same trail that leads past China Cove. The trail is ADA accessible via an alternate beginning near the restrooms at the parking area.

Note: though swimmers are permitted to enter the ocean at Gibbons and China Cove beaches, wetsuits and the use of recreational equipment is not allowed.


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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

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(3 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(51 within a 30 mile radius)

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