For the nature lover, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is nothing short of spectacular. Hidden from Highway 1, this cove-laden coastline situated between Carmel and Big Sur teems with wildlife that is attracted to the nutrient-rich waters prevalent around Monterey Bay. A network of trails makes exploring the reserve both easy and accessible.
The abundance of marine life at Point Lobos makes this one of California's top locations for marine mammal sightings. Sea lions, whales, sea otters, and harbor seals all call Point Lobos and the adjacent waters home. Just offshore from Point Lobos lies the Carmel Submarine Canyon, the bathymetry of which fuels the upwelling that supplies the nutrients that support the productive ecosystem. While much of the action can be seen above water at Point Lobos, this is only half the story. The underwater world found in the kelp forests and coves offers divers a marine paradise to explore (diving is allowed in certain areas with a permit).
Upon entering the reserve, continue past the entrance station and proceed a mile through the coastal pine and cypress forest down to one of the main parking areas adjacent to Sea Lion Point. The Sea Lion Point Trail attracts the attention of most visitors drawn to the barking calls of hundreds of sea lions taking refuge on Sea Lion Rocks. The trail ends on the bluff, but visitors are allowed to explore the rocky outcropping and tide pools of Sea Lion Pont, giving access and better views of the marine life just a stone’s throw away.
In addition to Sea Lion Point, trails wind their way north and south along Point Lobos and explore nooks, coves and a handful of hidden beaches. Check out the Cypress Grove Trail across Headland Cove, which explores one of only two naturally occurring Monterey Cypress forests found in the wild. Other recommended trails include North Shore Trail, Bird Island Trail and the South Shore Trail. There are additional trails that lead through the reserve's forest and meadows that can be made into longer loop hikes.
If you are heading south to Big Sur or north to Carmel, be sure to carve out some time to enjoy this magnificent section of the Central California coast.