Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Trail type
0.80 mi (1.29 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

State Park Fee


Stunning coves. Seabirds. Marine mammals.



Trailhead Elevation

20.00 ft (6.10 m)


Whale watching
Bird watching



Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.

You May Also Enjoy

Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park, California