Meandering trails through ancient cypress forests, abundant wildlife, and iconic central coast vistas are all hallmarks of this popular California State park. It’s one of our favorites and an easy drive from the Bay Area. The park can become quite crowded, so we generally go early or on iffy weather days. During our most recent trip we were treated to humpback whale, sea otter, and harbor seal spottings aplenty. Sea otters, an endangered species, are one of the main attractions for the park but can be tricky to spot. We always bring binoculars.
Did you know that Sea otters are related to weasels and wolverines? They use rocks to crack open the shells or exoskeletons of their prey. They even carry around their favorite rocks in loose skin folds under their forelegs. This makes them one of the few mammal species know to use tools. If you’re interested in reading more about them check out this site.
It’s truly hard to pick a favorite trail, but generally, because the park is small enough, we start by taking either the Cemelo Meadow Trail or the South Plateu Trail to the coast and then walk the entire perimeter. If I had to pick a favorite part, it would be the North Shore Trail between Bluefish Cove and Cypress Cove. Walking through the forest along that stretch is incredibly calming. The moss and algae hanging from the trees is otherworldly. The first time I saw algae in the family Trentepohlia, I mistook it for spray paint from survey markings. The orange color is caused by large quantities of carotenoid pigments and can be especially vivid in winter.
Point Lobos is home to one of two areas where the Monterey Cypress is native. These trees thrive in the cool, moist, and foggy summers that this area is known for. Although the trees can now be found else where in the world, there is something magical about seeing these gnarled and wind swept Cypresses formed by their native habitat here on California’s Central Coast.
The geological formations at Point Lobos originated in Southern California or Northern Mexico and were actually part of the North American Plate before breaking off and adhereing to the Pacific Plate. The formations were then pulled northward with the plate and continue to do so today. More information on the geological formations can be found on the Point Lobos website. Along the South Shore of the park there are areas where one can walk out onto the rock formations. If you look closely, you’ll see many trace fossils, particularly at Weston Beach.
Half a day is more than enough time for Point Lobos, so you can easily combine the park with other nearby areas of interest. We often combine it with 17-mile drive and a stop in Carmel. If you do stop in Carmel, check out Carmel Belle, one of my favorite cafes in the area.