Point Lobos State Reserve: Easy Hikes,
Picture Perfect Views Await
By Kathy Chin Leong
Carmel art galleries often display oil paintings of jagged, peaked rocks with majestic aquablue waves crashing violently against its walls. If you look carefully at the titles, many of them will have the words Point Lobos printed somewhere in the heading.
It’s no wonder. Point Lobos State Reserve, 3 miles south of Carmel on Hwy 1, is one of the most breathtaking and revered locations along the California coastline. At any given time, you’ll find painters perched with their easels at any number of locations while birders spy cormorants, chesnut-backed chickadees and pygymy nuthatches in the distance.
Certified scuba divers in the safe crevices of Whaler’s and Bluefish coves practice here on the lip of the Pacific Ocean by permit only. The sites are so popular that divers must reserve a spot in advance on weekends by going online to www.pointlobos.org . Click on "scuba."
HIKES WORTH NOTING
When you go hiking, wear waterproof boots with good treads. The walks along the shore will make you almost believe the ocean itself is a vast oil paint palette - navy blue along some parts, then turquoise further up the path, and then a mix of greys and greens in gemstone hues.
A hike up one peak called Sea Lion Point , which is only .5 miles, takes visitors out to see the sea lions barking noisily off the shore. This dirt trail, and the many others, provides a breathtaking view of the jigsaw shoreline which is riddled with shady cypress trees and Monterey pines, all contorted in interesting twists and entangements from the wind.
It never gets too hot here, for the fog billows in gales. At one moment visitors are warmed by a blanket of sunshine that makes the crest of the waves sparkle under its protective beams. At the next, clouds of fog rush in transforming the skies, filling the bluescape with scads of gray. Keep a sweatshirt in the car or wrap it around your waist, for wearing layers is a must.
From Sea Lion Point, hikers can take on the North Shore trail (approximately 1.4 miles) to take advantage of the views of foamy waves, blooming flowers, intimate coves, pine trees, and nesting Blue Herons.
A flat walk along the seashore can be slippery, but worth the effort. The Bird Island Trail, at .8 miles doesn’t expend too much energy. As many as 3,000 brandt cormorants birds cn come to settle here on the rugged rock island that seems to erupt out of the water. Hummingbirds, Arctic terns, California quail, and Western gulls, flock in droves and land on the large rocks nearby. The reserve boasts over 250 different species of animals and birds, and over 350 plant species, some of them very rare such as the Monterey cypress.
The very shady Cypress Grove at .8 mil. Offers spectacular views of Big Dome, the highest granite peak in the region, sea otters, and Carmel Bay, notes stae park ranger Chuck Bancroft. "I have been here 25 years, three months, and 18 days. I love it. I never ge tired of the views because everyday is different."
Unique to the area is the Whaler’s Cabin, the oldest structure in Monterey built by the Chinese in the 1850s. The small historic cabin is now a museum filled with whaling artifacts, bones, photos. It is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info, email the park at email@example.com .
Point Lobos is considered the crown jewel of the state park system. With nine parking lots, three areas for picnicking with restrooms, a museum, and interpretive center/gift shop, the reserve makes for a memorable day-long outing. Docents offer free, one-hour guided walks daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. as staffing permits. Call ahead (831/624-4909) to find out which trails will be covered.
Day parking is $8 and vehicles carrying seniors 62 and older cost $4. Limited free parking can be found outside the entrance gates on the side of the highway. Operating hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p m. during the fall and winter.
WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO CITE THE FOLLOWING:
Directions: To reach Point Lobos from San Jose, get on Highway One and head south. The reserve is three miles south of Carmel. Call 831/624-4909.
Popular Trails : Cypress Grove Loop .8 mi, Perimeter Walk 6 mi; Bird Island Loop .8.
Level of difficulty – easy to moderate
Terrain : Dirt and sandy paths, ocean views, cypress trees, flat to hilly areas, mostly open and wide trails.
Shade rating: (1 to 5 being most shaded) Cypress Grove Trail – 5; Sea Lion Point 1- full sun; North Shore, Pinewoods or interior trails- 5.
Special features: Amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and divers in the small coves; bird colonies nesting; small whaling museum on the premises; organized docent walks; rare species of green algae called trentepholia turns orange and is only found in this region.
Kathy Chin Leong last came to Point Lobos a year ago, and the memories are fresh in her mind.
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