Ready to experience spectacular Point Lobos hiking? Turquoise waters atop cliffside at every turn, hidden beaches, Redwood trees… I mean, come ON California!
With its glimmering turquoise waters and very accessible views, it’s no wonder Point Lobos Natural Reserve has been growing in popularity. It’s location at the northern end of Big Sur makes it a can’t miss stop on your California road trip.
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Point Lobos Details
Location: 1 hour 45 minutes from San Francisco Airport, 3 hours 20 minutes from Sacramento airport. It is a relative starting point from Monterrey for the northern end of Big Sur.
When to visit: Point Lobos Natural Preserve hours are 8:00am-5:00pm daily.
How many days: One afternoon or full day. The park is relatively small at 400 and the entire thing can be hiked in one day. Its underwater protected area expands the reserve an additional 750 acres!
Parking: There is free street parking outside of Point Lobos, or $10 parking inside of the state park (good for all other state park entrances for one day). There are only 75 parking spaces in the entire park llocated within 5 small parking lots.
If parking inside of the park, I recommend beginning near South Plateau Trail where you can catch views of the glittering turquoise waters from the parking lot.
I always recommend speaking with a park ranger at the entrance to any park about the best place to park your car.
Point Lobos Planning
If you want to see a specific scenic part of the park, do NOT plug this destination into a Maps app! I made the mistake of following an app to get me to China Cove, which took me out of the park hiking alongside the hundreds of cars parked up Highway 1 (scenic, I know right).
Thinking this was a shortcut, I rolled with the flow until I “had arrived” and was just higher up highway 1 with no way of getting into the park. Just use a paper map, follow signs, or talk to a ranger for your specific destination.
I had full cell service the entire time during my visit. However, just slightly south down Highway 1, service was almost entirely gone. I recommend downloading offline maps just in case, or if you plan to venture further down Big Sur.
What is NOT allowed at Point Lobos
The following things are not allowed at Point Lobos Natural Preserve: dogs, biking on trails, skateboards, camping, fires, smoking, alcohol, drones, and removing ecosystem elements (rocks, sea shells, etc),
Point Lobos Hiking
I really try to lay my trails out ahead of time before going on any trip. But to be perfectly honest, Point Lobos incredible views are extremely similar anywhere along the coast at the preserve.
So these beautiful photos you see are not unique to just one trail or part of the park. I recommend just picking a starting point, and enjoy the leisurely walk from there. The coastal routes are not intense and almost entirely flat. Slight incline takes place deeper into the park surrounded by pine. Even then, I consider this easy routes for regular hikers.
Check the Point Lobos official website prior to your trip to confirm updated weather conditions or closures for your trails.
South Plateau Trail to Bird Island
This is a very easy Point Lobos hiking trail. Easy, flat, scenic.
Take a left detour along the trail down a steep set of stairs to Gibson Beach. MEGA Amalfi Coast vibes, am I right?
South Shore Trail
Making your way along South Shore, you can detour down a short set of stairs into this quaint, pebble stone beach. There were only 4 other people here at 9:30am, and again at 12:00pm. The beach is extremely tiny but provides a nice breather as it would be congested if it got too crowded. A set of quick, somewhat steep stairs lead you to the bottom.
Pine Ridge and Lace Lichen Trail
These pine trails deeper to the insides of the park were beautiful and not as trafficked than the routes along the water. With limited time though, I would recommend sticking near the water.
Other things to do at Point Lobos
Things to do near Point Lobos
Consider extending your trip for a full Monterrey or Carmel By The Sea getaway. Alternatively, make your way south down Big Sur for coastal views of a lifetime. Be sure to stop at 17 Mile Drive along the way!