Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos SNR (15 of 43)
This wave was a little too close for comfort!!  Had me scooting backwards in a hurry!!

Between late February and early March, we were mooch-docking at my son Luke’s house in Menlo Park, CA.  We took advantage of being near the California coast to do some exploring. During a conversation with a neighbor’s parents, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was mentioned. They live in Stockton but spend time with their grandson next door weekly and they suggested we make time for a visit to Point Lobos. They touted it as one of their favorite places. We always make it a point to get travel tips from locals!  So, I added it to my to-do list and checked the forecast for that area daily. Finally, a perfect weather day presented itself.

On March 2, we left Menlo Park and made our way to Point Lobos SNR. It sits off Highway 1 just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the drive along Rt. 17 and California 1 was scenic and uneventful – taking us about 1 ½ hour driving time. The park charges an entrance fee of $10.00 with a dollar off that price for seniors. They also limit the number of visitors who can enter the park by vehicle so that there is minimal impact on the area. It was off-season during our visit so the park was not full and we had no problem finding a parking space in a lot near the coast. It was an absolutely gorgeous day along the coast – warm and sunny. I marveled at how blue the ocean appeared here.

Point Lobos SNR (1 of 43)

A little history….

The area where Point Lobos sits has been used by various inhabitants since ancient times. The first to use the lands abundant resources were Native Americans who lived here seasonally when fresh water was available. With the European influx in the mid-1700’s, Point Lobos served many purposes. Settlers grazed livestock, operated a whaling station, built fisheries and canneries, quarried for granite and developed a shipping port.

A local inhabitant, A.M. Allan started purchasing large tracts of land here in the late 1800’s with the ultimate goal of preserving this unique coastline ecosystem. With encouragement and support from local conservation groups, the area was incorporated into the state park system in 1933. Eventually, an additional 775 acres of submerged acres were added that established the nation’s first underwater reserve.

Minimal intervention is done to the land – leaving it to absorb the natural processes of weather, time and environment – and keeping it as close as possible to its natural state. We chose to hike some of the headlands trails and the coastal trail while here. We walked the short Cypress Grove Loop which includes the Allan Memorial Grove – a Cypress grove honoring A.M. Allan and his wife for their foresight in preserving Point Lobos.

Point Lobos SNR (2 of 43)

We then hiked along the coastal trail – South Shore Trail – with short diversions onto the Sea Lion Point Trail and the Sand Hill Trail. I have to say the rocky coastline reminded me of Acadia in Maine – the cliffs and coves and waves!

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The abundance of aquatic wildlife was amazing!! We watched a sea otter playing among the kelp fields from the cliffs on the Sand Hill Trail.

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We were entertained watching this California Sea Otter  – they like to play in the kelp fields!

With binoculars, we could observe the sea lion colony occupying the rocky outcroppings off shore. I should note that Point Lobos was named by the Spanish settlers – a shortened version of “Punta de los Lobos Marinos” – or Point of the Sea Wolves.

Point Lobos SNR (5 of 43)
There really are sea lions out on those rocks!!  You can barely make out one of them with his head raised!

We were treated to a tranquil scene at Hidden Beach. This beach is inaccessible to the public and, viewing it from above on the South Shore Trail, we noticed a group of Harbor Seals sunbathing on the sand! Jim counted 23 seals in all! Apparently they are year-round residents here and, in April and May, pups are born on rock ledges and beaches.

Point Lobos SNR (34 of 43)
Harbor Seals basking in the sunshine 🙂

Much of the time, we wandered on the shoreline rocks watching the waves and exploring the tide pools. At Weston Beach, the tide pools were rich with aquatic life. In several places, there were masses of purple sea urchins! Their color inundated the water and gave it a lavender glow. One pool had colonies of Rough Limpets. Periwinkles and other limpet species were also abundant. I was most enthralled with the purple sea urchins though!!

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Point Lobos SNR (14 of 43)
Can you make out the purple sea urchins??  Cool, huh?
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The water in the tide pools glowed lavender with the color of the sea urchins 🙂
Point Lobos SNR (12 of 43)
Rough Limpets in a tide pool – they really are underwater!!

Towards the end of the day, we drove down to the southern most parking lot to access the Bird Island Trail. This trail leads to an overlook where you can observe colonies of Brandt’s Cormorants nesting on Bird Island. It was along this trail that Jim thought he spied an Orca whale off the coast. He saw a distinctive “blow” and then a black fin break the surface of the water. We weren’t sure what type of whale it was until we ran into a park staff employee and asked about it. She said it was quite possibly an Orca. How thrilling!! We kept vigilantly scanning the ocean for another glimpse but did not see him again.

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Brandt’s Cormorant colony on Bird Island

Around every bend in the trail was another mesmerizing scene!

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Point Lobos SNR (17 of 43)

There were masses of wildflowers blooming along the trails and shoreline….

Point Lobos SNR (7 of 43)
Eschscholzia californica  – California Poppy
Point Lobos SNR (10 of 43)
Castilleja latifolia – Seaside Painted Cup or Monterey Indian Paintbrush
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More California Poppy
Point Lobos SNR Bermuda Buttercup
A non-native – Bermuda Buttercup – Oxalis pes-caprae
Point Lobos SNR FRemonts Star Lily
Toxicoscordion fremontii – Fremont’s Star Lily
Point Lobos SNR Blue Blossum
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus – Blue Blossum

The Point Lobos website has some great informative information on its flora and fauna complete with pictures – worth checking out!

I fell in love with this beautiful, serene place – highly recommend a visit for anyone traveling along the California coast!

Point Lobos SNR (19 of 43)
Our lunchtime companion – luckily he was not aggressive like some gulls but just glared at us!!

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Could not get enough of the wave action!!
Point Lobos SNR California Poppy (2)
One last California Poppy – they were just glowing the day we were there providing some beautiful back light and reflections!!  🙂

I hope you enjoyed this journey through Point Lobos!  What was your favorite photo??

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