There are a lot of things to like about Carmel-by-the-Sea – the food, the quaint architecture, the beach – but the highlight of my family’s trip to the area was Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (it’s more commonly referred to as Point Lobos State Park, and considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park System). We wanted a place to hike that was beautiful and kid-friendly. And, bonus, it was not far from our hotel. Here are a few of the things we did the morning we went to Point Lobos:
Kid-friendly hiking at Point Lobos
Weather on our trip was not the greatest, so we needed to choose a short hike in case we got caught in a rainstorm. We decided to hike Cypress Grove Trail because we’d read it was picturesque and short. Perfect for our needs, right?
Most of the trail was flat, though there were some steps and boulders to climb. Nothing was too difficult for the kids, who were 7 and 9 when we did this hike.
The trail is .8 miles long and takes you through one of the two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees remaining on Earth. If you only have an hour for the park, this is a great trail to take! If you have more time, or have other needs, review this page with suggested routes at Point Lobos.
Once the kids are able to go on longer hikes, I’m eyeing a return trip to California to traverse the Trans-Catalina Trail, considered a must adventure for any California bucket list!
We also hiked a bit of the North Shore Trail on accident after taking a wrong turn. It’s more challenging than Cypress Grove Trail (and longer – it’s 1.4 miles). We turned around before we were too far into it.
While we were on the North Shore Trail, we took the short Old Veteran Trail to get a good view of the Old Veteran Cypress, a well-known tree in the park. We also got views of sea lions, I think. I wish we’d brought binoculars to get a better visual.
Hiking tip: Dogs are not allowed on the trails, nor are bicycles.
Tide pools at Point Lobos
We nearly drove past the tide pools on our way out of the park, but I’m glad we spotted some families walking on the rocks. They caught our attention, and we wanted to go see what they were looking at.
It was exhilarating to explore the terrain. There was an element of danger, being near the edge, but it was also a thrill for us.
We stayed further back than it looks, I promise!
Tip about exploring the tide pools: It’s against the law to collect shells, rocks, wood, plants, or animals at the park.
Educational opportunities at Point Lobos
When we visited on the weekend, we encountered volunteers at the Information Station near the parking lot with a display of animal pelts. The kids were able to compare the difference between an otter pelt and a sea lion.
The volunteers also answered a few of our questions, like, what was the orange stuff covering the trees (answer: an algae called Trentepohlia aurea).
There’s a Junior Rangers program for kids ages 7 to 12 that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. Get more details here.
The park also provides educational information online, as well as Marine Protected coloring book you can download.
Would you want to visit Point Lobos on a rainy day?
We visited Point Lobos in the winter. If you couldn’t tell from the pictures in this post, it was a dreary day when we went to Point Lobos State Park. All morning, the clouds threatened to spit rain. We ended up cutting our visit short because we knew a full-on shower was imminent.
I wouldn’t recommend the tide pools in the wet weather, and hikes, well, they’re doable if you’re a hearty family. Check out the other things we did in the area when its as rainy, though, and you can find some good alternatives.
I read that the climate at the park remains pretty moderate year-round, with temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-60s. You’re most likely to encounter fog in the summer.
Important information about visiting Point Lobos
To plan your day at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, keep these things in mind:
Point Lobos hours: The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will not admit anybody after 6:30 p.m. There is no camping allowed.
Point Lobos costs: You will need to pay a vehicle entry fee to enter the park. It’s $10 for most. If you want a brochure, it’s $2. If you want to dive or snorkel, there are additional fees (reservation or walkup).
You can also also rent a kayak or standup paddle board for $10.
Point Lobos’ location: This California state park is pretty convenient for travelers since it is right off of Highway 1, plus it’s just about 3 miles from Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Plan your Carmel trip!
Want to plan a Carmel-by-the-Sea getaway? Start with this Carmel Bucket List, and then read through these posts for more ideas:
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