A superb trail that offers spectacular views, Point Lobos Loop Trail is a magnet for hikers. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is located near Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. It’s a 10.7 km loop trail with an elevation gain of 224 m. It’s about a 2 hours drive south of San Francisco, so if you are traveling from there, it could be a perfect day trip. It’s a moderately challenging hike, but it’s extremely beautiful, so you would have great fun. It would take you more than 2 hours to complete the hike, and as it’s a very popular area, you would see many other people as well. The trail is accessible year-round. Dogs are not allowed.
There are many trails in the reserve, and if you can, you should explore all of them or as many as you can. You won’t tire of walking beside the water and enjoying spectacular views.
There are many potential starting points, but starting the hike from the parking entrance could be a better option. This is because parking areas inside the reserve might be full, especially if you arrive in the late morning. In such a case, you would have to park along the shoulder of Highway 1. You also won’t have to pay the entrance fee, if you park outside the entrance.
When you begin from the Point Lobos Entrance Station, you would have two options, either head north or south. If you want to take the trail to the south, head left at the first junction. You will follow the South Plateau Trail, which rises and falls and take you to a junction with the Pine Ridge Trail. Keep moving to the left and soon you would cross a short bridge. You would go through a short boardwalk section and pass a bench. The trail then reaches an open brush area and soon you get to two junctions. The first junction takes you to Gibson Beach and the second junction follows the Bird Island Trail and takes you to the end of a peninsula.
Keep hiking and soon the trail would curve in a clockwise direction. The final path of the loop trail takes you back to the entrance station.
The trail is fairly accessible and well-maintained. It’s also a good trail for running, so perhaps, you can try that as well. You would enjoy amazing ocean views around each corner, and it might be hard not to take photos. You would also encounter wildlife along the trail including sea lions and shorebirds. The trail features several rocky beaches. It also features Bird Rock, where you would see hundreds of sea birds.
Though you would have a great experience whenever you hike the trail, we recommended visiting in September. Because it’s a popular trail and only a limited number of cars can enter Point Lobos, it’s not easy to get a parking spot. Furthermore, the trail has many restrooms and rest spots.