Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos  020Point Lobos  002One of the most special places we discovered in Monterey was the Point Lobos State Reserve, referred to as the “crown jewel” of California’s state park system.Point Lobos  013

The history of this land is quite complex.  With several Native American sites and evidence of an early settlement of Chinese fishermen and their families.   The Chinese built residences there, including the Whalers Cabin, which still stands on the grounds.Point Lobos  012Point Lobos  010

In 1769 Europeans arrived and used the land as pasture for livestock.  Between 1862 and 1879 Portuguese whalers used it as a whaling station, attracted by the gray whale migration.  They used the now stunning Whaler’s Cove to slaughter and process the whales.  To quote the museum’s docent: it must have been a disgusting sight.

Next it housed a Japanese abalone cannery (in a partnership with Mr. Allan) and then became a shipping point for coal mined nearby.  The land was sold many times, and was once the pot in a card game.Point Lobos  027

Point Lobos  023Point Lobos  021After Point Lobos began to be subdivided into residential building lots, Mr. A.M. Allan purchased the remaining land as a residence and business investment which stopped plans for further subdivision. He and his family bought back the lots that had been sold.

The Cypress Grove was gifted as a memorial to Mr. Allan and his wife, and the State of California purchased the rest of Point Lobos from his heirs in 1933.

Today the reserve has been expanded to 554 acres, plus an additional 5.36 square miles of underwater reserves, one of the first underwater reserves in the U.S.

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Point Lobos  018Point Lobos  003Point Lobos  031Point Lobos  017What makes this reserve unique is the combination of pasture, woods, rocks, sea and the wildlife that inhabits each.  All located on a dramatic headland jutting out into the Pacific.

Part of the reserve has rolling meadows, wildflowers, land that was used as pasture, and the original gifted Cypress Grove: one of two naturally growing stands of Monterey Cypress trees remaining on Earth.  Lots of little birds inhabit the trees.

Rock formations dot the land and extend out into the sea.  These rocks were uplifted millions of years ago and have been shaped by the waves.

Beautiful sand and gravel beaches and coves, eroded from different types of rocks, surround the landscape.  Seals use some of these as resting places and to care for their pups.

Where the land juts out into the sea, sea otters feed and various types of whales surface and dive offshore in different seasons.  Gray whales are spotted often during their migration.  Occasionally, elephant seals stop here.

We combined several short trails for a four-mile walk one afternoon with dramatic views of the ocean.

A high overlook over the “seal beach” provided an intimate look. Pups were nursing, some were swimming with their moms, and others sleeping.  Once again, we found ourselves hypnotized.  A volunteer was watching over the seals and answering visitors’ questions.

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Just across from this point was the Whalers Cabin, the oldest wood-frame building in Monterey County. It was built using pine and redwood lumber for siding.  Originally the floor was packed earth, but later a foundation was built using six whale vertebrae to support the floor joists.

The Whalers Cabin is now a museum, the Whaling Station Museum.  It contains artifacts from all the groups that once inhabited this land.  Kit, a knowledgeable volunteer, was a wealth of information about the contents of the museum and the reserve.Point Lobos  014

Artifacts include harpoons and other tools used at the whaling station plus lots of information about the operation, as well as some very cool whale bones.

On the other side of the Whalers Cabin we were entertained by a few sea otters swimming around and feeding in the kelp.  They were tough to spot as their little heads blend in with the kelp bulbs.Point Lobos  019

Point Lobos  015Point Lobos  032The North Shore trail followed the high cliffs with great overlooks and then connected to the Cypress Grove trail.  Many of the gorgeous Monterey Cypress trees were covered in bright orange, a green algae that contains the pigment carotene.Point Lobos  029Point Lobos  026Point Lobos  033Point Lobos  024Point Lobos  030

Point Lobos  036Point Lobos  041The last part of our hike was on the Bird Island trail where we found China Cove beach, a beautiful secret beach.  We had a perfect view of the cove but couldn’t get down to it as it was closed off for seal pupping season (through June).  We could see the seals and their pups swimming around.Point Lobos  042




Point Lobos  043The trail then continues to a pointy overlooking rock outcroppings including Bird Island, with tons of birds including cormorants and gulls perched on top.Point Lobos  048



Our day ended with a beautiful sunset over the crashing surf at Sand Hill Cove, another stunning overlook.

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Point Lobos  046Point Lobos  049The one down side of the reserve is, they don’t allow dogs at all due to potential impacts on all the wildlife (party poopers!).  But anyone planning a visit to Monterey should plan to spend a day there.

Point Lobos  045A spectacular place even by the high standards of the area.

~ BrendaPoint Lobos  047


8 thoughts on “Point Lobos State Reserve

  1. Spectacular part of the country. I felt like a shared the day with you. Great descriptions and pictures. Hector, really loved that one sunset pic with purple skya nd rocks. Something about the light…
    Keep it up! Looking forward to visiting northern CA with you. Show me around please.

  2. I’m so glad the seal pups and moms are looked after there and protected. Lovely recount, Brenda, and wonderful photos, Hector…as always. Who knew ice plants grew wild in California?!!

    A big smile and lots of love,

    • They are mostly protected, although there is one beach where there is an ongoing battle as to whether to allow people while they are pupping or not. Ugh.

    • Thanks buddy. Appreciate the love. We are out here in BIG landscape country. Having a blast shooting amazing places. The last few weeks have been awesome!

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