Whew! Moving is exhausting. We are finally in California! This weekend we finally felt ready to go do some more exploring (other than Ikea). We didn't have to go far - Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is only 15 minutes from our house in Pacific Grove. Here are some stats on our trip:
Point Lobos SNR
Fees: $10/vehicle (Or California State Park Pass)
Parking: limited (especially later in the day, and in summer)
Activities: Hiking/Walking, History, Wildlife viewing
Recommended time: 3-5 hours
Bring: Picnic, Layers (including for wind), sunscreen, water, good shoes, camera, binoculars
Point Lobos is right off Route 1 and easy to get to. We read somewhere that especially on summer weekends, parking inside the park is limited and may require walking in from the road if you arrive after 10am. We arrived shortly before 10am and still found a few spots left at the southern end of the park, but much later and I think we would have been out of luck. When we left the park at 1:30pm, there were cars probably a half mile down Route 1. So get there early if you are lazy. I'm not sure if the cost is free if you walk in.
The admission cost is $10/vehicle to drive in, but if I had planned ahead I would have bought the California State Parks Annual Pass. They sell the "California Explorer" pass at the gate, but not the "Golden Poppy." The "Golden Poppy" pass is $70 less, because it does not include all the cool southern California beaches, which for us, are kind if a far drive anyway. At $125/year, the Golden Poppy pass should easily pay for itself even if we only go to a park once a month. I've bought the pass online now and I will try to keep a tally of how many parks we use it for and how quickly it pays for itself.
A map is not included in the cost of admission (saving paper?), so print one off before you leave here, or buy one for $2. We started from a parking spot near Weston Beach, and headed north. There was no information here, so we just walked and enjoyed the view until we got to the main parking area where there were park rangers and a map. From there we made a plan and headed out around the rest of the point. I'm including a super high tech photo of what we did, so you can see how much ground you can cover in 2.5 hours. We took our time, took pictures, and the walk is easy. I don't feel like this should need to be said, but I saw a few frustrated families with strollers. This hike is family friendly, and even toddlers should be able to handle at least a portion of the walk, but bring a backpack, not a stroller if you want to explore the whole place.
Highlights of the walk were sea lions at Sea Lion Point, the cyprus grove, and the whaling museum. The best place for a picnic lunch is at the southern end of the road, at Hidden beach, with many picnic tables in shade or sun, overlooking the ocean. By the time we reached this area the clouds had started to roll in. If we went back, I would drive all the way to the end and park in the circle, then walk the South Plateau trail to Whaler's Cove, then make my way around the point and back to the car for a picnic. If you want to spend the whole day, you could do some tide pooling or playing on some of the rocky beaches. For a sandy beach, combine this day trip with Carmel River Beach just under a mile away.
Okay, enough words, picture time.