Point Lobos State Reserve is a piece of heaven literally carved out of the cliffs of the Pacific Coast. It is located about 3 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea and is one of the most scenic wildlife reserves in the world. The reserve is home to a total of 225 species of birds and over 200 species of plants, including rare endemic species. The park is also home to harbor seals that sun themselves on local rocks and it is also a great spot for people interested in whale watching.

The sea lions are the main attraction at Point Lobos. But that’s ok; they’re pretty amazing. (And a lot easier to get close to than the sea lions at the Strait of Georgia). The sea lions congregate on the rocks of Sea Lion Point (hence the name) to bask in the sun, eat, and socialize. The sound of a sea lion barking never fails to bring a smile to our faces.

A stunningly beautiful hiking trail in Point Lobos State Reserve, the Sea Lion Point Trail leads visitors from the headlands to the coves and shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. The trail itself is just under a mile in length, but the journey is a truly memorable one. It’s also a great workout, thanks to the steep grades. (Note: If you can’t think of a blog post off the top of your head, you can always just search for blogs that have the word “blog” on them and write an intro paragraph for a blog post that has the exact same title as theirs. Most blogs have at least one post that has the word “blog” on it.) Example Text The following is a paragraph I

The beautiful Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos State Nature Preserve is one of the most beautiful short hikes you can take on the north side of the Big Sur coast. The park is located south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. One of our favorite Point Lobos hikes, the Sea Lion Point Trail, is one of the most popular trails in the park. This route will appeal to families with young children, photographers and animal lovers. Expect to share the trail with other hikers during the day. word-image-5961 Are you planning a hike on the Sea Lion Point Trail? Find out what to expect and what you need to know before your trip!

Table of Contents What can you expect to see on the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos State Park? Basic information about the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos How to get to the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos How long does it take to walk the Sea Lion Point Trail? What to bring for a hike at Sea Lion Point Tips for hiking the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve

What can you expect to see on the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos State Park?

The highlight of the route is Sea Lion Point, where you can see (and hear!) sea lions. They crowd onto the rock islands off the coast, and their loud barking can be heard far in front of the lookout. word-image-5962 While sea lions are undoubtedly the main attraction of this walking trail, be sure to keep your eyes peeled as you walk from the parking lot through beautiful cypress trees and a variety of coastal flora.

Cape Bay

You may see squirrels running along the path and songbirds in the vegetation. Birds of prey can often be seen in the air. In season, a variety of wildflowers offer color, as do fragrant gray sage, lupine in various colors, and California evergreens. word-image-5963 Headland Cove appears on your right almost immediately after passing the cypress trees. On a sunny day, the view of the water and rocky coastline is breathtaking. Look out for sea lions in the rocks at the water’s edge and sea otters in the kelp.

Sea Lion Bay

Just around the bend is Sea Lion Bay, and here you will see many sea lions on the rocks in the water. You’ll need binoculars or a zoom lens to see them properly, but you can hear them barking! At the time of our visit there was a guide present with a telescope who answered questions and gave us a very good view of the animals through the telescope. He also showed us where to look for seals in the bay below. The water between the observation platform and the sea lion rocks is called the Devil’s Cauldron and is characterized by a strong boil. The rock formations are also beautiful. The view in both directions is beautiful. word-image-5964 If you get a chance, walk down the stairs to the right to see more views in both directions. There are stairs that lead to the beach, but they were still closed when we were there, probably because of the high waves. If it’s open and you want to go down, watch the waves.

Sand Hill Cove

If you turn right at the fork to the Sand Hill Trail, you’ll walk around the sand hill and get more views of the southern part of the park and see more colorful lupine bushes and wildflowers in season. Shrub lupine usually reaches its peak in May: We saw yellow, purple and a mixture of red and yellow. word-image-5965 Sand Hill Cove is on the right, and you’ll see a fork in the road to the South Shore Trail, one of the best hiking trails in Point Lobos. Follow the Sandy Hill Trail to return to the parking lot.

Important facts about the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos

The Sea Lion Point Trail is a 0.6 mile round trip hike. This is a wide, well-maintained, easy, unpaved trail with less than 20 feet of elevation gain. This route is suitable for most visitors to Point Lobos State Reserve. You can hike the Sea Lion Point Trail alone, or you can easily combine it with the short Sand Hill Trail and hike around the hill back to the parking lot. word-image-5966 With the exception of stairs and the lower portion of the trail and beach, the Sea Lion Point Trail and Sand Hill Trail are fully accessible to wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. The trail can be used year-round, although the stairs and lower part of the trail may be closed in case of bad weather or heavy waves. Bicycles and pets are not allowed on the trail. word-image-5967

How to get to Sea Lion Point Trailhead at Point Lobos

The end of the Sea Lion Point Trail is near the Cypress Grove/Sea Lion Point parking lot. From the information booth, go straight ahead on the park road: this is the first parking lot you see. From the parking lot, follow the path to the cypress trees. Here’s the map. The toilets are located in the parking lot. word-image-5968 Please note that parking in the park is charged. At the time of writing, the total fee is $10 per vehicle. If you come, it’s free. The parking lot at Point Lobos State Reserve fills up quickly, especially on weekends, so come early in the day or in the afternoon. On our last visit, we arrived around 2pm on a beautiful spring day and had no trouble finding a spot in the Sea Lion parking lot. If the parking lot at Cypress Grove is full, try to find a spot in the South Shore Trail parking lot a little further south. Take the short stretch from South Shore Trail to Sand Hill Trail and loop in the opposite direction. word-image-5969 Visitors can also park on the side of Highway One if the park parking lot is overcrowded, but the Sea Lion Point trailhead is a short distance away, a short distance along the park road and a short distance along the Lace Lichen Trail. Pay attention: Highway 1 is very narrow and we have seen people get fined for parking on the side of the road. Please park in the designated parking areas, do not leave your car on the sidewalk and watch for traffic as you walk across the road to the entrance. word-image-5970

How long does it take to walk the Sea Lion Point Trail?

You can walk the trail in about 20 minutes, but we recommend stopping for at least an hour to enjoy the views, watch the marine life and birds, and take lots of pictures. The sea lion lookout is the perfect place to take a video with your smartphone of the sound of the waves and the barking of the sea lions. The observation deck has a perfectly placed bench where you can even sit and have a snack while admiring the view. word-image-5971

What to bring on a walking tour to Sea Lion Point


There are water fountains in the parking lot at Cypress Grove/Sea Lion Point, so bring a bottle of water. You cannot buy bottled water in the park.

Food and refreshments

The Sea Lion Point Trail is a short circular hike, so you won’t need food. However, if you plan to spend the day at Point Lobos State Reserve, bring a picnic lunch and snacks, as you cannot buy food in the park. word-image-5972

Digital camera with zoom lens

If you want to photograph sea lions, bring a camera with a good zoom. You’re too far in the water for pictures taken with a smartphone. We usually take our Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 camera with us on camping trips. It’s a pocket camera, but with a 30x zoom, and we get good pictures of birds and wildlife with it. However, on a recent visit we took a heavier camera with full zoom. word-image-5973


Don’t forget to bring binoculars on your walk to Sea Lion Point. We love our Celestron Trailseeker compact binoculars, which are waterproof and work well in low light. If you haven’t brought binoculars, you can borrow them from the park’s visitor centre. You may get a chance to meet a park guide with a telescope on the observation deck: This viewer is really powerful and allows you to get really close to the creatures.

Sunscreen and insect repellent

Most of the course is outdoors, so don’t forget your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. Also bring insect repellent if you are sensitive to bites.

Tips for hiking the Sea Lion Point Trail at Point Lobos State Reserve

Spring visit

The Sea Lion Point Trail can be hiked at any time of year, but if you come in the spring, you’ll likely see many wildflowers along the route. The blooming flowers and bushes were a highlight of our walk on this trail in mid-May. Spring also offers clear days with breathtaking water views. word-image-5974

Arriving too early or too late to find a parking space

Point Lobos State Reserve is a very popular park, especially on holidays and weekends. Come early in the morning or late in the evening if you want parking near the trailhead. In the early and late afternoon there are also less people on this popular circuit.

Arrival after summer

The north-central coast of California is known for its marine layer that is especially present on summer mornings. It usually goes out around noon, so come later in the day for a nice view of the water. word-image-5975

Give more time than you think you need

The Sea Lion Point Trail is beautiful, and you will definitely want to linger there for a while if you visit it on a nice day. Plan more time than you think, not only on this trail, but on your visit to Point Lobos in general.


The Big Sur coastline can be cool year-round, especially at the beginning and end of the day. Don’t forget to bring a light jacket or windbreaker to keep you warm on the hike. word-image-5976

Hiking clothes

Wear shoes with closed toes and good traction, especially if you plan to use the lower trail. Long pants and long sleeve clothing are recommended to protect your skin from the poison ivy found on all trails in the park. The job is immaculate every time we visit. So stay in the middle of the path to avoid the three leaves. word-image-5977 Do you like walking on scenic trails? Check out our other articles on hiking trails in California! Did you find this article informative? Save it for later! word-image-5978The drive from Carmel to Monterey Bay is a straight shot on Route 1, with views of the ocean along the way. Once at the entrance to the reserve, you’ll need to pay a small entrance fee ($8 per adult) to enter the park. If you’re planning a trip to Monterey later in the summer, be sure to check the reserve’s schedule for the sea lion migration, during which you can view and photograph the animals from the safety of a beach on the reserve.. Read more about point lobos state reserve open and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the sea lions in Carmel?

A good place to find sea lions is the Sea Lion Point Trail in Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, home to a large colony that moves freely from one part of the beach to the other. The route is both scenic and easy with an ocean view from the top. John Steinbeck once wrote how he felt the sea lions at Sea Lion Point were the “oldest creatures of the rocks.” That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but few other trails in Point Lobos State Reserve offer such a rare glimpse into the lives of this endangered species. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll still see a lot of scrawny strays wandering around the park, but for a more comprehensive tour, we suggest starting at the Sea Lion Point Trail.

Is Sea Lion Point Trail closed?

Is Sea Lion Point Trail closed? You may have heard the news that a mountain lion was spotted in Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, CA. While there are no plans to close the park, visitors are advised to use caution when hiking on the trails. (And you could probably use a little more caution in your own life too!) Point Lobos is one of the most beautiful state parks in California, and there are many other great hiking trails that are perfect for families. While the Sea Lion Point Trail in Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel is not technically closed, it has been the source of some controversy due to the actions of a few local residents. The trail has been closed on occasion in the past due to the presence of aggressive sea lions, but the issue has reignited recently with plans for a hotel in the area. While the California Coastal Commission has approved the hotel, it has not yet been built and may never be for a number of reasons.

How long is the Point Lobos hike?

The Sea Lion Point Trail in Point Lobos State Reserve is a 1.3-mile out-and-back hike that takes you to a popular destination in the park. Along the way, you’ll pass by a plethora of native plants and animals. Located in Carmel, California, the reserve is a geological wonderland. There are many of hiking trails in Carmel, California, including the Ocean View Trail, and the less steep Sea Lion Point Trail. The hike that will be discussed in this blog is the Point Lobos State Reserve hike. This hike is one of the most scenic in all of Carmel thanks to its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The distance of this hike is not short, but it is not incredibly long either. Hikers should plan to spend about one to two hours on this trail, depending on how long they take to stop and enjoy the views.

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