With its sparkling jade waters and forested white cliffs, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is often called the "crown jewel" of the state park system. The reserve covers a little over 5 square miles and protects all marine life in the reserve; no fishing within its boundaries is allowed.
Established originally as the Point Lobos Ecological Reserve in 1973, it is one of the oldest "no-take" reserves. Activities such as swimming, kayaking, diving, and snorkeling are allowed.
Along with tide pools, sea lion colonies, and cypress groves, the reserve includes the Whalers Cabin, built in the 1850s to house Japanese and Chinese fishermen.
Starting from the Sea Lion Point parking lot, where you will find an informational booth manned by a ranger or docent and bathrooms, I walked south along the South Shore Trail. This trail is the best for tide pools and is popular with painters and photographers. Just be careful of the waves.
The South Shore Trail terminates at the parking lot for the Bird Island Trail. Bird Island itself is not particularly interesting, just a large bird crap covered rock hanging out in the sea. Other sights along the trail are worth the short .8 mile round trip walk.
On the Bird Island Trail is China Cove, with startling green clear water and white sand. The trail down to the cove is currently blocked to protect harbor seals and their pups, but the cove can be viewed from both sides on the trail.
The plants here belong to the sub-community of northern coastal scrub and have adapted to the extreme conditions of the intense sun or dense fog, shallow soil, and salt spray and wind. Circling back from the point and the crap stained rock of Bird Island, I discovered one of the many natural bridges of Point Lobos.
Going the other direction from Sea Lion Point parking lot is the North Shore Trail. From the North Shore Trail, you can go left onto the Cypress Grove Trail through the Allan Memorial Grove to the Pinnacle. I opted to go right and follow the North Shore Trail to the Old Veteran Trail. Follow the Old Veteran Trail down a staircase for views of Cypress Cove.
Point Lobos is one of two places in the world where Monterey Cyprus continue to grow natively. It's impressive that anything this large could grow on these steep cliffs. Tendrils of moss drip from their branches giving the area an almost jungle-like appearance. An Australian tourist standing next to me when I was taking the shot below called it "Jurassic Parky". I could imagine instead of the pelicans in this shot, a group of pterodactlys hanging out.
The North Shore Trail follows the coast and provides spectacular views around every corner. The trail terminates at Whaler's Cove, a popular SCUBA diving spot. The total trail is approximately three miles round trip from Sea Lion Point to Whaler's Cove.