It took a Tasmanian watercolorist to adequately describe it, but I think he did a nice job.
“The greatest meeting of land and water in the world,” is how Francis McComas saw Point Lobos, the 1,200 acres of land and water that jut off the Pacific Coast just south of Monterey. It is now a state nature reserve, both the 554 acres of land and the 775 underwater acres too, and it is quite a sight.
It gets overshadowed at times by its larger, more renowned neighbor to the south, Big Sur, but Point Lobos is worth a visit too, for some pleasant day-hiking and a picnic stop. There are over a dozen trails, and a perimeter walk goes for about six miles. You can add to, or shorten, that amount by jumping on some of the inland looping paths that meander back and forth. And that’s really what this reserve is – a wandering, weaving mass of land and water. I counted at least ten different coves and nearly as many beach areas. This is a hands-on type of coastal reserve, with the ability to climb out onto the rocks in the ocean, look for sea life in the tidal ponds and literally watch portions of the park ebb and flow with the ocean’s movements.
One moment you’re on a rocky stairway path down to a cove or a beach, and the next you might be inland amidst a lush grove that completely blocks out the sounds and sights of the ocean. It is place with many faces, all easily open for exploration. Very family-friendly too, but no dogs though. There’s little climbing or steepness and the trails are all wide enough and accessible for all levels of hikers.
One of the main attractions is the cypress grove, which features one of the only two remaining natural-growth Monterey Cypress groves left on the planet. The other one is just up the road by Carmel Bay. These trees have been tickled and kissed by the wind for hundreds of years and their gnarled shapes reflect that intense interaction. Saving this grove was the original reason behind the preserve coming into conservation status more than 100 years ago. The gentleman who had purchased the land enabled it to become a state park property about 80 years ago.
Point Lobos is as much about the geology and the mosaic of the landscape as it is about the animals, although the search for sea otters, harbor seals and gray whales is what draws in lots of people initially. Bring your binoculars and your windbreaker and find a place along the coast to scout for marine life as well as animals overhead. I’m more into the rocks and trees side of these places, and the displays of lichen, live oaks and those cypresses are worth the price of admission (yes, it’s a state park so there is a fee).