California travel

I Have Never, Ever Seen This View Before ….

Point Lobos State Reserve, Bird Island Trail

Those were Carrieanna’s words, as we reached the first bend of the Bird Island Trail at Point Lobos.

September 8th is a day of personal remembrance for Carrieanna and me, and we chose to spend the day at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel, California. She had learned that there was a newly-opened accessible trail, and we wanted to check it out.

We were delightfully surprised to find a few docents – including a friend of Carrieanna’s – on the Bird Island ADA trail. The docents were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this newly-accessible trail, and were clearly pleased to see so many wheelchair users taking advantage of the beautiful day on the trail!

Point Lobos now has three accessible trails:

Carmelo Meadow Trail (which starts near the Entrance Station and goes to Whalers Cove, where it connects with the partially-accessible Granite Point Trail);

Sea Lion Point Trail and Sand Hill Trail (which we have visited in the past; this photo is from July of 2008); and

Bird Island Trail (which allows a view of China Cove, Pelican Point and Bird Island).

We visited three trails on Saturday: Bird Island, Carmelo Meadows and Granite Point.

Come with us, as we show you what has been called “The greatest meeting of land and water in the world” (per landscape artist Francis McComas).

(Quotes are from the brochure provided upon entry to Point Lobos.  For a map of accessible trails, click here.)


“On the way to the Bird Island overlook, you pass between woods and sea, high above two white sandy beaches – China Cove and Gibson Beach. Both are accessible via long staircases. … China Cove’s sparkling jade-green waters are framed by hanging cliff side gardens.”

“As you walk the loop on Pelican Point, you pass wildflower displays that change seasonally. Here you overlook Bird Island, which becomes a large sea bird colony in spring and summer. Hundreds of Brandt’s Cormorants nest close together on the flat part of the island. Watch for sea otters resting in kelp offshore ….”

(From southern parking area; round trip .8 miles; 30 minutes through coastal scrub; access to 2 beaches, good view of Bird Island and China Cove.)

Able-bodied visitors can use the stairs; wheelchair users roll up the path.

We found a bench and had a picnic, with China Cove as our view.

China Cove, from Bird Island ADA Trail, Point Lobos, CA

China Cove

The cove itself is not accessible; too many stairs.

We knew we were on the right path!

There was a portion of Bird Island Trail without any barrier. It was a steep grade and while scenic, with Gibson Beach to the left and below us, it was the one place along the trail where we did not feel totally safe.

(We mentioned this fact to the docents, who were happy to have our feedback.)

I counted 56 steps from the end of the rope barrier to the bridge.

However, once we rounded the bend, we had this wonderful view!

China Cove, as seen from the south side of the cove.

After enjoying the loop and seeing Bird Island,

we headed back down the trail …

… with a stop to use the clean and accessible restrooms …

… and say “Happy Birthday” to some celebrating ladies!

We then begin our trek along Carmelo Meadow Trail, headed for Whalers Cove.


“This wheelchair-accessible trail winds through an old burn area, across a small stream and through the forest to Whalers Cove. The woods and the adjacent meadow provide cover and protection for the birds and mammals foraging in this forest-edge habitat. “

(From Entrance Station to Granite Point Trail Juncture, through pine woods: .25 mi., 8 min.)

This trail was a bit more rustic than Bird Island Trail.

There was just enough of a decline that Carrieanna often raised her arms

as she “flew” down the path. Wheeeeee!

At the end of Carmelo Meadow Trail we come to Granite Point Trail,which is partially-accessible if you head east/northeast.

So we headed east/northeast.


“Beyond Carmelo Meadow, this partially wheelchair-accessible trail goes through pine woods to Coal Chute Point, a good overlook for observing Harbor Seals and sea otters. Continuing on through the dense, shoulder-high coastal scrub, the path takes you to the edge of a former pasture and then up to Granite Point.”

We were careful to stay away from the (beautiful) poison oak!

We were unable to get as far as Coal Chute Point. However, we did turn our backs on the cove and saw this beautiful monastery!

View of Whalers Cove from Granite Point Trail

Although Carrieanna could not follow the trail to Cannery Point …

Tree roots and a steep uphill grade = not wheelchair accessible.

… she encouraged me to do so.  So I did.

Cannery Point, Point Lobos

Ready to conclude our trek, we strolled / rolled to Whalers Station Museum, where a kind stranger took our photo.

Whalers Station

“These bones are from whales that washed ashore at Point Lobos and Garrapata.You are looking at the remains of a Fin, Humpback, and two Grays.”

We then headed back up the road to our parked car, grateful for a day of adventure and beauty.

Point Lobos State Reserve, we love you!

By Jeri Murphy

Traveler, writer, photographer, former wedding officiant, mother, friend, explorer and new Texian ... that's just a little about me!

10 replies on “I Have Never, Ever Seen This View Before ….”

This is a terrific piece of work Carrrieanna. I am looking forward to you joining the Docent Corps in May. You will bring not only your love and enthusiasm for Point Lobos, but a much needed new perspective on the Reserve and the Docent Program. You are, quite literally, a trail blazer.


What a beautiful, inspiring chronicle of your day at Point Lobos as you ventured out on all of our ADA trails at Point Lobos. Thanks to both of you, Jeri & Carrieanna


Thank you, Alex. I hope others will be inspired to get out and explore Point Lobos. And having Carrieanna as one of the docents, with her enthusiasm and first-hand experience, will certainly be an “added value”!


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