Bird Island & China Cove Trail — Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, CA

The short Bird Island trail that loops around the China Cove area of Point Lobos is the perfect trail to see marine wildlife and access soft sandy beaches. In addition to numerous sea birds, if you go in April or May, you might even be able to watch the harbor seals and their adorable baby pups!

 

Hike Info

Elevation Change: 37 ft
Trail Type: Loop

Date: 4/28/2017
Miles: 0.8 miles (roundtrip)
Trailhead: Google Maps

 

Getting There

There is an 8$ fee to enter Point Lobos by car. Get there early, since all of the parking lots fill up quickly, especially if you go on a nice weekend day. You can also park on the main highway and walk in, although the China Cove area is the furthest south from the entrance.

 

The Hike

From the parking lot, the trail starts climbing up and over a hill, with views of the water directly below you.

The view from the parking lot - so many shades of blue

The view from the parking lot - so many shades of blue

The start of the Bird Island hike

Once on the trail, it is only a couple switchbacks over the ridge before your first sighting of China Cove.

The iconic emerald green waters of China Cove

The iconic emerald green waters of China Cove

The cove itself is calm and colorful. There is typically a staircase that allows you to access the beach and swim in the cove, but during seal pupping season, beach access is closed to minimize disturbances to the new pups. That day we spotted at least 7 different pups and their mothers on the sand and in the water!

Looking down onto China Cove beach from the side of the cliff

Looking down onto China Cove beach from the side of the cliff

Little lumps of adorableness

Little lumps of adorableness

Continuing past China Cove, the trail then splits off to either Gibbons Beach to the left and Pelican Point to the right. Gibbons Beach is also a great beach with easy access and calm water to swim in.

Looking down Gibbons Beach

Looking down Gibbons Beach

Heading right towards Bird Island

Heading right towards Bird Island

Gorgeous coastal views in every direction

Gorgeous coastal views in every direction

Once reaching Pelican Point, there is a viewing deck, and a park volunteer with a telescope let us look at the cormorants, gulls, pelicans and herons on the islands.

Getting a closer look at the colony of birds on the island closest to the deck

Getting a closer look at the colony of birds on the island closest to the deck

One of my favorite hikes in the park
Headed back towards China Cove and the parking lot

Headed back towards China Cove and the parking lot

Although the coastal views are top notch from any spot in Point Lobos, this area is one of my favorite parts because of all the different kinds of marine wildlife in this section of the park. Don't forget a swimsuit in the summer!

Other useful sites:

The Outdoor Project

Trails.com