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Often dubbed as one of California’s most spectacular state parks, a trip to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is not to be missed when you’re road tripping through The Golden State. The closest town to this nature-lovers haven is Carmel-by-the-Sea, but it’s also easily accessible from Santa Cruz, San Jose, and you can even reach it from San Francisco in less than three hours.
One main reason people choose to book an RV in Monterey County, and why this area of California is so special, is its unique natural features, which in turn attract a diverse range of animals. In its limestone rocks and open meadows, you’ll find gray foxes, raccoons, and possibly mountain lions, while its turquoise blue waters are home to whales, sea otters, sea lions and more. Whether you’re looking for a weekend of hiking, diving, or wildlife spotting, you’re bound to have great fun when you rent a camper at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
There’s no doubt that while you’re camping near Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, you’re going to see plenty of wildlife, no matter how you spend your time. Hiking is a fantastic option for those that want to explore everything the park has to offer on land, including countless forests and seaside cliffs. The reserve is home to 13 different trail, some of which are more challenging than others. No matter what your ability level, make sure to set aside a morning to walk the one-mile-long Cypress Grove Trail, where the park’s rugged coastline is revealed. This is also an excellent choice for seeing sea lions bathing in the sunshine and maybe a family of sea otters too. A free trail map can be picked up from the visitor center, which is a great resource to help you make the most out of your time there.
No Point Lobos State Natural Reserve camping trip would be complete without a dip in its wildlife-rich waters. In fact, there are more than ten designated diving spots to choose from that include swimming through kelp forests, coral reefs, and seal colonies. Diving spots do need to be reserved in advance and get filled up quickly. You’ll also need to have SCUBA qualifications, and all of your own gear as no lessons are offered here. If you’re not experienced in the diving world, there is the chance to go snorkeling in the waters – these spots must also be reserved in advance, and snorkellers must venture out in pairs.
With all of the plentiful wildlife hanging around in reserve, visitors often forget that the area is a magnet for varied birdlife too. If your motorhome camping nearby, aim to arrive as early as possible before the heat of the days draws in, and the crowds of people appear. This will be your best chance for spotting some of the rarer species. A specific trail that has aptly been named the Bird Island Trail is the best place to start with the Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, various Cormorants, and Acorn Woodpecker spotted regularly.
As a means of preservations, RV camping at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve isn’t permitted. There are, however, a few scenic campgrounds not too far away, located along the banks of the Carmel River.
Saddle Mountain Ranch is around a 15-minute drive from the state park and is home to 22 RV-friendly campsites. Along with full hook up facilities for your RV rental, campers can make use of a good cable TV connection, free WiFi, outdoor swimming pool, and modern restrooms. With the great Saddle Mountain in your back garden, a children’s playground, several recreational trails, and a volleyball area, you’ll have heaps to keep your entertainment when you’re camping with an RV here.
Just down the road from here is the Carmel by the River RV Park, which boasts similar amenities. Along with full hookup sites, campers have the choice of more basic and private sites that have access to water and electric hookups. The general store on-site is always handy for picking up any last-minute bits and bobs, and if you’ve got a dog, you’re in luck! A designated dog run zone is the perfect space to let your four-legged friend run wild.
Having an RV rental near Point Lobos State Natural Reserve not only allows you to explore the fantastic state parks nearby, including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Garrapata State Park, but you can also visit some of the state’s best indoor attractions.
One of these is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a great option for a fun-filled family day out. Opened in 1978, it was one of the first institutions in the area to focus on preserving and maintaining the underwater habitats in the local area, including the first kelp forest. All in all, the center displays more than 550 species of animals in high-tech and innovative ways. As well as indoor tanks that utilize the seawater, huge glass windows allow visitors to see a glimpse into the natural sea world.
The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is a fantastic option if you’re searching for a historical attraction. First built in 1797, this is one of the oldest and most well-preserved Catholic churches in the state. Though it remains an active place of worship, the church also houses a museum that preserves and celebrates the area’s local history, including the town’s pioneer families and critical religious artifacts.
To continue the theme of historic buildings, Point Pinos Lighthouse sits just north of Carmel-by-the-sea and is considered to be one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses on the entirety of the West Coast. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s worth joining a quick guided tour around the building that are available Thursday to Monday.