Be Cabrillo!

Hiking, Tide Pooling and Whale Watching in Cabrillo National Monument

A big year lies ahead. Why not start it off with an explorer’s mind-set? Be Cabrillo! Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, that is, the first foreign visitor (1542) to America’s finest city. Honor his legacy with some San Diego tide pooling, whale watching, and 3.5 miles of walking at the park that bears his name: Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.

After entering the park, follow signs to the tide pool parking lot (be sure to check the tide charts for low tides, i.e., the best accessibility). Take a 1-mile (round-trip) out-and-back walk on the coastal trail, stopping off at the rocky beaches to search for hermit crabs, bat stars, shore crabs, sea anemones, and maybe even an octopus. Admire the barnacles below and the sandstone bluffs above as you walk along the sea cliffs with a gorgeous Pacific Ocean backdrop.

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Then drive back up the hill and park at the visitor center to learn more about Cabrillo. Walk in his footsteps and relive his 1542 discovery of what is now San Diego, enjoying panoramic views of San Diego Bay, Coronado, and downtown.

Next, head south toward the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (built in 1855) and Whale Overlook, a perfect spot to scan the waters for migrating Pacific gray whales. (You can borrow binoculars from the visitor center.) Ready for another walk? Head to the Bayside Trailhead just north of the lighthouse and follow the paved road a half-mile to the dirt trailhead. Here the path descends for a mile through coastal chaparral to an overlook above Ballast Point and the boats and kayaks in the bay. Along the way are numerous interpretive signs and benches with great views as well as a searchlight shelter and power plant, built in 1919 as part of the naval harbor’s defense system. The hike back is all uphill, but you don’t care. You’re an explorer. You’re Cabrillo!

From San Diego, take the I-8 west until it ends, turning left onto Sunset Cliffs, followed by an immediate left onto Nimitz Blvd. Head south on Nimitz for 0.6 mile, turning right onto Famosa Blvd., which becomes Catalina Blvd. Continue 5.3 miles to Cabrillo National Monument. Parking is $10. No dogs.

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