Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is an oceanfront park on the coast of Northern California in Carmel, right by Monterey and at the start of what’s known as Big Sur. It has not one but three wheelchair accessible hiking trails with views of the ocean: Granite Point Trail, Sea Lion Point Trail, and the Bird Island Trail.
Parking + Fees
There is an entrance fee but this will be reduced in half if you are a resident of California and holding a disabled state park pass for CA. Even with the fee, it’s worth it. Many people park outside the park, along the roads to avoid fees.
About the Trails
As you enter the park, the trailhead to the Granite Point Trail is right near the ranger station. This trail begins as the Carmelo Meadow Trail and weaves through pine trees for 0.3 miles and then becomes Granite Point Trail along the sea cliff and is 0.36 miles long. During this area, the trail is packed with dirt with some minor dips. This trail is not a loop so once it becomes non-accessible you have to turn around. The pathway at the Sea Lion Point Trail is also packed with dirt and is basically level. The Sea Lion Point Trail is in between the two other accessible trails and is .04 miles long. This loop trail takes you again to this beautiful California coastline where you can soak in the ocean breezes.
The Birds Island Trail is the most scenic of the three, though all are by the ocean and beautiful. The Birds Island Trail is the most difficult too of the bunch as there are slopes to climb. Obviously, for someone in a power wheelchair, this would not be an issue but manual wheelchairs need some muscle to tackle this hike or have someone along who can push. After zigzagging up a hill the trail turns the corner to reveal the ocean and a particular smell. That smell is decades of bird poop because at the center of this trail is a ginormous rock where seabirds hang out. On the way to the rock known as “Bird Island,” you will pass a beautiful beach cove. As you get closer to the island the smell of bird poop intensifies. I decided not to stroll all the way around to reach maximum closeness to the birds. The chemicals from the bird poop burned my eyes and breathing too much in is not good.
All three of these trails are filled with wildlife, like sea lions. At the beginning of the accessible trails are trail indicators, explaining the trail length, width, surface make-up, and grade for the wheelchair hiker. Only one sometimes two handicapped spots are available at these trailheads, so picking less crowded times to visit promotes a better chance to get the handicapped spot. Picnic areas and wheelchair friendly restrooms are near trailheads or close by.
MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg, CA is very wheelchair friendly as well. They have a wooden boardwalk that goes out to the edge of the cliffs in several places where you can watch the seals. I use a chair too and was just there for vacation and it was great. Russian Gulch also had some beautiful trails that were accessible for part of the distance.