The coastal trail at Cabrillo National Monument is a short one-mile round trip hike ranging from easy to moderate difficulty due to a few steep slopes. You can find this trail on the west side of the peninsula, which leads to the tidepool access area. This trail can be started from the entrances at Lot 1 or Lot 2 off of Gatchell Rd. Take Cabrillo Rd. from the main entrance of the park to Gatchell and park at either lot.
The trail is classified as a Class 3 and and a Class 5 trail. The entrance at Lot 1 and at Lot 2 are Class 5 trails while the middle section is a Class 3 trail.
On this trail you’ll find wide, easy paths with an amazing coastal view. The easy paths lead to steep stairs. Keep in mind this trail is constantly impacted by erosion and some of the stairs are uneven and rugged. It is not possible to take strollers etc. on this trail.
Look upslope to the east and you’ll see native Mediterranean Coastal Sage Scrub and Maritime Chaparral plants. This native vegetation was once abundant in southern California but development has left very little acreage remaining. You may see rangers and volunteers pulling invasive weeds in this area and in other parts of the park. One recent project led to the resurgence of native sea dahlia (pictured below).
Along the trail you will walk over the “hump”. This part of the trail leads away from the tidepools, if you are starting from Lot 1.
As you continue along towards Lot 2, you will climb steps leading to the top of the trail. Notice how the climate changes as you ascend to the top.
Shortly after reaching the top of the stairs, you will come across an underground searchlight shelter, No. 15, from World War II. What you are looking at is the sliding roof. Make sure you stay off the roof as it is very unstable. This is the only searchlight shelter that is visible within the Park.
Continuing on toward Lot 2, you will see the Spur Trail to the left. This trail leads down to an additional access point for the tidepools as well as great ocean viewing.
This coastal area is also the only area in the park where leashed dogs are allowed. It is popular with local dog walkers, runners, hikers and those who just want to take in the view and fresh coastal breezes. Keep in mind, there are no trash cans along the trail. Please pick up after your dog. Restrooms are located at Lot 1. Enjoy your hike!
Last updated: November 20, 2021