Laws & Policies

Park Ranger
In national parks, laws and policies exist to protect both visitors and resources.

Vintage NPS Photo

Letterhead with Superintendent Andrea Compton's signature, dated May 2020 approving the document for Cabrillo National Monument
Official National Park Service Letterhead with Superintendent Andrea Compton's signature approving the Superintendent's Compendium on April 9, 2020 for Cabrillo National Monument

In accordance with regulations and the delegated authority provided in Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (“36 CFR”), Chapter 1, Parts 1-7, authorized by Title 54 United States Code, the following provisions apply to all lands and waters administered by the National Park Service, within the boundaries of Cabrillo National Monument. Unless otherwise stated, these regulatory provisions apply in addition to the requirements contained in 36 CFR, Chapter 1, Parts 1-7.

Written determinations, which explain the reasoning behind the Superintendent’s use of discretionary authority, as required by Section 1.5(c), appear in this document identified by italicized print.


Closure Order – Portion of a Park Area: Under the authority provided to the Superintendent in 36 CFR 1.5, the follow park areas and facilities may be closed, effective immediately, until further notice, and in accordance with San Diego County and/or California State Public Health Orders pertaining to the COVID-19 response:
  • All buildings and interior exhibits will be closed to visitor use. Lighthouse and associated structures will remain closed. As conditions change in the community relative to COVID-19, and the County and State guidance is adjusted, some buildings may be opened.
  • Visitor restrooms will remain open, however may be temporarily closed for routine cleaning.
  • All parking areas will be limited to approximately 50% of normal capacity, until this restriction is lifted by the San Diego County Public Health Official.
Authority: 36 CFR 1.5(a)(1)
In the event Cabrillo National Monument is unable to adhere to the San Diego County and/or California State Public Health Orders, the following Closure Order may be authorized by the Park Superintendent.
Closure Order – All of a Park Area: Under the authority provided to the Superintendent in 36 CFR 1.5 (a)(1), all lands administered by the National Park Service within Cabrillo National Monument are closed, effective immediately, until further notice.
Authority: 36 CFR 1.5(a)(1)
Notice: This administrative order applies to all individuals subject to the regulatory authority of the National Park Service (NPS) within the boundaries of Cabrillo National Monument, except as follows:
  • Authorized NPS employees.
  • Authorized contractor of the NPS.
  • Authorized partner employee of the NPS.
  • Authorized researchers as approved by the NPS.
  • Authorized employees or contractors of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the City of San Diego solely for the purposes of travelling through the park on paved roads to affiliated adjacent properties.
Finding: The NPS issues this administrative order for the purposes of maintaining public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. This order is consistent with following County of San Diego and State of California public health directives:
  • San Diego County Public Health Order – May 9, 2020

This order is effective immediately and will remain in effect until further notice. The effectiveness of this order will be assessed on an ongoing basis and will be modified or removed when conditions warrant.

Under standard operating conditions, and in the future as the park opens grounds and/or facilities, the following conditions would apply:

(a)(1) The following visiting hours, public use limits, and closures are established:

Visiting Hours:

  • Cabrillo National Monument 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Exceptions as follows for specific park areas:
  • Bayside Trail 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Tidepool Area (Cabrillo Rd.) 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Visiting hours in the Tidepool Area and Bayside Trail are shorter in duration to ensure a park-wide closure at 5 p.m. The park closure includes all park grounds and extends to all visitors, including pedestrians.

Public Use Limits -- Pursuant to §1.5(d) to implement a public use limit, the Superintendent may establish a permit, registration, or reservations system:
  • Tidepool Group Use: The use of the tidepools by groups is not to exceed 120 persons per day on weekdays, and 40 persons per day on weekends and holidays, any time the low tide is 0.7 or lower during park hours. On weekends and holidays groups must car pool. Groups may park in upper park visitor center lot and car pool to the tidepools.

Group sizes are limited to preserve the natural resources – rocky intertidal habitat – on high visitation days, which include weekends and holidays. This group public use limit also assists in maintaining a positive visitor experience for the general public. Groups must make a reservation by obtaining a group tidepool permit.
  • Parking around the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is limited to visitors with physical disability that would inhibit them from otherwise walking to the lighthouse. Visitors must display a disabled placard on their vehicle or obtain a vehicle pass from the Visitor Center. Permit holders must park in the designated disabled parking spaces on the south side of the lighthouse.

The geographic area around the Old Point Loma Lighthouse is limited. It is a high pedestrian traffic area. There are a few designated parking spaces for disabled visitors to provide them access to see the historic building, but allowing additional vehicles in the area will pose a safety hazard and detract from the visitor experience.
  • Leaving property unattended for any period of time requires a permit.

Leaving unknown property unattended in the park area threatens public safety, the environmental and scenic values of the park, the natural and cultural resources of the park and the orderly management of the park. Visitors seeking to leave property unattended within the park must obtain a permit from the Superintendent.


  • Recreational water-related activities such as boating, wading, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, jet skiing and surfing are prohibited. Vessel operation may be granted by permit under conditions set forth by the Superintendent.

The purpose and designation of the tidepool park area is for the exploration and learning about the marine environment and the above activities conflict with that purpose. Some of the above activities also pose a threat to the natural resource and to visitor safety.
  • Launching, landing or operating an unmanned aircraft, or remote vehicle from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Cabrillo National Monument is prohibited except as approved in writing by the Superintendent.
    • Definition: The term "unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., drones, model airplanes and gliders, quad-copters, model rockets, remote controlled cars) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.
  • Tidepools closure: The Superintendent has designated the southernmost section of the park’s tidepool area as critical habitat and closed it to public entry. The closed area extends west 300 yards below mean low tide lower water level and will be clearly posted with Area Closed signs and reflectors.

This closure protects the tidepools flora and fauna from the negative impacts of visitor use and allows the area to recover. The area is used as a control study area for comparison with visitor use areas, and is also an area of scientific research.
  • Sea Cave area closure: The area which lies west of Gatchell Road, Sea Cove Parking and Coast View Parking from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Facility is closed to the public. Included in this area is a sea cave. This closure extends to any manner of entry into the cave, whether through the sea level entrances or through the collapsed ceiling.

This closure is for visitor safety and resource protection. There is no maintained access to the cave, and adjacent cliffs are steep and slippery, especially when wet due to wave action. The cave and cliff areas of the park are prone to landslides and collapse at unpredictable times. Marine mammals may be present and it is illegal to disturb them.
  • Fishing closure: Fishing is not permitted at Cabrillo National Monument or the adjoining Cabrillo State Marine Reserve.

Cabrillo National Monument is an area of exclusive jurisdiction. A California State Marine Protection Act is also in place in park waters, which prohibits fishing for the protection of natural resources.
  • Military Structures closure: The interior portion of all historic U.S. Army structures, including searchlight shelters, the WWII power generating station, and the base-end and battery commander stations, are closed to the public unless they are specifically opened by park staff for interpretive purposes.

This closure protects the historic and cultural resources, including the building structures, as well as historic and cultural property on display with staff presence and supervision. The closure assists in keeping visitors safe. Many of the structures are small spaces and visitation is regulated for safety to prevent too many people in a small area at one time.
  • The Lighthouse tower is closed to the public for the visitor’s safety and the preservation of the structure except on annual events and other special occasions when it is opened and monitored by park staff.
  • Kite flying closure: Kite flying is prohibited in all areas of the park.

This closure protects the cultural and natural resources of the park and provides for an appropriate visitor experience.
  • Antenna uses: Setting up antenna that extend more than 20 feet above the ground or if the antenna is of a size that guide wires must be placed on the ground that create a trip hazard require a permit.

This closure protects the safety of park visitors.
  • Climbing the Cabrillo statue is prohibited.

This closure protects the statue.

(a)(2) The following areas are designated for a specific use or activity and/or the following conditions or restrictions are imposed on a specific use or activity:

Areas Designated for a Specific Use or Activity:

Tidepool Exploration Guidelines: The prime consideration is the safety of tidepool organisms; no plant or animal should be disturbed if there is a possibility of injury. As a general principle, only fully ambulatory or free swimming organisms should be handled, such as hermit crabs. Animals actively swimming or moving away from people, or that resist being handled, should not be pursued or picked up. Any organism which is attached to any surface shall not be removed by force however slight. No plants or algae attached to any surface may be removed from that surface. No containers, such as buckets or cups, may be used to hold tidepool organisms. Any organism which is handled or moved from its position must be promptly returned to its original position and orientation after viewing. Organisms such as octopus, that are fragile, easily stressed or sensitive to light and air should not be handled.

Conditions and Restrictions on Specific Uses or Activities:

Passenger Carrying Busses:
  • Buses must shut down their engines when not underway.

The idling of bus engines adds unnecessary exhaust fumes to the air and diminishes the enjoyment by visitors of the peace and tranquility of the park.

Hiking and Pedestrian Use:
  • Hiking and pedestrian use is restricted to the park’s trails, roads and paved walkway system, which includes the following:
    • Bayside Trail
    • On the maintained and established tidepool access trails on the coastal area west of Gatchell Road and south of the Sea Cove Parking Area .
    • The maintained and established trails between the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Event Bluff, and the Military History Museum
  • Leaving a trail or walkway to shortcut between portions of the same trail or walkway, or to shortcut between portions of the same trail or walkway is prohibited.
  • Natural features such as coastal cliffs are closed to climbing.

Restricting hikers and pedestrians to the park’s trails and walkways helps protect the fragile habitat and natural resources of the park.

  • Bicycling with traditional manual bikes or low speed electric bicycle “e-bikes” are only allowed on roads with public access during park hours.

Definition: 15 U.S.C. 2085 states: “For purposes of this section, the term ‘low-speed electric bicycle’ means a two- or three- wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.”

Bicycling is allowed on roads only, for the safety of park visitors and for the protection of the cultural, historic and natural resources. Bicyclists must walk with their bicycles at other locations.


Activities requiring a permit are listed above under Public Use Limits and throughout this document under the specific 36 CFR Section that authorizes or requires the issuance of a permit.

36 CFR §2.3 – FISHING

  1. Fishing is not permitted at Cabrillo National Monument, an area of Exclusive Jurisdiction. Additionally, the waters of Cabrillo National Monument are protected by an overlapping California Marine Protection Act (MPA) which prohibits fishing in park waters.

2.4 Carry or possess a weapon, trap, or net

(e) The Superintendent may issue a permit to carry or possess a weapon, trap or net for research and certain other circumstances outlined in 36 CFR §2.4 (e) 1-4.
  • Review 36 CFR §2.4 (a) for general weapons provisions in accordance with State and Federal laws.


  1. Taking plants, fish, wildlife, rocks or minerals is prohibited except in accordance with other regulations of Chapter I of 36 CFR or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a specimen collection permit.

Cabrillo National Monument issues permits for specimen collection under certain conditions. Please see the park’s website for permit information, or contact the Natural Resources Management and Science Division.


(a) Camping is not permitted at Cabrillo National Monument.


(a)(1) Prohibits the playing of audio devices or use of generators in a manner that exceeds a noise level of 60 decibels, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.

(a)(2) Operating a power saw in developed areas is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.

(a)(3) Operating any type of portable motor or engine, or device powered by a portable motor or engine in nondeveloped areas is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.

(a)(4) Operating a public address system is prohibited, except in connection with a public gathering or special event for which a permit has been issued pursuant to §2.50 or §2.51.

36 CFR §2.13 – FIRES

(a)(1) The lighting or maintaining of fires is prohibited, except in the following areas and/or receptacles, and under the conditions noted:

Receptacles Allowed:
  • Gas grills/stoves are allowed only in the parking lots or on vehicles.


(a)(2) Using park refuse receptacles or facilities for dumping household, commercial or industrial refuse is prohibited.

(a)(5) Bathing or washing food, clothing, dishes, or other property at public water outlets, fixtures, or pools is prohibited.

(a)(8) In developed areas, the disposal of human body waste is prohibited.

(a)(9) In nondeveloped areas, the disposal of human body waste within 10 feet of a water source, high water mark of a body of water, or a campsite, or within sight of a trail is prohibited.

36 CFR §2.15 – PETS

(a)(1) Possessing pets or comfort animals in public buildings and the following structures and/or areas is prohibited:
  • All areas of the park except trails west of Gatchell Road. Pets must be kept on leash not longer than 6 feet.

(a)(3) Leaving a pet unattended and tied to an object is prohibited.

(a)(5) Failing to comply with pet excrement disposal conditions is prohibited


(a)(3) Delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means is prohibited, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.

(c)(1) The removal of a downed aircraft, components, or parts thereof is subject to procedures established by the Superintendent.


Using roller skates, skateboards, roller skis, coasting vehicles, or similar devices is prohibited.

36 CFR §2.21 – SMOKING

(a) The following portions of the park, buildings, structures and/or facilities are closed to smoking as noted:
  • Cabrillo National Monument is a smoke-free park.
  • All areas of Cabrillo National Monument is closed to smoking.
  • The smoking ban includes electronic cigarettes/vape devices.

In compliance with Executive Order 1358, smoking is banned in federal buildings, and for the enjoyment and health of all park visitors, smoking is not allowed anywhere outside on the grounds of Cabrillo National Monument, including parking lots and trails. This closure is also in effect due to sensitive and dry vegetation, which presents increased risk of fire.

36 CFR §2.22 – PROPERTY

(a)(2) Leaving property unattended for longer than 24 hours is prohibited.
  • Unattended property includes geocaching, which is not permitted.


(b) Recreation fees and/or permits, in accordance with 36 CFR part 71, are established for the following areas and/or for the use of the following specialized sites, facilities, equipment or services, or for participation in the following group activity, recreation events or specialized recreation uses:

Entrance Fee Areas:

Entrance fees are collected at an entrance station located on Cabrillo Memorial Drive. Fees are collected 7 days a week. Daily hours of operation are currently 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Entrance passes are not needed for visitors entering the park at times the entrance station is closed.

Daily Site Use Fee Areas:

Fee Schedule: Vehicle: $20.00 Inter-agency Pass $80.00
Motorcycles $15.00 Senior Pass (Lifetime) $80.00
Bicycles $10.00 Senior Pass (Annual) $20.00
Walk-ins $10.00
Annual Pass $35.00

The collection of recreation fees will be suspended on select days as designated annually by the National Park Service. For information about passes and eligibilities go to


Soliciting or demanding gifts, money, goods or services is prohibited except pursuant to the terms and conditions or a permit that has been issued under §2.50, §2.51, or §2.52.


(a) Using, possessing, storing, or transporting explosives, blasting agents or explosive materials (including fireworks) is prohibited, except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.


(a) Sports events, pageants, regattas, public spectator attractions, entertainments, ceremonies, and similar events are allowed, provided there is a meaningful association between the park area and the events, and the observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park area, and a permit therefor has been issued by the Superintendent.


(b) Demonstrations of more than 25 people are allowed within park areas designated as available under paragraph (c)(2) when the Superintendent has issued a permit for the activity.

(c)(2) The following locations are designated as available for demonstrations:
  • Side walk near the bus stop. (Marked in yellow on Map)
Map showing demonstration area in Compendium


(b)(1) Demonstrations involving 25 persons or fewer may be held without a permit within designated areas as available under §2.51(c)(2) provided they do not violate any permit conditions outlined in §2.51(f).

(b)(2) While it is not mandatory, the organizer is requested to provide reasonable notice of the proposed event to the Superintendent


  1. The sale or distribution of printed matter by more than 25 persons is allowed within park areas designated as available under §2.51(c)(2) (see above) when the Superintendent has issued a permit.
  • The term “printed matter” does not apply to material that is solely commercial advertising.

(b)(1) The sale or distribution activity by 25 persons or fewer may be conducted without a permit within designated areas provided they do not violate any permit conditions outlined in 2.52(e).


(a) Livestock are generally prohibited in any park area. They are only permitted in park areas pursuant to the exceptions provided for in §2.60(a) and only pursuant to the terms and conditions of a license, permit, or lease.


(a) Residing in park areas, other than on privately owned lands, is prohibited except pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit lease or contract.


(a) The installation of a monument, memorial, tablet, structure, or other commemorative installation in a park area without the authorization of the Director is prohibited.

(b) The scattering of human ashes is prohibited.


Permits are required for the use of a vessel pursuant to §1.5 and §1.7, Public Use Limits.


(a)(2) Launching or operating a vessel is prohibited. This includes surfboards, kayaks, jet skis, and other personal watercraft.


  1. A person may operate a PWC only in National Park Units where authorized by special regulation.
Cabrillo National Monument is not a designated park. Personal Watercraft are prohibited under §3.9 and §1.5


  1. The removal of a vessel and its cargo must be done in accordance with the following established procedures:

(b) the owners or authorized salvager of a sunken, grounded, or disabled vessel must remove the vessel, all component parts and equipment, and all associated cargo thereof in accordance with procedures established by the Superintendent as designated in 36 CFR §3.14.


Swimming or wading is not permitted at Cabrillo National Monument under §1.5.


(a) Snorkeling and underwater diving is not allowed at Cabrillo National Monument under §1.5.


The use of manned or unmanned submersibles may only occur in accordance with a permit issued by the Superintendent.


(a) The following load, weight and size limits, which are more restrictive than State law, apply to the roads indicated under the terms and conditions, and/or under permit as noted:
  • Tidepools, Sea Cove, Coast View Parking Areas along Gatchell Road

Due to the stability of the underlying coastal bluff there is a six ton limit on each of these parking areas.


(a), (b) The following speed limits are established for the routes/roads indicated:
  • 15 MPH in all areas of the park except on Cabrillo and Gatchell Roads
  • 25 MPH on Cabrillo and Gatchell roads.

36 CFR §4.30 – BICYCLES

The use of a bicycle is prohibited except on park roads open to public vehicles during park hours as specified above in §1.5. Bicycles riding together may not impede traffic.


Commercial notices or advertisements shall not be displayed, posted, or distributed on federally owned or controlled lands within a park area unless prior written permission has been given by the Superintendent.


Engaging in or soliciting any business in park areas, except in accordance with the provisions of a permit, contract, or other written agreement with the United States, except as such may be specifically authorized under special regulations applicable to a park area, is prohibited.


(a) The commercial transportation of passengers by motor vehicle except as authorized under a contract or permit from the Secretary or his authorized representative is prohibited in certain parks. See §5.4(a) for more information.


(a) Before any motion picture may be filmed or any television production or sound track may be made by any person other than bona fide newsreel or news television personnel, written permission must first be obtained from the Superintendent.

(b)Taking photographs of any vehicle or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising without a written permit from the Superintendent is prohibited.


(b) & (c) Using commercial vehicles on government roads within park areas when such use is in no way connected with the operation of the park is generally prohibited, and requires permission or a permit from the Superintendent.


Such activities are prohibited, except in accordance with the provisions of a valid permit, contract, or other written agreement with the United States.


(a) In certain parks, establishments offering food, drink, or lodging for sale on privately owned lands may only be operated with a permit from the Superintendent. See §5.10 for more information

Last updated: May 19, 2020

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Mailing Address:

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106


(619) 523-4285

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