Cabrillo National Monument is San Diego’s only National Park property. Originally established in 1913, it memorializes the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542 – the first time a European expedition landed on the west coast of the United States.
The Monument property also houses the Old Point Loma lighthouse, built in 1855. The lighthouse was later replaced with a newer building down along the water’s edge because the old one was frequently obstructed by fog and low hanging clouds. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and adjacent keeper’s house.
During World War II, the Monument and surrounding vicinity were off limits to the public as it was used to house artillery, search lights, and other military installations to protect the San Diego Harbor from attack. Exhibits and remnants of these military artifacts can still be found and explored during your visit.
Behind the old lighthouse is a viewing area situated for watching migrating Pacific Gray whales as they travel South to Baja California in the winter.
Along the western coast of the Monument area are the tidepools – a popular destination for visitors to investigate the numerous creatures that emerge during low tide.
And if all that isn’t enough for you, there’s also a two-mile trail you can hike on the eastern side of the peninsula. The Bayside Trail is a fairly easy trek that will take you along the chaparral and coastal sage scrub cliffside of the Point Loma Peninsula and provide some stunning views of San Diego Bay, Coronado, and the downtown skyline.
Our visit was unfortunately during high tide, so we skipped visiting the tide pools. We headed straight for the Visitor’s Center, then climbed up the path from the parking lot towards the lighthouse to find the trail head. The Bayside Trail began on the northeast side of the lighthouse as a wide paved road that sloped downwards.
The sides of the road were covered in coastal sage scrub brush. Patches of exposed rock were visible as the road curved.
At .3 mile we turned left to continue down the gravel path. There was a well positioned bench here to provide respite to those hikers who found themselves winded after making the ascent on the return trip.
This hike was somewhat unusual in that the entire outbound journey was downhill, and all the climbing was reserved for the return trip. We happily ignored that fact and enjoyed a nice leisurely stroll down the hill, stopping at the many interpretive signs to read about the plants surrounding us and the creatures that inhabited the area. And, of course, we had a constant view of the ocean and San Diego Bay inlet to keep us amused.
At .45 miles the path veered to the left and we could see Coronado ahead of us. As we continued on we began to see the Coronado bridge and the San Diego skyline emerge across the water.
The descent from this point was much more gradual, but we were still travelling noticeably downhill. At .55 miles we found another scenic bench with a bonus survey marker in front of it.
Just beyond, the trail turned leftwards, wrapping inland for a bit. Here, we found some fascinating reminders of the area’s strategic position during World War II. A bunker built in to the side of the cliff housed a large spotlight for use during the War.
A bit further along the path was a building that housed the generator used to power the searchlight.
As we progressed we could see a huge group of various birds converging on a small inlet below us. A mix of gulls, pelicans, terns, and several other birds we couldn’t identify from this distance were all swimming, flying, diving, and generally frolicking about in the water below us.
The trail wrapped inland again, hugging the hillside. We could just make out the Cabrillo Monument on the hilltop ahead of us, wiith people milling about and enjoying the scenic vista at the overlook.
Before long, we found ourselves at another bench, where we paused to eat a snack and enjoy the antics of the birds in the water below us.
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From 5 South or 8 West, take the Rosecrans exit. Go southwest on Rosecrans. Turn right onto Canon Street. Turn left onto Catalina Boulevard. Follow Catalina Boulevard all the way to the end. map
|Total Distance:||2 miles|
|Elevation Change:||380 feet|
|Best Time of Year:||Year Round|
|Dog Friendly?:||Dogs not allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||No bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathroom and water at Visitor’s Center|
|Fees/Permits:||$5 per vehicle entrance fee|