The Cabrillo Coastal trail is a short and easy hike located within the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, California. The trail is moderately to heavily trafficked and offers great ocean views of the coast along Point Loma and San Diego to the south into Mexico.

Cabrillo Coastal Trail

Cabrillo Coastral trail is a short one mile out and back trail along the coast of Point Loma in San Diego, California. The park for which it resides is famous for its history of its lighthouse as well as showcasing the history of the discovery of San Diego by Spanish explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo sailed into the bay of San Diego which was then named San Miguel in the year 1542. Although San Diego was discovered in 1542, the settlement of the city did not occur until some two hundred years later.

The Cabrillo Coastal trail is great for those looking for a short trail along the coast and people looking to learn a little bit of San Diego’s early history. The trail should optimally be hiked at a low tide to enjoy Point Loma’s coastal tide pools. However, even at high tide the coast view can be refreshing and a great view of coastal sea birds, dolphins, sea lions, and gray whales during certain times of the year. The monument’s website lists the trail as moderate difficulty with a few steep slopes but it is anything but steep. Dogs are also allowed on the coastal trail.

On A Personal Note:

The Cabrillo Coastal trail is extremely short and easy. That’s not to say this trail should never be explored. There is a lot of history at this monument including San Diego’s early past. This should be a bucket list visit for hikers of any level and a great family day. Keep your eyes peeled along the water. It’s not uncommon for sea lions, seals, or pods of dolphins to be seen. During the Gray Whale migration from early winter to spring it is possible to see these mammals off the coast as they make their journey to and from the waters of Alaska. 

Looking for another trail within the monument? There’s the Bayside Trail. This short hike on the opposite side of the monument features beautiful coastal views of San Diego Bay and extending down the coast towards Mexico. The hike offers some great historical information about the European discovery of San Diego.  

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 5% 5%
  • Overall views: 55% 55%
Cabrillo Coastal Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 112 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 12 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 1 mile.
  • My Actual Distance: 0.9 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 30-90 minutes.
  • My Time: 25 minutes. 
Cabrillo Coastal Trail Directions:
Open in maps. The Cabrillo Coastal trail to the Point Loma Tide Pools has two different access points. Price of admission is the cost to the monument. An America The Beautiful Pass is also accepted. To get to the trail follow the road that leads down to the coast. There are two parking lots. The ranger had told me that the southern parking lot fills up quicker than the north one. Park at either one. The trail runs along the coast from one parking lot to the other. During summer months parking can fill up early. Check with the park website to confirm daily and holiday hours before going.
Cabrillo Coastal Trial Pictures:
Who Cabrillo Coastal Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: This hike is perfect for novice hikers and not really that much of a challenge at all. Enjoy the coastal views and make a day out of learning San Diego’s history and learning about marine wildlife.

Advanced Hikers: Not challenging.

Expert Hikers: Not challenging.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Cabrillo Coastal Trail:
This is a great hike year round. Summer months in San Diego can be hot but because the trail lies directly next to the cool Pacific Ocean, there is usually always a light sea breeze that will keep temperatures from getting excessively hot. Santa Ana events can occasionally bring temperatures to the coast in the high nineties to near or over one hundred.

For those Santa Ana events, the close proximity to the ocean will and short duration of this trail will still make this a viable option during extremely hot days. Occasionally San Diego does get some winter weather that brings with it onshore winds; during those storm events be aware of rain and windy conditions. I recommend bringing some form of jacket because the ocean keeps temperatures cooler than even a few miles off the coast. 

Cabrillo Coastal Trail Conditions:
The trail is in great condition and maintained by the National Park Service. The trail is mostly dirt with the exception of some limestone as the trail nears the cliffs/tide pools. Aside from the dirt trail, there is very little elevation gain. The elevation gain that is done is primarily in the form of wooden steps. These steps are not that strenuous at all. The trail is completely exposed to the sun and surrounded by low growing coastal chaparral.

The trail is popular for exploring tide pools of the Point Loma area. The optimum time to view the tide pools is during low tide. If viewing the Point Loma tide pools is something that interests you, be sure to check the tide before you go. During the winter months from December to March there is also the possibility of viewing Gray Whales. During these months Gray Whales make their journey from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to give birth in the warmer waters of Mexico. Although this area is located on a peninsula surrounded by water and civilization, there can still be rattlesnakes in this area.