Point Lobos is a jewel among the State Parks for the whole family with four accessible wheelchair trails.
The park opens throughout the year at 8 a.m. but closes before sunset to protect the wildlife and to avoid disturbance (like deer, foxes, bobcats, and owls). Camping is not permitted. Clearer skies, warmest average temps and the best moths without fog are September and October followed by April and May during the harbor seal pupping season.
Crowds in Summer
This magnificent and popular State Reserve is located close to Carmel on HW 1. Point Lobos is a year-round destination and super busy during summer and especially at weekends. Limited parking within the reserve; 150 cars only. At weekends and especially Sundays during summer it’s advisable to arrive before 9 a.m. or later in the afternoon. Otherwise, you have to line up or park your car outside on the shoulder and walk in.
If possible visit the reserve mid-week. However, Point Lobos is also much loved by school classes due to the many opportunities to experience and learn about nature and wildlife. The foundation supports schools with transportation and offers adventure programmes for 8 to 12 years old youth in summer which fills up soon.
It’s a moderate cool coastal climate. The average temperature ranges from about 55 to 65°F / 13-18 °C year-round. Spring is sunny and cool before the foggy summer season starts with fog until the afternoon. Fog banks emerge from the cold water (around 50 °F / 10°C) and the warm coastal air to condense into fog. Fall (September to November) is the sunniest time of the year although evenings are more chilly. During the winter mist and showers occur between November to March.
Harbor Seal Pupping Season
From March until June you may spot harbor seals giving birth to a puppy at China Cove. It’s amazing that the new-borns start to swim just 20 minutes later. The best months to witness this spectacle are April and May.
Southern Sea Otters
They may be spotted offshore in the kelp beds during calm days. On windy days they are more often found in protected coves. They are living in waters with a temp between 35°F and 60°F / 1,5°C up to 15,5°C. This is important for their constant body temp of almost 100 °F / 37°C. They mate and give birth in the sea throughout the year with a peak of pupping from January to March, fewer from August to October.
They can be spotted throughout the year. Perfect spots to observe whales are South Point and Sea Lion Point.
Grey whales are most commonly seen from late December to January and again from March until early May.
Humpbacks are frequently seen from March until December.
- Minke whales are sometimes spotted from January until April. They migrate in larger numbers but due to their smaller seize often missed.
- Blue whales are sometimes spotted in summer.
Orcas; three different species of orcas can be found. The transient orcas feed on mammals, therefore, frequently seen when gray whales migrate with their calves their preferred prey. They can also be spotted at other times of the year hunting seals, porpoise, and dolphins. The resident orcas feed on fish especially salmon and always stay in the same area. Nowadays resident orcas from Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca can be found around Monterey. The offshore orcas are mostly seen during winter feeding on squid, fish and even sharks.
The sea lion population is much smaller in late spring and summer due to migration to the south for mating.
Spring and summer is the nesting season. The bird island trail is great to spot lots of birds in the morning or late afternoon. Two cormorant species can be found year-round; nesting on rocks offshore from March to August. We spotted several birds like the scrub jay and dark-eyed junco.
The wildflower season in spring; California Poppies, Douglas Iris, lilac Ceanothus and many more
A permit is required, and reservations can be made up two months in advance. 15 diving teams always two divers are allowed to dive at Whalers Cove and Bluefish Cove each day. Some caves are accessible in calm seas. Diving map of Point Lobos State Reserve
Where to Stay (bookmark the links)
Unfortunately, there isn't any campground or accommodation offered inside the reserve. The best-located hotel is the Hyatt Carmel Highlands with spectacular views. Nearby is the popular town of Carmel with a vast variety of hotels and lodges. An alternative and half an hour drive is Salinas. We'd chosen the Super 8 Salinas where breakfast is included.
The Valley of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park established in 1935. It is famous for bright red Aztec sandstone formations and petroglyphs.
The Valley of Fire just an hour drive from Las Vegas is quite popular. The winter time is the quietest. Best light for photography at sunrise and early morning as well as later in the afternoon and during sunset. If you plan to visit the park come here for the entire day and bring your lunch in a cooler.
Weather / Climate
The summer is boiling with daytime temperatures ranging from 38°C / 100°F to 49°C / 120°F. Thunderstorms and heavy showers can occur. The winter is mild with pleasant temps up to 24°C/ 75°F and freezing nights. Occasionally rain can occur during this time of the year. The best seasons to visit the desert are spring and autumn.
Busier during the best weather conditions in spring and fall, especially from February to late May. Both campgrounds are filled up before midday. Weekends are more crowded than weekdays. Less busy in the summer; many visitors want to avoid the boiling heat during the daytime. The winter is also an option to enjoy the scenery almost alone. Anyhow, it’s a State Park and not a National Park, therefore often underestimated. Limited parking at all stops: Arrive either early (before 9 a.m.) or late (after 6 p.m.) during the peak season.
Opening Hours for the Valley of Fire State Park and Visitor Center
The park is open from sunrise to sunset and the Visitor Center from 8.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. It's a small but nice visitor center. They provide you with information about the history and a map as well. A short film about the State Park is shown.
Highlight During Spring
In spring several plants like the desert marigold, indigo bush or desert mallow are in full bloom.
Pay attention to the speed limit; the Hwy is frequently patrolled!!
Accommodations Nearby in Las Vegas
Due to the close proximity to Las Vegas, many day-trippers come to the Valley of Fire. Even if you don't plan to camp here, it's worth to drive one hour. Vegas offers all types of accommodations; here is a list of the Top 10 Hotels in Las Vegas. Bookmark the link to get the best rates for your stay.