Last week the kids and I headed to Cabrillo National Monument to meet up with friends for a day of hiking and exploring.

Before heading to Point Loma we checked the low tide times because there is supposed to be a great spot for tidepooling. Unfortunately though the high and low tide chart we checked was not accurate, so I recommend calling ahead to see what the low tide times are, which on this particular day were 6pm (one hour after the park was closing). We still managed to have a great day, we must have seeing as we arrived at around 10am and didn't leave until nearly 5pm.

Cabrillo National Monument San Diego
Our first stop was the Visitor Center, where the helpful staff gave us directions to the lighthouse and the hiking trail. There is also an exhibit of wildlife you may come across during your visit, a screening room, and a great selection of books and nature themed activities to purchase.

And you really cannot beat this view.

Cabrillo National Monument
Next, we headed up the short trail to the lighthouse, which is amazing. You cannot walk up the stairs to the very top, but you can walk up high enough to view the bedrooms. There is also an adjacent building that has a replica of the light from the lighthouse as well as other interactive exhibits for the kids.

Cabrillo National Monument lighthouse
We had a quick lunch break before setting off on our hike. The kids absolutely loved the view.

Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument

We then headed off on a short hike. It's approximately a 1.6 mile round-trip, but it's all downhill one way, and so you know what that means … once you turn around at the bottom, it's all uphill to get back to the top again.

Before we'd left the house we printed out Climate Change activity booklets for the kids to do while we were in the park, it's part of the Cabrillo National Monument Junior Ranger Program.

Not long after we started our walk, which begins on a paved road, we came across this:

California Striped Racer
Why yes, that is a snake, in fact it's a California Striped Racer, which we discovered after reading one of the many signs along the trail.

There were lots of cool things for the kids to learn on the trail, with signs posted for various plants and wildlife that might see, there's also a spectacular view over San Diego city, the Coronado Bay Bridge, boats and surfers out on the water.

Cabrillo National Monument with kids
View from Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument flowers
Cabrillo National Monument learning with kids
It was pretty cool being able to show the kids things like the rocks balancing on tree roots, and the tree roots coming down behind the embankment. Unfortunately I didn't get a great photo of them, but you can also see the Fort Rosecrans searchlight bunkers along the trail.

Cabrillo National Monument rock and tree root formations
view from Cabrillo National Monument
wildflowers at Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillot National Monument wildflowers
Once we made it back up to the top and to the Visitor Center, with some very tired kiddo's in tow, we decided to take a little break. There's a lovely shady area between the car park and the Visitor Center with benches and a beautiful view. We brought out some fresh fruit and drinks for the kids and just let them play, rest, and re-energize. They spotted birds and a bunny, and they built nests out of sticks and leaves that they found on the ground. I wish I had have been quicker with my camera, but the girls had just about finished building their nest when a bird landed right next to it and was edging cautiously toward it, but got frightened off.

Cabrillo National Monument with kids

View of San Diego bay from Cabrillo National Monument

We were going to rest just long enough to wait until a film started in the screening room, but realized we had rested too long and had missed the start of it, so instead we hopped into our cars and drove down to the tidepools in the hope that the kids could have a little play at least and explore a few tidepools before the park closed.

Unfortunately though the tide was still well and truly in and the water was very rough. We did let the kids go down though and play at the waters edge, watch the surfers out on the water, and even spotted a sea lion playing in the waves.

Cabrillo National Monument tidepools
Aren't the rocks and cliff just spectacular. Unfortunately though if I had have taken a photograph a little to the left of the first one you would have seen the hoards of flies.

Cabrillo National Monument tidepools

Despite the flies, the kids had a great time.

Cabrillo National Monument with kids
Cabrillo National Monument with kids
Cabrillo National Monument
If you have extra time visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary and the old military Radio Station.

Cost: The cost to enter Cabrillo National Monument park is $5 per car, $3 if you bike or walk in, but your receipt allows you access for 7 days.

Bathrooms: There are bathrooms at the Visitor Center, at the lighthouse and down by the tidepools.

Food: There is a concession area to purchase vending machine snacks and beverages, so bring a picnic lunch. I packed a small cooler bag with ice packs which I was able to leave in the car so I didn't have to carry it on our hike.

Parking: There is a large parking area by the Visitor Center, but it's quite a walk along the road down to the tidepools so you will want to move your car, especially if you have children with you. The tidepool parking is limited, however there is another car park a little further past the tidepool parking.

Tip: Arrive early. The earlier you get there the quicker you will find parking, and there should be almost no line to go into the lighthouse, we didn't have to wait at all.

You can find more information on the Cabrillo National Monument website.

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