Bayside Trail offers great vistas of San Diego Bay on an easy hike around Cabrillo National Monument.The hike from Old Point Loma Lighthouse around the point is 2 miles round trip.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, shining a light on this end of California since 1855. (courtesy NPS)
Old Point Loma Lighthouse, shining a light on this end of California since 1855. (courtesy NPS)

Cabrillo National Monument, located on the tip of Pt. Loma, marks the point where Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on California soil. He landed near Ballast Point in 1542 and claimed San Diego Bay for Spain. Cabrillo liked this “closed and very good port” and said so in his report to the King of Spain.

One highlight of a visit to the national monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. This lighthouse, built by the federal government, first shined its beacon in 1855. Because fog often obscured the light, the station was abandoned in 1891 and a new one was built on lower ground at the tip of Point Loma. The 1891 lighthouse is still in service today, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The 1891 lighthouse has been wonderfully restored to the way it looked when Captain Israel and his family lived there in the 1880s.

Bayside Trail begins at the old lighthouse and winds past yucca and prickly pear, sage and buckwheat. The Monument protects one of the last patches of native flora in southernmost California, a hint at how San Diego Bay may have looked when Cabrillo’s two small ships anchored here.

Directions: Exit Interstate 5 on Rosecrans Street (Highway 209 south) and follow the signs to Cabrillo National Monument.

Map of Cabrillo National Monument
Map of Cabrillo National Monument

The hike: The first part of Bayside Trail winding down from the old lighthouse is a paved road. At a barrier, bear left on a gravel road, once a military patrol road. During World War II, the Navy hid bunkers and searchlights along these coastal bluffs.

Bayside Trail provides fine views of the San Diego Harbor shipping lanes. Sometimes when ships pass, park rangers broadcast descriptions of the vessels. Also along the trail is one of Southern California’s most popular panoramic views: miles of seashore, 6,000-foot mountains to the east and Mexico to the south. The trail ends at the park boundary.