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Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park

Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park sits on a headland that juts dramatically into the ocean; pounding waves have cut channels to the north and south, almost rendering it an island. The park covers 270 acres of coastal bluffs and prairie, and many of the light station's original buildings (light tower, three keeper's residences, coal buildings, carpentry shop, smithy, and oil house) still stand today. The buildings and the light’s fresnel lens have been extensively restored, along with the surrounding native habitat, thanks to a collaboration between the State Coastal Conservancy, State Parks, and the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association, a nonprofit organization created to manage the preserve’s programs as well as the restoration work. The British-made third order fresnel lens is unusual: It is clear rather than the blue hue used in the more prevalent French-made lenses. Only two other British-made lenses remain in operation in the United States. The lightkeeper’s house and two cottages (one wheelchair-accessible) are available as vacation rentals.

The waters around the headland were an important food source for Pomo Indians, who harvested their abundant sea life, including abalone and mussels. Today, these waters are part of the Point Cabrillo State Marine Conservation Area, and no plants or animals may be removed.

Trail/Pathway Details

Pathway from lower lot to lighthouse

Trailhead: Lower parking lot

Length: Less than .5 mile

Typical Width: 30 in. to 4 ft.

The park access road is greater than four feet wide.

Typical Grade: Level

If you park in the upper lot and hike the half-mile access road to the lower parking lot and lighthouse, there are some slopes greater than 8 percent.

Terrain: Firm

At the lower parking lot, for a gentler ride to the lighthouse, take the asphalt path that runs parallel to the gravel access road (closed to traffic).

Obstacles: High thresholds into the carpentry shop and lighthouse


Only a few hundred feet of the South Trail by the lower parking lot are accessible, and even that stretch is rough riding on a two-track dirt road. Had I known beforehand about the lack of trail access, I would have parked in the upper lot and taken the park entry road down to the light station. This paved road dips and rises past open grasslands, and will give you the sense of isolation that no doubt was experienced by the lightkeepers who once lived here. From the lower parking lot, a 30-inch-wide walkway leads you past the head lightkeeper’s house, several cottages, the carpentry shop, and the smithy, to the lighthouse a few hundred feet farther.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Visitor Center: Accessible

Accessible Parking: Yes

At upper and lower lot (light station). With a disabled placard you can drive the park access road (only open to authorized vehicles and pedestrians) a half-mile to the light station; otherwise, you can park in the upper lot and walk the half-mile paved access road to the light station.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

State Parks’ website says the restrooms at the visitor center are closed, but they were open during my visit in September. Another restroom is behind the rental property by the lower lot.

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

A few picnic tables in the mowed grasslands by the lower parking lot require travel across firm grass. One close to an accessible walkway is behind the lighthouse.
Lighthouse (Bonnie Lewkowicz)

Features icon key

  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: Pt. Cabrillo Drive and Lighthouse Rd.
Phone: (707) 937-0816
Hours: Preserve grounds: Sunrise to sunset. Visitor center: Generally open 11 am to 4 pm.
Fees: None
Dogs: Not allowed
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 13, 2010
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
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