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Cabrillo National Monument

From the tip of Point Loma, 422 feet above the ocean at the entrance to San Diego Harbor, you can enjoy views of the city skyline and the Cuyamaca Mountains to the east, and to the south, across San Diego Bay, to Mexico's Coronados Islands and Tijuana. It is at this headland that the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo is believed to have anchored his flagship in 1542 before coming ashore. Cabrillo was the first European to set foot on the West Coast of what would become the United States. Designated a military reserve in 1852, Point Loma was a strategic military outpost for coastal and harbor defense during World Wars I and II, but military use of what is now Cabrillo National Monument, is now history. Park rangers provide interpretive programs and special events throughout the year. Contact the park for schedule.

The Coastal Defense Museum, visitor center, lighthouse grounds, Assistant Keepers Quarters Lighthouse Exhibit, Kelp Forest and Whale overlook, and many of the paths are wheelchair accessible; the lighthouse, tidepools, and Bayside Trail are not.  

Visitor center: Exhibits about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and 16th-century exploration, including tactile elements and a touch screen computer with audio and video descriptions of Cabrillo’s voyage, and an accessible auditorium with captioned films. Behind the building, look for views of San Diego and the bay through coin-operated telescopes. New accessible telescopes have been ordered for the visitor center and Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook. Manual wheelchairs and a walker are available for loan.

Trail/Pathway Details

Path from visitor center to lighthouse

Trailhead: At the visitor center

Length: Under one mile total

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

There is a steep curb cut from the main path onto the path that leads to the Coastal Defense Museum.

Terrain: Hard

The Bayside Trail is dirt and gravel. Pathways throughout the park are paved.


From the visitor center, travel uphill about 500 feet and cross the road to visit the military museum, or stay on the main path another 500 feet to the lighthouse grounds. Some 50 feet before you reach the lighthouse, a service road leads downhill for less than .25 mile to the Bayside Trail. This trail was inaccessible to me because of its steep approach and railroad ties, but a park ranger told me that some manual wheelchair riders have managed it. Continue on the service road a short distance for great ocean views, shortly before the road ends at a locked gate. 

A paved loop pathway, south from the lighthouse to the Kelp Forest and Whale Overlook, is accessible.

Accessibility Details

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

Visitor Center: Accessible

Accessible Parking: Yes

At visitor center, Coast Defense Exhibit, and three lots along the west side of Gatchell Road: Tidepool, Sea Cove, Coastal View. Visitors with disabled parking placards may drive to lighthouse; accessible spaces are on south side. Visitors without disabled parking placards, but who have difficulty walking, may obtain a single-day lighthouse parking pass at visitor center.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

At visitor center and south side of the Assistant Keepers Quarters
Old Point Loma Lighthouse & Assistant Keepers Quarters
Old Point Loma Lighthouse & Assistant Keepers Quarters (National Park Service Photo)

Features icon key

  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: National Park Service
Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr., Point Loma
Nearest City: Point Loma
Phone: (619) 557-5450
TDD: (619) 222-8211
Hours: Park and visitor center open daily, 9 am-5 pm
Fees: Entrance
Dogs: In restricted areas
Only allowed in tidepool area, and must be on 6-foot leash
Public Transportation: San Diego Metropolitan Transit 
Useful Links: Cabrillo National Monument Foundation 

Did You Know?

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument was one of the first lighthouses on the West Coast. 

Reviewed on September 8, 2008
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
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing