This 0.6 Mile ADA-compliant trail, along with the Sea Lion Point Trail, makes a loop around Sand Hill. The northern end of the South Shore Trail intersects with this trail.
Sand Hill Trail forms, along with a section of the Sea Lion Point Trail, a loop of stunning ocean views. This trail begins under the cypress trees on the west side of the Sea Lion Point parking lot. Take the left fork and head clockwise: Walk slowly, and enjoy the many colors and forms and scents of the plants that crowd the trail. This is Northern Coastal Scrub, with its lizard tail, mock heather, and fragrant sages. You may see lizards, or a brush rabbit, or be treated to a flock of bushtits flitting through the scrub.
Now bear right: the first grand view is of Sand Hill Cove, and the rugged shoreline stretching away to the south. Scan the water below for sea otters, and for harbor seals hauled out on the rocks. Admire the tilted beds of sedimentary rock: this is the Carmelo Formation (ask at the Information Station for – or download here – a free brochure telling the tumultuous story of these rocks).
As you continue around, watch for seabirds: Western gulls, Brandt’s and pelagic cormorants, black oystercatchers, and egrets and herons standing on the kelp. This is a favorite place to watch the majestic brown pelicans, who often glide by in single file at eye level.
By now you may be hearing the rambunctious California sea lions barking from the offshore rocks. Grand views of the majestic Pacific show why this trail is a favorite for sunset-watchers, and for those wanting to view the yearly migration of the gray whales. The spot shown at right is often staffed by a docent with a spotting scope who is eager to show you close-up views of the animals.
The loop finishes with a wonderful view of Headland Cove, and of the cypress forest on the next peninsula to the north. You are invited to have a seat on the bench, and just drink it all in.