On August 15 and 16, the National Park Service, in an effort to get across to us that our national parks are awesome, offered free admission into more than 100 national parks across the nation, and it just so happens that we have one right here in San Diego.
Cabrillo National Monument sits above the Point Loma shore where it is generally agreed Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, leading the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States, landed his flagship the San Salvador in 1542. (Cabrillo must have known he was in the right place when he climbed to the top to find this statue.)
It was his expedition that produced the first written description of the west coast of North America. It would be another sixty years before anybody else would pay any attention to the region and, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson would commemorate Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo with the national monument we all know and love today.
From this elevated spot in Point Loma, you can see San Diego — all of San Diego — on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. And what’s that landmass just to the south? Why it’s Tijuana, Mexico! How many national parks can show you a bay, an ocean, and a foreign country? Take that, Yellowstone!
It is easy to stand on this spot and imagine yourself in Cabrillo’s shoes –- the ocean at your back, looking over that big bay to the land beyond, rich with mountains, coastal plains and promise. Now imagine you’re wearing thigh-high boots and poofy shorts. That’s what it is to be an explorer, near as I can figure.
Much more than a monument, here you can:
- EXPLORE the tidepools and their unique ecosystem.
- HIKE the two-mile Bayside Trail.
- VISIT the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse.
- CHECK OUT the bookstore.
- SEE the “Age of Exploration” exhibit in the visitor center.
- LISTEN to Park Ranger talks on Point Loma’s military history.
ATTENTION, KIDS! You can earn your Junior Ranger badge from Cabrillo National Monument. Just ask for a Junior Ranger activity at the visitor center. After you have completed the program in the park, you will receive the Park Ranger badge and oath from an actual Park Ranger or volunteer. If that’s not cool, I don’t wanna know what cool is!
Cabrillo National Monument is open every day of the year, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Regular entrance fees are $5 per vehicle, and $3 per pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist.