Walk the Self-Guided Whale Trail Saturdays at Point Cabrillo
March 20th, 27th, April 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 2021
One of the best whale-watching spots on the Mendocino Coast is the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, just north of the village of Mendocino. The lighthouse is situated on the westernmost bluff along Highway 1 in Mendocino County, making it an excellent location to spot the gray whales that swim past every year.
These magnificent creatures are about to start their northern migration from the lagoons of Baja, Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Ocean. Every spring, they migrate over 6,000 miles with their newly born calves in order to feed all summer in the nutrient-rich waters of the Arctic.
Typically, during the month of March, Mendocino County plans “Whale Festival” events to celebrate the gray whale’s northern migration, and to promote local tourism and education on marine mammal conservation. In the midst of COVID-19, the social gathering events of the Whale Festival are canceled—but whale watching sure isn’t!
If you find yourselves on the Mendocino Coast, come on down to walk the self-guided Whale Trail at the light station. This half-mile paved walk is lined with interesting questions about gray whale that are answered once you arrive at your destination, the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.
Saturdays at Point Cabrillo
Every Saturday from March 20 – April 24, Point Cabrillo Light Station docents will be stationed along the bluffs, pointing out the gray whales that pass our coastline, and answering questions from our visitors. These volunteers will be outside the lighthouse from 11am-3pm every Saturday, socially distanced, and of course wearing a mask. We ask the same of our visitors! Masks are required at any time you cannot keep a six-foot distance from others, and anytime you speak with a docent.
While the museums at Point Cabrillo Light Station remain closed while the county is in Purple Tier, our gift shop is open to one masked family group at a time, and our docents are just as happy to talk about lighthouse history as they are to talk about marine mammals.
About Gray Whales
The whales migrating past Point Cabrillo belong to the Eastern Pacific Gray Whale population. While the population has recovered in numbers since hunting was banned by international agreements in 1937, a continuing unusual mortality event in the last three years has caused a reduction in the population from approximately 25,000 individuals to roughly 20,000, with fewer calves being seen in the Baja lagoons.
Most members of the Eastern Pacific Gray Whales pass by Point Cabrillo twice: once on their southward journey from November to March, and again northward as early as February and as late as May. Newly pregnant females lead the northward migration, followed by males, and the last to leave Baja are usually females with newborn calves.
Directions to the Light Station
The Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is two miles north of Mendocino and six miles south of Fort Bragg. Take the Point Cabrillo Drive exit from Hwy 1 and follow the signs. The lighthouse is an easy half-mile walk from the parking area. Handicapped parking is available near the lighthouse. Bring warm, windproof clothing and your own binoculars.
The Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park is a unit of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The light station is managed by the Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association, in cooperation with State Parks. For additional information, please call the Point Cabrillo Light Station offices at 707-937-6123.