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5 . Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse

Cabrillo National Monument San Diego

When the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, he was looking for treasure, specifically for gold. He didn't find gold, but he did find something even better - the treasure of what is now San Diego.

Today Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, San Diego is the second most visited national monument in the United States. (The Statue of Liberty is first.) Cabrillo National Monument celebrates Cabrillo's voyage, but this national monument and park also plays an important role in the protection and preservation of the San Diego's unique coastline.

Many visitors equate Cabrillo National Monument with the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. But within Cabrillo National Park's 144 acres are also a number of plant and animal communities native to San Diego. The best way to see these is to hike the Bayside Trail, a hilly, 2-mile trek that winds through the coastal chaparral zone. Before you set out on your hike, be sure to pick up the park pamphlet describing the trail and the plants, animals and birds common to the area.

In addition, locals and visitors to San Diego love that the Cabrillo National Monument park rangers conduct tours and present programs that describe Cabrillo's voyage, San Diego tide pools, beautiful scenic nature trail walks and the winter migration of the gray whales.

The park is open 364 days a year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed only on Christmas Day. The fee to enter the park is $5 for a private car or $3 per person for pedestrians without cars or bicyclists and motorcyclists. Your entrance receipt is good for the entire day and the following six days, so you can return as many times as you like in a week.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse San Diego

In 1854, the Point Loma lighthouse stood as a symbol representing San Diego - at that time, a small port and fishing outpost. Reviewing the history of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse offers a unique insight into the history of San Diego.

Constructed along the tip of the Point Loma San Diego Peninsula 88 feet above the rocky coast, the Point Loma Lighthouse served as a warning beacon to incoming ships from 1854 through 1890. When in use, the Point Loma Lighthouse was the highest situated lighthouse in the United States, reaching 510 feet from surf to focal plane. Ironically, it was the structure's lofty position high atop the cliffs that obscured its light in dense fog. For that reason, the old lighthouse was abandoned in 1891 and the official operating light was relocated to the lighthouse at Ballast Point, where it still operates today.

In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson declared Point Loma Lighthouse a national historic landmark. Today, the Point Loma Lighthouse is part of the Cabrillo National Monument, the third most visited attraction in Southern California. Visitors can tour the newly restored living quarters at the Point Loma Lighthouse and imagine what it was like to lead the solitary life of a lighthouse keeper.

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