In 2020, places may be closed and information is constantly changing. Please check the websites of destinations you plan to visit beforehand if you decide to travel. Also, some links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more details, please refer to our disclosure.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria: A Must-Walk Scenic Trail!

Strolling the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is one of the most fun things to do in Cambria. If you are planning a visit to the Central California Coast, put this scenic walk and charming village on your itinerary!

With access to Cambria’s beautiful Moonstone Beach, the boardwalk trail is very popular, both with residents and visitors to Cambria. If you walk it during the day, expect to share the family-friendly trail with other walkers!

Planning to walk the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria? Read on to discover what to expect on the trail, plus things to know before you go!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
What can you expect on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk Trail in Cambria?
Essential facts about the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria
How to get to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria
How long does it take to hike the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk?
What to bring on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk hike
Tips for hiking the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria

What can you expect on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk Trail in Cambria?

Beautiful views any time of year and a stunning display of wildflowers in the spring! Moonstone Beach in Cambria is one of the most scenic beaches in Central California, and the boardwalk runs along the bluffs parallel to the beach for much of its length.

View from Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria on the Central California Coast
The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk winds over the bluffs at Cambria

As you stroll the boardwalk, you will get spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. See and hear the waves as they race to shore and peter out on the black sand beach or crash onto the rocks, throwing up an arc of white spray. On a bright sunny day, the view makes for the perfect picture postcard.

You will see lots of gulls flying about or walking about the beach, but look for other sea birds such as oystercatchers and curlews at the shoreline. Also look out to the ocean to spy dolphins, seals, or sea otters.

Gulls and other birds on the black sand Moonstone Beach in Cmbria California
You will see lots of birds on Moonstone Beach!

You may even see whales as they migrate north or south. Watch for whales spouting as they make their way through the water. If you are lucky, you may even spot one fluking its tail or breaching! Whales are best spotted when the ocean is calm.

Also keep an eye out for birds and wildlife on land. You may see common birds like the American robin, acorn woodpecker, white-crowned sparrow, or dark-eyed junco, and small animals like squirrels or rabbits. Birds and wildlife are more likely to be out and about early or late in the day.

A squirrel looking to cross the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria
We saw lots of squirrels and a couple of rabbits

There are benches along the way to sit and take in the views, or the sunset if you walk the boardwalk in the evening.

Spring is a particularly wonderful time to do the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk trail, because the walkway is lined with tons of wildflowers in yellow, purple, white, and pink. We saw lots of purple Pride of Madeira and yellow wild mustard when we did the walk in April. Wildflowers are particularly abundant if the preceding winter was a wet one.

Lots of wildflowers along the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk trail in Cambria in the spring
Pride of Madeira blooming along the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Points of Interest

At the southern end of the trail, look for Santa Rosa Creek washing into the water. You can walk the boardwalk here to a couple of viewing areas to look out over the lagoon and the beach. This is a great spot to see birds, both on the beach and at the lagoon. You can climb down the stairs to the beach, where you will see lots of sculptural driftwood.

Lots of driftwood on Moonstone Beach in Cambria
You will see lots of driftwood on Moonstone Beach

There are points along the boardwalk where you can take steps leading down to Moonstone Beach, mainly closer to the northern part of the trail. Take the opportunity to walk along the beach for a while, but keep an eye on the waves. Look for driftwood, sea glass and colored stones worn smooth by the waves: you may find chalcedony, jasper, or jade in pretty colors and shapes.

Also, closer to the northern end of the trail, there are rock outcrops, and you can access tide pools at low tide. If you are visiting with kids, or you love exploring tide pools yourself, you will want to allow for time to observe the little creatures that inhabit the pools. We spent a couple of hours at the Moonstone Beach tide pools, and could easily have spent more!

Rocky outcrops Moonstone Beach Cambria California
Rocky outcrops and tidepools in the north of the beach

Essential Facts about The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is an out-and-back trail, a little over one mile each way, not counting any side trips. The wooden boardwalk is well maintained, and there are rope barriers in places to keep you on the boardwalk. The trail is flat, with only 30-40 feet of elevation gain. See map here.

If you park in the parking lot near the El Colibri Hotel & Spa, the trail is about 1.4 miles each way. If you park in the Santa Rosa Creek Day Use Area parking lot, it is just about one mile each way.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk Trail in Cambria California
The boardwalk is well maintained and roped

The trail is classed as easy, and suitable for all skill levels. The boardwalk is ADA compliant. Bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk. Dogs are allowed on leash on the boardwalk, but not on the beach, which is part of the Monterey Marine Sanctuary.

You can access the boardwalk at points all along the trail and walk north or south.

There are various day use areas to the north and south of the boardwalk if you want to spend more time at the beach or have a picnic. At the north end is Leffingwell Landing State Park, and at the south end, you will find Moonstone Beach Park and Shamel Park. There are restrooms in the parks at both ends of the boardwalk trail.

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is free.

How to get to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria

Access to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is from Moonstone Beach Drive in Cambria. You will find parking at various points along Moonstone Beach Drive, and you can park anywhere you find a spot and walk on to the boardwalk.

To access Moonstone Beach Boardwalk from its southern end, park at the Santa Rosa Creek parking lot at the south end of Moonstone Drive. To access it at the northern end, park in the parking lot for the Leffingwell Landing State Park and walk to the boardwalk, which is just south of Leffingwell Landing over the creek.

How long does it take to hike the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk?

If you do not do any of the side trips along the walk, you can do the out-and-back Moonstone Beach Boardwalk trail at a leisurely pace in about 60 to 90 minutes, with stops to take photos and look for birds and wildlife.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is super scenic
Wildflowers blooming along the boardwalk in spring

But it is a very scenic trail, with plenty to do along the way and at each end, so we recommend allowing for about 3 hours. We have spent either the entire morning walking the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk and exploring the beach, finishing with a picnic lunch, or the entire afternoon, capping our walk and exploring with a wonderful west coast sunset.

What to bring on the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk Hike

Camera with zoom lens

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk trail is beautiful. Plus, you have a good chance of spotting birds, wildlife, or marine life. Make sure you bring a camera with a good zoom lens if you enjoy photographing birds and animals.

You don’t need to lug a heavy DSLR with a heavy lens on your walk, unless you are going out expressly to photograph birds. We use a tiny camera that fits into our jacket pockets: the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70. It has a 30X zoom and Leica lens, and produces pictures that look pretty good.

Western Bluebird Central California Coast
A Western bluebird, photographed with our little camera!

Binoculars

Compact binoculars are always a good idea to carry on hikes if you enjoy wildlife viewing. We use the Celestron Trailseeker: they are waterproof and work great in the low light of dawn and dusk, the times at which you can most expect to see birds or wildlife.

Water

Always carry plenty of drinking water on hikes, even short ones. Make sure you have enough for a few hours if you plan to stay on or explore more as you walk.

Snacks and Food

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is a short walk, but if you plan to explore the beach and parks, bring some snacks! We carry fresh fruit, nuts, and protein bars. There are places to picnic in the parks at both ends, if you want to bring a picnic. You will also find lots of restaurants along Moonstone Beach Drive.

Sun Protection

The boardwalk is exposed for much of its length. Wear sunscreen (we like this waterproof natural sunscreen) and a sun hat when you hike. We also wear sun-protective shirts if we know we are going to be out in the sun for several hours. Find women’s sun shirts here and men’s here.

Comfy Walking Shoes

Comfortable slip-on walking shoes or sandals would work perfectly for this walk: easy to pull off and on in case you want to walk on wet sand. Or wear water shoes to protect your feet as you beachcomb! Find women’s water shoes here and men’s here.

Bug Spray

We use a natural insect repellent for most hiking trails that aren’t deep-in-the-forest hikes, and it’s what we used on this trail. You can, of course, use regular bug spray as well.

Tips for hiking the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria

Walk south to north and back

You can catch the boardwalk trail at any point on Moonstone Beach Drive. But in our opinion, you should start at the southern end for the best experience. Walk the boardwalk all the way to Leffingwell Landing in the north, then explore the beach on the way back and pick up the boardwalk trail back to the start, or, if you don’t want to go down to the beach, retrace your steps along the boardwalk.

Birds on rocks near Leffingwell Landing Cambria California
Cormorants and gulls near Leffingwell Landing

If you are up for a longer walk, at Leffingwell Landing, you can even walk farther north along the beach, all the way to San Simeon Creek, before retracing your steps.

Walk the boardwalk early for more solitude

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is stunning really early in the day: at sunrise. The light is beautiful, and there are fewer people on the trail. This walk is super popular and the top outdoor activity in Cambria so all through the day you will find lots of folks on the boardwalk. If you prefer more solitude early in the day is your best chance.

Walk in the evening to catch sunset

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach, and the boardwalk, are great places to be at sunset. Watch the golden orb sink below the horizon from a bench along the boardwalk or as you stroll. Stay to see if the sky lights up in shades of orange and pink: the water looks beautiful with the colors glinting off its surface.

Allow more time than you think you will need!

You will want to stop often to take in the views, look for wildlife, and take photos. Plus, Moonstone Beach is perfect for exploring, with beautiful driftwood and stones in all colors and shapes. In the spring, there are lots of wildflowers to admire.

Wildflowers line the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk trail in spring
Delicate purple wildflowers along the boardwalk in spring

We spend either all morning or all afternoon on the walk and the beach here, but give yourself as much time as you can within your itinerary to enjoy this beautiful slice of California’s central coast!

Visit on a bright clear day

Although we love the California fog, it can obstruct views. If you want bright photos with the water a deep shade of blue, do this walk at a time when it is bright and clear.

While middle-of-the-day sunshine is not great for photography, the mellow light of morning or evening on a clear day produces fabulous photos.

Dress in layers

The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk hugs the beach and the water for most of its length. It can be cool and / or breezy, so dress in layers for comfort if you start early or linger into the late evening.

*****

If you enjoy scenic nature trails, check out our articles on other hiking trails in California!

Bird Island Trail in Point Lobos State Reserve
The Best Hiking Trails in Point Lobos State Park
Bluff Trail in Montana de Oro State Park
Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Barker Dam Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley National Park

Did you enjoy this article? Pin it for later!

Walk the beautiful Moonstone Beach Beach Boardwalk trail in Cambria, California. The pretty trail is one of the top things to do in Cambria.


Dhara

Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

Leave a Comment