Looking for a great trail in Año Nuevo State Park, California? AllTrails has 6 great hiking trails, walking trails, beach trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. Just looking to take a quick stroll? We've got 6 easy trails in Año Nuevo State Park ranging from 0.7 to 4.2 miles and from 49 to 114 feet above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!

bird watching

hiking

walking

beach

views

nature trips

kid friendly

no dogs

Fifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603. His diarist and chaplain of the expedition, Father Antonio de la Ascension, named it Punta de Año Nuevo (New Year's Point) for the day on which they sighted it in 1603. Today, the point remains much as Vizcaino saw it from his passing ship - lonely, undeveloped, and wild. Elephant seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth in the sand dunes or on the beaches and offshore islands. It is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that hundreds of thousands of people come to witness each year. Año Nuevo State Park is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal, and the interpretive program has attracted increasing interest every winter for the past 19 years. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes. During the breeding season, December through March, daily access to the park is available via guided walks only. Most of the adult seals are gone by early March, leaving behind the weaned pups who remain through April. The elephant seals return to Año Nuevo's beaches during the spring and summer months to molt and can be observed during this time through a permit system. Año Nuevo State Reserve is fascinating in every season. Elephant seal pups are born between December and February during the "Breeding Season." During the spring and summer months, elephant seals come ashore to shed their fur during the "Molting Season." Each fall, yearling seals "hang out" on the beaches during the "Fall Haul Out Season." A Wildlife Protection Area is designated at Año Nuevo Point to provide wildlife viewing opportunities and minimize disturbance to the animals in their natural habitat. Visitor entry into the Wildlife Protection Area is restricted year-round. Plan your visit by checking out the "seasons" of the Wildlife Protection Area: Pre-Season: December 1-14 Pregnant females and adult males begin to arrive on the beaches and form harems. Visitor access is closed during this period. Breeding Season: December 15 - March 31 Northern elephant seals come ashore to give birth and mate from early December through March. Bull seals engage in battles for breeding access to the females from early December through January. Pregnant females come ashore to pup from late December to early February, and mothers nurse their pups for about a month before mating and returning to the sea. By early March, most of the adults have returned to the sea. Pups remain behind through March basking in the sun and learning to swim. The reserve offers naturalist-guided walks between December 15 and March 31, which feature the seals in their natural habitat. To view the seals during this season, you must be on a guided walk. These popular three-mile walks over rolling sand dunes last about two and a half hours and are considered moderately strenuous. They operate daily from early morning. Molting Season: April 1 - August 31 Northern elephant seals come ashore during the spring and summer months to shed their outer layer of skin and fur. This "molting" process takes from four to six weeks per animal as they rest along the beaches. Female and juvenile seals molt from May through June and older males from July through August. Fall Haul Out Season: September 1 - November 30 By summer's end, most elephant seals have returned to sea to feed. Small numbers of one to three year old juveniles haul out on remote beaches as part of their early development. During the "Fall Haul Out" the Wildlife Protection Area is open for self-guided hiking by Visitor Permit only. Obtain your free permit daily from the entrance station, between 8:30am and 3pm only. No reservations are required and no Guided Walks are offered. Visitors must exit the Wildlife Protection Area by 4pm, which is earlier than the general Reserve's closing hour of sunset. Please plan to arrive early enough to obtain a permit and make the four to five mile hike before 4pm. Most groups require about three hours to make the round-trip hike.

hiking
4 days ago

We loved this trail. We hiked from the barn/information center on a very well maintained compacted sand trail with magnificent views of the cliffs and Pacific Ocean. A the Ranger's station about half way out (1 mile or so) a huge storm loomed off shore, we paused briefly and marched on. We were rewarded at the beach heads with about one hundred elephant seals resting, sunning, fighting and generally enjoying the day while they molted their winter coat. It was a bit wet on the dune portion of the trail because of big rainstorms the day before. But otherwise, this is a highly recommend!

hiking
11 days ago

Beautiful plants and scenery! Toward the north point it gets to be quite sandy.

hiking
25 days ago

The trail was well maintained, wide, and flat until you get to the sand part (about a mile I’d guess). This could be a great hike for those with limited mobility, in a chair, with walker or crutches. While not a long hike, the entire thing offers beautiful views of the ocean, great birdwatching, and during certain seasons, a chance to see elephant seals! A couple warnings: during the Elephant Seal mating season (January? To mid March), most of the trail is only accessible by guided tour. The tour is very informative but slowly paced— about three hours to cover two miles. Also, the sides of the trail have a lot of poison oak, so if you have a child who has a hard time not picking up sticks or who likes to walk on the fringes of the trail, you’ll want to consider if this trail is worth the risk.

hiking
1 month ago

Loved this! It was short and sweet and we had 4 kids (6-10) and they thoroughly enjoyed this! It was wet and muddy in places so we did leave with wet feet but it was a blast trying to avoid the mud and cross some streams as well as climb rocks, look for beach glass and sea shells. We did see a couple elephant seals! The holey rocks (made by Piddock clams) were so cool to see! Plus the views!

Very friendly volunteers who provide info on the sea elephants! Nice views

hiking
5 months ago

We visited in July. It was an easy hike until the sand portion. I wasn’t prepared to walk in sand and didn’t wear appropriate shoes. It was hot and the sand was difficult to walk in. It was worth it when we were able to see and hear the elephant seals! It was near to learn about the house on the island, too!

Beautiful views

Scenery: 2 Views: 3.5 Difficulty: 2 Crowds: 2 Shade: 1 My 1-5 Rating Scale Comparisons for above: 5 for Scenery; Mcway Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP 4.5 for Scenery: Berry Creek Falls Big Basin State Park 4 for Scenery: Steep Ravine Trail 5 for Views: Nimitz Trail Tilden Park 5 for Views: Ridge Trail San Bruno Mtn Park 4.5 for Views Montara Mtn Summit San Pedro County Park 4 for Views Rancho Canada Del Oro Bald Peaks trail 5 for Difficulty: Junipero Serra Peak 4 for Difficulty: Mount El Sombroso Loop Trail

Large, sandy beach with tide pools and a bench you can walk to that has a nice platform and views of seals. Part of the hike in has a boardwalk which makes it an easy walk.

walking
10 months ago

So beautiful. The docents are very nice and helpful. The elephant seals were fun snd we even saw whales the day we went. The trails are very well laid out. Just a joy.

scenic driving
Friday, March 30, 2018

I nice stretch of the legs after driving North on PCH from Monterey. This stretch of PCH has some great sea cliff overlooks. Excellent Road Trip.

hiking
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Really cool hike Dec-March you can’t do the whole hike unless you do the tour as it’s National season and males are aggressive. There are limited spots. I almost didn’t go but it was awesome! $7 for the tour and $10 for parking

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Amazing place. Gorgeous trail and views. If you go during Dec-March you will also enjoy views of elephant seals. Remarkable animals. Trail is easy, with some walks on sand dunes. My 6 year old had no issues

hiking
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I did not start at the trail's head, but from a pulloff at Ross Road...I hiked around here solo for about 4 hours, and saw not one person...it was truly amazing...Bull male elephant seal was bobbing around at one point and making lots of noise..saw many hawks and harbor seals too...I love the wooded walkway at the end of the dune area, it feels nice to lay there at the end and relax and have lunch...beautiful place...good seaglass too by the way...found a stopper and some large turquoise chunks

hiking
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Amazing area when the Elephant Seals are there...

hiking
Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nice little trail done when I lived in Half Moon bay

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Nice walk to the beach from hwy 1...nice walk to catch the sunset

Friday, October 06, 2017

My favorite place! December-March you need reservations, but it is well worth it seeing the nature channel IRL. other times of the year you can get a permit and do a self guided hike. Apart from the elephant seals, there is a lot of cultural, geological and other things to learn. A definite must if you live local or are visiting.

hiking
Friday, September 08, 2017

Really cool experience... at one point on the trail we look to our right and see elephant seals sleeping on the beach, and to our left toward the valley a deer...meanwhile snakes are slithering away through the dunes..very cool/beautiful/special place!!! Authentic California

Monday, August 28, 2017

beautiful morning stroll. fabulous, engaged docents out at the viewing platform. but brace yourself (and prep your boots) for that chunk of sand dune).

hiking
Monday, August 07, 2017

Was able To do this hike with my 18 month old son. We saw some elephant seals, which was the highlight of this hike

nature trips
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Great you see the elephant seals up close!

hiking
Saturday, July 08, 2017

This was a lot of fun. Be sure to get a Viewing Pass from the field house first before you go onto the trail. The first mile you will be in direct sun and wind. Be sure to wear sunscreen and have a jacket. After the "Boardwalk" area you'll have to navigate about .5 (round trip) of sand dunes to make it to the Bight Beach overlook (which is recommended over South Point. If you want to push forward to North Point it's about an extra mile round trip. Overall a very easy excursion. Bring water and prepare for sun and sand.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Perfect view, but part of the trail is sandy! So, be prepared to have full shoes of sand!

on Franklin Point Trail

hiking
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nice walk out to the beach. The trail is a boardwalk and sand. Lots of wildflowers and great views.

walking
Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Was lucky enough to be here on New Years Day. It was surprisingly deserted as I arrived just at sunset. Beautiful walk. You can hear the sea lions as you near the cliffs. Definitely not strenuous. Potential to see wildlife (I had a few snakes slither out of my path)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Easy walk with great views, wildlife, and a nice beach. Great place to take visitors.

hiking
Friday, September 16, 2016

Awesome views on the stroll even without seeing the Elephant Seals. Doing the tour of the seals with a ranger is well worth it during the season as well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

awesome place.. great trip it was... love it

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Amazing place, fantastic experience

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