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. uring 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.

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
3 months ago

Amazing area when the Elephant Seals are there...

hiking
3 months ago

Nice little trail done when I lived in Half Moon bay

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

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
5 months ago

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

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
6 months ago

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
7 months ago

Great you see the elephant seals up close!

hiking
7 months ago

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.

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

backpacking
8 months ago

Did part of this trail during a two night backpacking trip. We started at the Big Basin Headquarters and made our way to the Twin Redwoods trail camp. From there we headed to Sunset trail camp. This trail is wonderful and the weather makes backpacking a breeze. Both camps had bearboxes, bathrooms, and trashcans. Berry Creek falls is great and there are banana slugs and newts everywhere. Great place for beginners to backpack at.

on Franklin Point Trail

hiking
10 months ago

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

hiking
Monday, September 09, 2013

Nice beach. Gorgeous trail. Get there early and get your permit from the white building. Quite a way to go see the elephant seals they close the path a little after three.

hiking
Wednesday, July 04, 2012

This is by far one of the most beautiful trails I have ever crossed. The beach is amazing and the views are spectacular. My fianc and I got to see and hear the elephant seals. They are fun to watch and it's a real treat once you get to their mating grounds. We took really pretty pictures and the view of the coast is one you won't forget. My only warning is there are ticks out there, we found some on our clothes.

Load More