#78 of 90 state parks in California

Best wildlife trails in Año Nuevo State Park, California

285 Reviews
Explore the most popular wildlife trails in Año Nuevo State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Map of wildlife trails in Año Nuevo State Park, California
Park information
Park hours
Monday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Tuesday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Wednesday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Thursday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Friday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Saturday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Sunday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Contact
650-879-0227
Helpful links
Top trails (6)
#1 - Ano Nuevo Point Trail [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(91)
Length: 4.3 mi • Est. 1 h 51 m
A hike out along ocean bluffs brings visitors to Año Nuevo Point, a major bird migratory route and fantastic birding location. Just offshore sits Año Nuevo Island and the remains of a 19th-century lighthouse and fog signal station. Accessibility: Although this entire trail is not accessible, the first 1.25 miles before the sand dunes is packed dirt and mostly flat. The accessible portion is marked with a waypoint and also can be viewed on its own trail page at: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/ano-nuevo-point-accessible The elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve are not pretty, but they live pretty well. In fact, they're living out one of the world's greatest escapes from extinction. Things have been getting better for the elephant seals of the Pacific Coast in the century since humans stopped slaughtering them: Their population has recovered from hundreds to over a hundred thousand. Now thousands of northern elephant seals come to Año Nuevo and a few other beaches in California and Mexico to breed. Watching their reproductive antics is one of the best wildlife experiences available in California -- the closest you're likely to come to any large mammals as they go about their business of making babies. You'll be amazed at how many of elephant seals fill Año Nuevo at the height of the season. It'll look like a seal civilization, and you can learn all their laws on the guided tours. Breeding Season The cycle starts around Dec. 1 with open warfare between bulls to determine who wins the right to reproduce (Año Nuevo's beaches are closed to the public for the first two weeks of December to keep people out of the crossfire). After the bulls settle who's going to rule the beach for the next few months, the females show up in late December and gravitate to the alpha males, forming harems the dominant bulls will spend the next few months defending. Smaller bulls will hang around the edges of the harems, obliging the big guys to run them off -- watching two-ton beasts with no legs chase try to chase each other on land is one of nature's great comedy sketches. The females arrive ashore pregnant from last season's amorous adventures and mate after giving birth to their pups, which, fortunately, are about a thousand times cuter than their nose-dangling fathers. By the end of March most of the elephant seals have returned to sea, fattening themselves up to do it all again next winter. (Weather note: veteran elephant seal watchers advise that cool, cloudy days promise the best seal action -- they try to preserve energy on hot days but they're much more mobile on chilly ones). Molting Season In the summertime, elephant seals show up (in much smaller numbers) to shed their tough hide. You can find little bits of it along the sandy paths to the main viewing areas along the beach. Summer can be a much more pleasant time to visit Año Nuevo: no reservations required, no schedules to keep, warmer weather (providing the coast is not fogged in). The seals are much fewer in number but if you have binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens, you can see them in isolation rather than in a massive colony. Most of the action is young males rehearsing for adult battles (think high school for behemoths).Show more
#2 - Ano Nuevo Point (Accessible) [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(107)
Length: 2.5 mi • Est. 1 h
Note: According to Access Northern CA (http://accessnca.org/access-northern-california/explore/explore-detail-view/?site_id=154): The Año Nuevo Point Trail is an accessible trail along the bluffs. Ocean views are often obscured but several viewing areas have great ocean views and you'll likely hear seals & elephant seals in the distance. A free hiking permit is required during molting season (April 1-August 31) and can be picked up at the Marine Eucation Center. From the center the trail leads gently downhill to a bridge, then climbs a gentle switchback before the remainder of the trail levels out. You'll pass diverse terrain including coastal terrace prairie, wetland marshes, dune fields and coastal scrub and might see coyote brush, coffeeberry, and blackberry brambles. Several benches are along the route. At 0.8 mile you reach the Staging Area Exhibit Structure and can continue past it another third-mile before you reach dunes and need to turn back. During breeding season, all visitors must make advance reservations to tour the seals’ beach area with a park docent. These tours are not wheelchair accessible, so for those with limited mobility, the “Equal Access Tour” is offered twice a day on weekends. After you check in for the tour at the Marine Education Center, a docent will pick you up in the parking lot in an accessible van and drive you to the Equal Access Trail––you can’t drive there in your own vehicle. The van can accommodate several passengers and two wheelchairs. The nearly .25-mile boardwalk runs across dunes on the beach and affords up-close views of the mammoth animals. Because you must stay 25 feet from the seals, the boardwalk may be off-limits if any are dozing on or near it. Tours last two hours and are only offered during breeding season; however, arrangements can be made at other times. The Marine Education Center (enter at the front; the rear entry has a very steep approach) is housed in a restored cow barn that was an operating dairy barn in the 19th century. There are exhibits about the dunes, tides, uplands, seals, and Ohlone Indians, as well as a live-feed video of the breeding grounds. The restored horse barn, behind the cow barn, serves as a classroom and theater where you can watch a film about elephant seals. Accessibility: There is designated accessible parking that is van-accessible. The trail is dirt and flat with a slope no greater than 2%. It is typically four feet wide or greater. There are accessible restrooms at the parking lot and an accessible porta-potty at the beginning of the Equal Access Trail. Beach wheelchairs are available but check with a ranger or call (650) 879-2025 for more information. There are accessible picnic areas with firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, and 27" or greater knee clearance on a bluff by the Marine Education Center and by the restrooms. The Visitor Center is accessible. Please note, the ride out to the Equal Access Trail can be rough riding in the van depending on road conditions. Show more
#3 - Atkinson Bluff and North Whitehouse Creek Trail Loop [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(20)
Length: 2.3 mi • Est. 1 h 1 m
#4 - Atkinson Bluff Trail [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(7)
Length: 2.7 mi • Est. 1 h 10 m
#5 - Franklin Point Trail [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(28)
Length: 0.7 mi • Est. 19 m
#6 - Old Womans Creek Road [CLOSED]
Año Nuevo State Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray Star(4)
Length: 4.7 mi • Est. 2 h 27 m