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Ano Nuevo Point Trail is a 4.3 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Pescadero, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Length 4.3 mi Elevation gain 180 ft Route type Loop

Kid friendly

Hiking

Nature trips

Walking

Bird watching

Beach

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (11)
Facilities
Contact
Tips
Getting There

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. 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).

The Visitor Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore. Restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available near the Visitor Center only. Food and beverages are not sold at the park. There are no camping facilities in the park.

Elephant seals are immense, dangerous wild animals (an adult male weighs as much as your car). Never approach and always give them lots of space. Sand walking can wear you out if you're not used to it. The beach walking makes a four-mile hike feel like a six-miler. Watch for poison oak along narrow sections of trail. What to bring: Windbreaker and layers -- it can be quite cold at the beach, especially in winter. Shoes suited to walking on sand Drinking water Binoculars and cameras Cash for parking fee

Año Nuevo State Park is located on State Route 1, approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz and 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay. Año Nuevo is about a 1.5 hour drive south of San Francisco.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (183)
Photos (226)
Recordings (167)
Completed (348)
Gregory Stornetta
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarAugust 9, 2020
Hiking

Only half of the trail is open due to Covid, so you won’t be able to see the elephant seals. $10 fee at the gate, but is transferable to any of the state beaches in the area.

View Gregory's Recording
Melissa Williams Hatten
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 1, 2020
HikingGreat!

The weather was beautiful. This walk was just enough to get our hearts pumping a little. Take a sit and enjoy the view and peacefulness of it all .

Parker Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 28, 2020
HikingClosedFee
View Parker's Recording
Ran Oren
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 22, 2020
Hiking

The trial is gueded and reservation is required. It's unique and very interesting to watch these amazing animals just less then 20 feed range. Kids loved it. Suggesting to be there when it's chilly, the elephants are very active in cold conditions and watching them is spectacular.

View Ran's Recording
Chad Farmer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 12, 2020
Hiking

was a beautiful trail would have been nice if the lady at the gate would have told me that all the trails were closed pastacertain point. she told me you had to pay to go on a tour of the elephant seals which I did not care about but you did not mention that all the other trails were closed so only got about a quarter of it done.

View Chad's Recording
Kimberly StClair
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarNovember 25, 2019

11.24.19. We paid the $10, got a permit and headed out to see the seals. We could hear them long before we could see them. it was great to watch a couple on the surf, and about 40-50 on the beach. It's almost time for the whole colony to arrive, but we still enjoyed the few that were there. the sand dunes did make the walk a little more tiring than I thought

Elyse Humphrey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 19, 2019
Hiking

Good trail did with 2 year old

View Elyse's Recording
Leteasha Gorham
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 29, 2019
Hiking

Nice easy trail and the seals are great. Get ready for the sand dunes as you get closer to them. Lots of people even in the “off season”.

Charles Russell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJune 12, 2019
Hiking

Not many wildflowers. Lots of ticks, so watch out (right on the trail). Got a great view of the female and juvenile elephant seals on the beaches, with docents there to help. No reservations needed this time of year

View Charles's Recording
Sandy I
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 28, 2019
Hiking

Beautiful ocean views. Nice & relaxing. Take your time. A lot of ticks near bushes/trail u can see them on the stems. Don’t get to close u should be fine. Some of the trails closed due to seals being on the paths. They do open up trails once they see seals have moved. Which is nice. Nice views of elephant seals & molting females.

View Sandy's Recording
Meg Daly
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 19, 2019
Hiking

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!

Carolyn Ma
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 11, 2019
Hiking

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

View Carolyn's Recording
Lauren A
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 27, 2019
Hiking

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.

Chloe Langevin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 20, 2019

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

Ambrea M
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 25, 2018
Hiking

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!

Gregory Soutter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 31, 2018

Beautiful views

Scott Turnbull
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 22, 2018
Walking

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.

Jennifer Takato
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 13, 2018
Hiking

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

Joanna Koziara
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 4, 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

Bill Crain
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 23, 2017
Hiking

Amazing area when the Elephant Seals are there...

Thea Rose
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 6, 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.

Kimmy Haines
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 8, 2017
Hiking

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

Ashley Richter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 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).

Rachel Pathak
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 7, 2017
Hiking

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

Eric Coatney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2017
Nature trips

Great you see the elephant seals up close!

Erin McIntosh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 8, 2017
Hiking

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.

Lidia Tolbuzova
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 18, 2017

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

Megan Gale
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFebruary 1, 2017
Walking

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)

Cathy Shive
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 30, 2016

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

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