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Organization Title

Año Nuevo State Park

Park Information

Contact Information

(650) 879-2025

Park Hours

8:30 to Sunset

Driving Directions to Año Nuevo SP

The park is about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hwy 1.

View on Map

Camping and Lodging

Online reservations are not available for this park.

Brochures and Campground Maps


TRAIL WORK NOTICE

Año Nuevo Point Trail will be undergoing Accessibility Improvements during the summer and fall months.  Work will include constructing reroutes, retainer walls, overlooks and picnic area as well as installing viewing scopes, interpretive panels and benches. To learn more about this project click on Hiking Trails.

Welcome to Año Nuevo State Park

Año Nuevo State Park’s rich variety of natural and cultural resources draws visitors from around the world. The park’s Natural Preserve offers an extraordinary wilderness experience, where every year up to 10,000 elephant seals return to breed, give birth, and molt their skin amongst the scenic dunes and beaches.

The park features the Marine Education Center boasting a natural history exhibit, bookstore, and theater. This complex is housed in the historic nineteenth century dairy ranch of the Dickerman/Steele family. These restored buildings recall the early American settlers, while the midden sites throughout the Natural Preserve tell us the story of the Quiroste Indians that lived peacefully here for thousands of years prior to the 1600s. Cove Beach is a short walk from here for beachgoers and surfers.

The physical terrain of Año Nuevo is distinctive, with coastal terrace prairie, wetland marshes, dune fields and coastal scrub hosting a high diversity of plants and animals, including the rare and endangered San Francisco Garter Snake and California Red-legged Frog.

A hike out along ocean bluffs brings visitors to Año Nuevo Point, a major bird migratory route and fantastic birding location.  Located just offshore sits Año Nuevo Island and the remains of a 19th century lighthouse and fog signal station.  Built in 1872, the historic keeper’s house now provides a new home to Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants as well as California Sea Lions. Otters and harbor seals are often sighted in the waters and magnificent Steller Sea Lions take up residence on the outlaying rocks.

Experience the Elephant Seals Year Round

Año Nuevo State Park is one of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal. A Natural Preserve has been established to protect the elephant seals along with many other animals such as otters, California sea lions, coyotes, cormorants, terns and more. Native plants and an untouched intertidal ecosystem also find shelter inside the Natural Preserve.  Elephant seals can be observed here year round either on a docent lead tour or through a self guided permit system.

MoltingMolting Elephant Seal. Photo by Frank Balthis

Elephant Seal Molting Season- April 1 to 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.

During the “Molting Season,” the Natural Preserve is open for self-guided hiking by Visitor Permit only. Obtain your free Visitor Permit daily from the entrance station, between 8:30 am and 3:30 p.m. No reservations are required and no Guided Walks are offered. Visitors must exit the Natural Preserve by 5 p.m., which is earlier than the general parks closing hour of sunset. Please plan to arrive early enough to obtain a permit and make the three to four mile hike before 5 p.m. Most groups require about two and a half to three hours to make the round-trip hike.

Coastal Geology Walks

Geo tourPhoto by docent Mike Goodkind


Saturday September 20 at 1:00pm
Saturday November 1 at 1:00pm
 
Looking for an exciting place to explore the unique geology of California’s Central Coast?
 
Join a free, docent-led walk from the old Steele Ranch to picturesque Cove Beach for an interactive introduction to the geological make-up of our ever-changing shoreline. Along the way you will discover active earthquake faults, ancient fossil beds, forgotten shorelines, and a mysterious river of sand. 
 
Meet at the picnic tables outside the Marine Education Center for this scenic, one hour, mile-long excursion. Bring a snack, water, and good walking shoes.
 
Rain cancels.

Important Park Reminders

The following rules and regulations are for your own safety and to protect the plants and animals that live in this park.

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM SEALS
Elephant seals are dangerous wild animals and are protected by the park. Harassment and disturbance of elephant seals is prohibited by state and federal laws.  Seals can sometimes appear dead due to their quiet nature of sleeping on beaches. However, the majority of the time they are very much alive. Never get within 25 feet of an elephant seal.

No pets
Due to the nearby Natural Preserve, pets are not allowed in the park and cannot be left inside parked vehicles in the parking lot.

No Bikes on Trails
Bikes are prohibited on all trails in the park.

No collecting.

Shells, rocks, wood, plants or animals. All features of this park are preserved and protected by law.

No smoking or fires.
Smoking is not permitted in buildings or on guided walks. Fires of all types are prohibited.