An Amazing Education Experience for Students

Año Nuevo State Park offers guided walks for schools to see the northern elephant seals in their natural habitat. These walks are led by State Park docent naturalists who are well versed in the natural and cultural aspects of the park. Students will get a chance to learn about this unique marine mammal as well as the other inhabitants of the park including shorebirds, land mammals, and past human inhabitants such as the native Ohlone and historic light keepers. 

There are seperate guided walk programs depending on the time of year for school groups.

The Winter Elephant Seal Guided School Walks (January-March) focus on the northern elephant seal breeding season and are reserved for 4-12 grades.

The Spring Guided School Walks (April-May) showcase the spring molting to K-12 grades. This time of year provides the best time for younger grades to visit the seals.


Number of Walk Attendees: The maximum number of individuals on a walk is 22 (20 students, 2 adults). We require a minimum adult:student ratio of 1:10. School groups are broken into groups of 20 students per tour and at least 2 chaperones are required to accompany the school group on each walk. School groups without the required number of adult chaperones will not be admitted on the walk. We expect that all chaperones support the docent tour and assist in managing students. Please do not bring extra people. They will not be allowed on the walk. 

Mobility Assistance: If you or your students require mobility assistance, please indicate so when scheduling your field trip. For more information on equal access tours for visitors with mobility restrictions, visit the Equal Access Walk page. This is a separate walk but it can be organized concurrently with the regular school tour.

Natural Environment Warning: Within the natural preserve, it is possible students may witness elephant seal mating. Students may also notice dead or dying seals as a result of natural causes.

In-Person Programs

Program Options:

Breeding Season Guided Walk (Grades 4-12) - Available January through March
Located along a main migration route for northern elephant seals, Año Nuevo State Park provides protected habitat for the seals. Every winter, the up-to-two ton animals descend on the beaches for their breeding season. Although mating intermittently occurs, it is often overshadowed by births, fights, sounds, and the sheer number of animals covering the beaches.

School group walks are available on weekday mornings Monday through Friday beginning in January and running through March for fourth through twelth grade classes. Docent naturalists meet groups at the staging area outside the coastal preserve and then take the students on a guided walk to learn about the park and view the seals. This unique field trip experience takes about 2.5 hours total and has a maximum of 20 students and 2 adults per group. 

To Register for a Breeding Season Guided Walk, call Reserve California at 1-800-444-7275 (open daily from 8 am to 6 pm, except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day). Reservations open on Saturday, October 14 at 8 am. When calling to make a reservation, be prepared to share your contact information, number of students and chaperones, grade level, and any special needs for students. The cost is $21 per school group plus $7.99 reservation fee. There are no ticket refunds or exchanges for cancellations, no shows, weather, or late arrivals. Refunds are issued only when the park staff must cancel a walk. As much notice as possible will be given in the event of a cancellation.

Spring Guided School Walks (Grades K-12) - Available April Through May
Visits to the park during this time of year provide groups the chance to experience the elephant seals during a different phase of their lifecycle. In April, female elephant seals return to the park to rest and molt their old fur andn grow a new coat. Also lingering are weaned pups, seals that are a few months old and are now on their own preparing for their first migration. Mixed in with this group are often adult and juvenile males getting ready for their spring migration along the Pacific coastline. Spring wildflowers and wildlife are abundant too. Spring also offers groups the chance to hike the trails at a leisurely pace, without the constraints of the busy winter guided walks and often with better weather.

Kindergarten through twelth grade school and youth groups may request a guided walk by docent naturalists or do a self-guided walk. Docents are available every day from April 1 to May 31. Docents meet students at the the parking lot picnic tables and then take the students on an average 2.5 hour walk to learn about the park and to view the elephant seals.

Spring Season Self-Guided Walks (Grades K-12) - Available April Through May
During the spring molting season, guided walks are not required to view the elephant seals. Groups may access the coastal preserve and view the elephant seals on a self-guided basis. Group size for self-guided walks are restricted to no more than 60 students split up into 3 groups. 

Register for a Spring Season Trip! 

Virtual Program:

Elephant Seal Tour (Grades K-12) - January through March
This virtual field trip takes place in the Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve where we'll have the chance to discuss the behavior, lifecycle, and adaptations of the northern elephant seal. These unique animals spend the majority of their lives at sea where they forage for food to bulk up for time spent on land. Elephant seals visit Año Nuevo State Park twice a year to breed and molt. We look forward to the opportunity to connect with you and your students!

Register for a Virtual Field Trip!