Day Use Area 8:30am to Sunset
Natural Preserve: Permits to view seals issued 8:30am to 3:30pm, Friday through Monday
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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 outlying rocks.
Click here to learn about visiting the northern elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park.
One of the largest mainland breeding colonies in the world for the northern elephant seal is at Año Nuevo State Park. 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 within the Wildlife Viewing Area.
The following rules and regulations are for your own safety and to protect the plants and animals that live in this park.
TO SEE THE ELEPHANT SEALS
Elephant seal viewing requires a 3-4 mile moderate hike over varied terrain, including sand dunes. Driving to see them is not an option. Sturdy shoes, layered clothing, water and rain/wind/sun protection are reccomended. Visitors requiring mobility assistance are encouraged to make a reservation for an Equal Access Tour.
December - March: You must be on a Guided Walk to see the seals. Reservations are made through www.reservecalifornia.com
April - November: Visitor permits to see the seals inside the Natural Preserve are issued from 8:30 to 3:30, Thursday-Monday. Visitors will not be able to obtain a permit after 3:30pm due to the lenghth of time it takes to hike to the viewing areas.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM SEALS
Elephant seals are deadly 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.
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.
Shells, rocks, wood, plants or animals may not be collected. All features of this park are protected by law.
NO SMOKING OR FIRES
Smoking is not permitted in buildings or on guided walks. Fires of all types are prohibited.
Drone use is prohibited within Año Nuevo State Park.