Tule Elk State Natural Reserve

UPDATE (May 20, 2020) - As California State Parks begins working with locals on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access to state park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved, it is important for visitors to continue to practice physical distancing and avoid congregating with people outside their immediate household. Everyone has the responsibility to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Here are some guidelines for people visiting Tule Elk SNR:

What is open now?
  • Trails, beaches and day use areas.
  • Parking may be limited.

What is currently closed at this park and throughout the State Park System?

At this park:
  • Campgrounds
  • Visitor Centers
  • Picnic Areas
  • Congregate and high touch areas
  • Campgrounds.
  • High public-use indoor facilities, including museums and visitor centers.
  • Special events and tours continue to be canceled until further notice.

Are there any new visitor guidelines?

Yes, please see below:
  • Stay Local: Stay close to home. Walk or bike into the park. Parking may be limited. Do not take road trips to parks and beaches or to neighboring states.
  • Stay Active: Keep walking, jogging, hiking and biking. Watch for one-way trails.
  • Stay Safer at 6 Feet: Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Gatherings, picnics and parties are not allowed. Visitors will be asked to leave if there are too many people at the park, beach or on trails to allow for the required physical distance.
  • Stay Clean: Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.
  • Stay Covered: Please be sure to wear face coverings when you cannot maintain a safe 6-foot distance from others.

Thank you for your patience and continued support of California State Parks as we work to limit your risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors. For more information, please visit parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.

Phone Number

(661) 764-6881

Park Hours

9:00am to Sunset

Dogs Allowed?

Dogs allowed in the visitor center area. Prefer dogs not allowed on the reserve during the Auto Safari tours, even if only staying in the vehicle.

Driving Directions to Tule Elk SNR

The reserve is north of Gorman, south of Buttonwillow. From north- or southbound I-5, take the Stockdale Highway exit and go west to Morris Av. Turn left; continue and road becomes Station Rd after a right-only turn. Park entrance is on the left.

Online reservations are not available for this park.

Upcoming Park Events

No events scheduled at this moment.

Picnic Areas
Env. Learning/Visitor Center
Exhibits and Programs
Guided Tours
Interpretive Exhibits
Nature & Wildlife Viewing
Drinking Water Available

The Tule Elk State Natural Reserve protects a small herd of tule elk, once in danger of extinction. In the 1800s, the vast herds of tule elk were greatly reduced in number by hunting and loss of habitat.

In 1874, cattleman Henry Miller began efforts to save them.  At that time few tule elk remained. In 1932, the herd was given permanent protection on the land now known as the Tule Elk State Natural Reserve.

Elk from the reserve have been successfully transplanted to other areas in California.  Today nearly 4,000 tule elk are again roaming the foothills and grasslands of California.

The tule elk are most active from late summer through early autumn. Visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars for better viewing.

The park has a picnic area that offers an excellent  opportunity to observe birds of the San Joaquin Valley.  Interpretive exhibits may be viewed to the south and east of the comfort station.
 Tule Elk YouTube Video

a male tule elk.


Tule Elk swiming


The reserve is 20 miles west of Bakersfield off of Stockdale Highway west of I-5, in the vicinity of Buttonwillow.

Seasons/Climate/Recommended clothing
The weather can be changeable; Extreme heat during summer months, cold foggy winter weather.
layered clothing is recommended.

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