How does this work?
Pescadero, California, United States

Año Nuevo

Elephant seal watching at Año Nuevo State Reserve; learn about fascinating sex lives of gigantic marine mammals

Content
provided by
Viewed 20772 times
    This guide contains photos
 (42 votes, 42 reviews)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.5 miles / 7.2 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
 
Overview: 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.


Tips: 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.

Park hours:
April 1-Aug. 31: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sept. 1-Nov 30: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dec. 1-14: Seal area closed

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

Points of Interest

map

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).
map

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).
Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan, tclifton, wooac
Reviews
Robmathew
Great adventure! I love it!
Visited on May 14, 2010

by Robmathew on Nov 29, 2014
mackkael
very very nice place... amazing
Visited on Apr 21, 2010

by mackkael on Nov 28, 2014
maxadword
I love to visit again
Visited on Aug 02, 2011

by maxadword on Nov 28, 2014
annawatson21
The best place in the world
Visited on Oct 22, 2012

by annawatson21 on Nov 28, 2014
Miller95
Great adventure! I love it!
Visited on Apr 11, 2011

by Miller95 on Nov 28, 2014
kristy32
There is so much freshness...
Visited on Nov 04, 2008

by kristy32 on Nov 26, 2014
emmy33
Amazing place with amazing food.
Visited on Apr 05, 2007

by emmy33 on Nov 26, 2014
kimi65
Really beautiful part of the world.
Visited on Sep 29, 2005

by kimi65 on Nov 24, 2014
10bet
this one is really awesome

by 10bet on Nov 20, 2014
Logon69
I would love to visit again
Visited on May 26, 2013

by Logon69 on Nov 18, 2014
Peter_999
People and place is very nice
Visited on Feb 01, 2011

by Peter_999 on Nov 18, 2014
Sharon_999
Ultimate place for hangout
Visited on Dec 18, 2008

by Sharon_999 on Nov 18, 2014
andrewleeds
Amazing place, fantastic experience
Visited on Sep 21, 2013

by andrewleeds on Nov 03, 2014
johnsonpaul
nice place...loving it
Visited on Feb 03, 2003

by johnsonpaul on Oct 19, 2014
james8812
love those elephant seal... great place

by james8812 on Sep 22, 2014
james8812
Beautiful Place... loved those elephant seals..

by james8812 on Sep 22, 2014
lovelykhatri
Great spots... one should visit with fiends only

by lovelykhatri on Sep 22, 2014
sharma9211
nice place...must visit evevryone

by sharma9211 on Sep 22, 2014
deepakjuneja
awesome place.. great trip it was... love it

by deepakjuneja on Sep 19, 2014
renybang1
very Nice place.. Love it

by renybang1 on Sep 13, 2014
jamesgilo
amazing place... had so much fun there... must visit

by jamesgilo on Sep 08, 2014
samlively
see you this December Ano

by samlively on Sep 08, 2014
planetwin
Beautiful and freaking place it is... those elephant seals... just beautiful

by planetwin on Aug 28, 2014
midnightf
elephant seals.... what a creature

by midnightf on Aug 17, 2014
stevebhalla
seems like a great place on earth...sooner m coming Año Nuevo

by stevebhalla on Aug 16, 2014
Kanward
very very useful project :)
Visited on May 01, 2013

by Kanward on Jul 13, 2014
Sukhjinder
virtually....want to visit this spot :)
Visited on Feb 03, 2010

by Sukhjinder on Jul 13, 2014
ricerubberpolisher
Really Nice space expensive it
Visited on Apr 03, 2010

by ricerubberpolisher on Apr 16, 2014
LostloveBackSolution
reat info i like this place
Visited on May 05, 2010

by LostloveBackSolution on Apr 11, 2014
LoveMarriageSolution
anu nuevo is heavenly
Visited on May 04, 2010

by LoveMarriageSolution on Apr 11, 2014
ricerubberroll
great weather very nice place
Visited on Apr 06, 2007

by ricerubberroll on Mar 13, 2014
ricerubberrolls
this is the park hub
Visited on Apr 03, 2012

by ricerubberrolls on Mar 10, 2014
bestindianastrologer
Año Nuevo is great i love this place
Visited on Apr 04, 2010

by bestindianastrologer on Mar 07, 2014
paddydehusker
THis place is just brings me to life
Visited on Apr 05, 2010

by paddydehusker on Mar 06, 2014
lovemarriagespecialist
had great time would like to go again
Visited on Apr 05, 2007

by lovemarriagespecialist on Mar 05, 2014
LoveVashikaranmantra
visit ano nuevo in spring
Visited on Apr 05, 2010

by LoveVashikaranmantra on Mar 04, 2014
astroman999
once you go here you dont want to come back
Visited on Jun 04, 2010

by astroman999 on Feb 24, 2014
ankitkhanna
great place. i have been there
Visited on Apr 04, 2013

by ankitkhanna on Jan 27, 2014
harinderinizz
good place fantastic experience
Visited on Jun 07, 1999

by harinderinizz on Nov 22, 2013
harinderiniz
Loved my trip to anu nuevo
Visited on Jun 04, 2011

by harinderiniz on Oct 30, 2013
harinderseo
elephant seals are like house flies at nuevo ano
Visited on May 05, 2007

by harinderseo on Oct 29, 2013
qwwq
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).


by qwwq on Feb 24, 2010

Año Nuevo Trail Map


POIs: numbers | icons View large Trail Map

Have an iPhone or Android?

  • Map your route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers

Available For:
iPhone | Android

About the Author

tommangan
tommangan
108 guides
view tommangan's profile
Keeper of Two Heel Drive, A Hiking Blog at http://tommangan.net/twoheeldrive |

Año Nuevo 3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
How To Get There
Get directions from: