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California, United States

Top wildlife watching sites in the San Francisco Bay Area

Best bets for a wild encounter: Point Reyes, Marin Headlands, Año Nuevo, Point Lobos

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Difficulty: Moderate
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: These sites feature one Discovery Channel moment after another, minus the TV and cable bill.

On the northern edge of the Bay Area, Point Reyes National Seashore hosts a herd of tule elk -- imposing bulls lording over their harems -- best seen on a hike along the Tomales Point Trail. The hike is a flat 10-mile out-and-back, but it's easy to see elk without hiking the whole distance.

Just north of San Francisco stands the Marin Headlands, home to countless sea birds and an impressive show of wildflowers every spring.

Año Nuevo State Preserve south of Pacifica is home to large colony of elephant seals; they're so popular that you need reservations to see them during the peak winter season.

Point Lobos State Reserve is over 100 miles south of San Francisco, so it's a bit of a reach to say it's in the Bay Area, but the scenery and and wildlife are so rich that any visit to the region must include a stop there.

Tips: Keep your distance from large mammals, particularly elk and elephant seals, which can move with astonishing speed and crush/gore anybody they see as a threat. Never forget these are wild animals.

Dress for cold weather; warmth is rare along the Pacific Coast.

Don't forget your camera and binoculars.
Guides in this Bundle
Año Nuevo
Año Nuevo
Pescadero, California, United States
Easy: 4.5 miles, 1-3 hours
Elephant seal watching at Año Nuevo State Reserve; learn about fascinating sex lives of gigantic marine mammals
Marin Headlands
Marin Headlands
Mill Valley, California, United States
Headlands host beauty and history of San Francisco Bay Area
Tomales Point at Point Reyes National Seashore
Tomales Point at Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes Station, California, United States
Moderate: 10.2 miles, Half day
Glorious views and grazing elk await at Point Reyes National Seashore. Moderate 10-mile hike.
Wonders of Wildlife at Point Lobos State Reserve
Easy: Half day
Sea lions, shore birds and more share this gorgeous chunk of Pacific Coast south of Carmel, California

Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan
Nice Guide, Well Done

by Steve44MCaUSA on Jun 23, 2010

Top wildlife watching sites in the San Francisco Bay Area Trail Map

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