Año Nuevo State Park
Año Nuevo State Park, in San Mateo County, preserves and protects the scenic, biological, ecological, and cultural values of the central California coastline, including Año Nuevo Island and properties on the western slope of the coast range inland from Año Nuevo Point. The park protects and interprets the pinniped rookeries, a prime resource, and significant wildlife habitats on Año Nuevo Island and the mainland. It also contains sensitive native dunes and coastal terrace prairie habitats, and a diversity of inland plant communities, including old growth forest, freshwater marsh, red alder riparian forest and knobcone pine forest. Its four perennial streams support steelhead trout and coho salmon, and its wetlands are habitat to the rare San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog. Cultural resources include the remnants of Native California Indian Ohlone occupation of the area and a number of structures from the nineteenth century Cascade Ranch and historic Steele Ranch. In conjunction with adjacent and nearby public lands, the unit protects important regional ecological corridors and linkages.
Fifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, a low, rock, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by this point on Jan. 3, 1603. His diarist and chaplain of the expedition, Father Antonio de la Ascension, named it Punta de Año Nuevo (New Year’s Point) for the day on which they sighted it.
Today, the point remains much as Vizcaino saw it from his passing ship. Lonely, undeveloped, wild. Elephant seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth in the sand dunes or on the beaches and offshore islands. It is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that hundreds of thousands of people come to witness each year.Año Nuevo State Park is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal, and the interpretive program has attracted increasing interest every winter for the past 19 years. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes.
During the breeding season, December through March, daily access to the park is available via guided walks only. Most of the adult seals are gone by early March, leaving behind the weaned pups who remain through April. The elephant seals return to Año Nuevo’s beaches during the spring and summer months to molt and can be observed during this time through a permit system.
This park is a major gathering area for northern elephant seals, which may be seen year-round. The males battle for mates on the beaches. The females give birth to their young on the dunes.
Self-Guided Seal Walks
Daily between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Stroll over sand dunes, enjoy beautiful ocean views and gain a unique opportunity to view this large colony of Northern elephant seals! Visit the female elephant seals return to shore as they molt, or shed their fur, in this annual excursion. Additionally, young adorable pups are still ashore from the winter breeding season.
The self-guided trail is 3 miles round trip. Layered clothing, closed-toes shoes, and rain/wind gear are strongly advised. Umbrellas and strollers are not permitted inside the dune area. Pets are not allowed in the park. Parking is $10 and supports the park. Entrance to the reserve for your self-guided walk requires a free permit that can be obtained at the entrance station, or the Marine Education Center. Please contact the park at 650-879-2025 for further information.
Equal Access Seal Tours
Available on demand
If you need mobility assistance, you can request a docent-led equal access tour of the elephant seals. You will board our accessible van and get a ride to our wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. The docent(s) will accompany you to the two seal-viewing decks, explain the Northern elephant seal natural history, the history of the park, and answer questions.
Reservations are required. Please, allow a 2-week advance notice. The docent led tour is free. Parking is $10 and supports the park. Please contact the park at 650-879-2033 or email Ano.EqualAccess@parks.ca.gov to make your reservations.
Facilities and Opportunities
The Visitor Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore offering educational items such as books, postcards and posters. Restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available near the Visitor Center only. Food and beverages are not sold at the park.
The park also has a wheelchair accessible boardwalk and provides van transports when necessary. Learn more in the Hilltromper Beach Accessibility Guide.
Adjacent Visitor Attractions
Rules & Regulations
The following rules and regulations are for your own safety and to protect the plants and animals that live in this park.
No pets. Pets are not allowed in the park and cannot be left inside parked vehicles in the parking lot. Kennels are not available.
Where Can I Take My Dog.pdf
No harassing or disturbing wild animals. This is prohibited by state and federal laws.
Keep your distance. Elephant seals are dangerous wild animals. Never get within 25 feet of an elephant seal, and make sure your children don’t either.
No collecting. Shells, rocks, wood, plants or animals. 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.
For more information, please call (650) 879-2025.