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. 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.
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 two decades. 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.
Learn more in the California State Parks brochure.
The park is at 1 News Years Creek Road in Pescadero, about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz on the west side of Highway 1.
Things to doGuided Tours
Reservations are required. Walks are offered daily for families, individuals, or groups. Starting Oct. 20 tickets go on sale as early as 56 days in advance, and no later than one day before arrival. Price per ticket: $7. Children age 3 and under are free. Children age 17 and under require one adult chaperone for each 10 children. Each walk has a capacity of 20 people, including chaperones.
Call Reserve California at 1-800-444-4445 to reserve a guided seal walk.
Purchase tour tickets online at Reserve California; cost is $7 plus a $4 registration fee. When guided walks are sold out online, the park releases additional day-of tickets on a first-come first-serve basis at the park. Cost is $7. Although there is no guarantee tickets will be available, the park typically releases 60-120 tickets per day and sales of these tickets directly benefits Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Tip: arrive at the park before noon on weekends and holidays, and before 2 p.m. on weekdays for a chance to purchase these tickets and save the $4 per ticket. Call 650-879-2025 to confirm availability.Equal Access Seal Tours
Contact the park at 650-879-2025 or email Ano.EqualAccess@nullparks.ca.gov to make reservations for equal access tours. Docent-led equal access tours of the elephant seals are available for those who need mobility assistance. These tours include ride in an accessible van to park’s wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. The docent(s) accompany visitors to the two seal-viewing decks, explain the Northern elephant seal natural history, the history of the park and answer questions.Trails
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. The self-guided sea walk trail is 3 miles round trip.Exhibits and Programs
The park features the Marine Education Center boasting a natural history exhibit, bookstore and theater.Picnic Areas
Picnic areas are first-come, first-serve.Beach Areas
Cove Beach, a short walk, offers swimming, surfing and boogie boarding.
The Marine Education Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore offering educational items such as books, postcards and posters. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily during Guided Walk season (Dec. 15 to Mar. 31) and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays during Open Walk season (April-November).
Learn more about the Guided Walks here.
Fees and Passes
Parking fees support the park. Costs are:
- Regular-size vehicles: $10
- Seniors (age 62+): $9
- Bus (10-24 passengers): $50
- Bus (25+ passengers): $100
Entrance to the reserve for a self-guided walk requires a free permit that can be obtained at the entrance station or the Marine Education Center. Permits are issued from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m
- Picnic Area
- Mobile assistance for seal tours
- The park also has a wheelchair accessible boardwalk and provides van transports when necessary. Learn more in the Hilltromper Beach Accessibility Guide.
An extensive volunteer program provides docents year-round to assist park visitors in the elephant seal viewing area. Learn more. Contact Año Nuevo Docent Coordinator at 650-879-2032 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.
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 and 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.
- Keep your distance. Elephant seals are dangerous wild animals. Never get within 25 feet of an elephant seal, and make sure children don’t either.
- Umbrellas and strollers are not permitted inside the dune area.
- Pets are not allowed in the park, including in vehicles.
- No smoking or fires. Smoking is not permitted in buildings or on guided walks. Fires of all types are prohibited.
- No bikes on trails. Bikes are prohibited on all trails in the park.
- No collecting shells, rocks, wood, plants or animals. All features of this park are preserved and protected by law.
- Food and beverages are not sold at the park.
- No harassing or disturbing wild animals. This is prohibited by state and federal laws.