Description - Fifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603.
Copyright: California State Parks
Elephant seals on Ano Nuevo State Reserve
- Fifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603. His diarist and chaplain of the expedition, Father Antonio de la Ascension, named it Punta de Año Nuevo for the day on which they sighted it in 1603.
New Year's Point. 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 Reserve 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 reserve 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.
Recreation - Drinking water and picnic tables are available near the Visitor Center. No food or beverages are sold at the Reserve, and there is no water along the trail. Eating, chewing gum, and smoking are prohibited on the walks. Hiking trails lead from the parking lot to Cove Beach, around the pond, and to the Reserve area. A bookstore in the Visitor Center sells items such as books, postcards, and posters.
The following rules and regulations are both for your own safety and to protect the plants and animals that live in this Reserve:
Año Nuevo State Reserve is open from 8 am to sunset.
The Wildlife Protection Area (Seal Viewing Area) closes as follows:
April - September at 6:00 pm
October - November at 4:30 pm
Pets are not allowed in the reserve and can not be left inside parked vehicles in the parking lot. Kennels are not available.
Harassment or disturbance of wild animals is prohibited by state and federal law.
Collecting shells, rocks, wood, plants, or animals is not allowed. All features of this reserve are protected by law.
Smoking is not permitted in buildings or on guided walks. Fires of all types are prohibited.
Never get within 25 feet of an elephant seal, and make sure your children don't either. Elephant seals are dangerous wild animals.
Año Nuevo Island is closed to access.
Climate - Climate in the San Francisco-Bay area varies greatly with elevation and the amount of coastal influence. Areas with more coastal influence experience moderate temperatures year round with fog likely from June through mid-August. Plan your coastal visit in the late summer or fall to ensure the best conditions for viewing the scenery. Also, occasional clear days between winter and spring storms are incomparable. Areas further inland experience greater temperature extremes, with relatively cooler winters and hot summers. Inland areas often receive frost on winter nights. As throughout most of California most of the precipitation comes in the winter months, with April through October normally very dry. The trail is muddy during wet weather. Be prepared for possible wind, rain, and sun. Wear layered clothing and sturdy shoes. Hooded gear is strongly advised. Cameras and binoculars are welcome!
Año Nuevo State Reserve is located on State Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, about 1.5 hours south of San Francisco. Reserve signs are located on the highway in both directions. (Some people miss the brown signs. Be alert about 27 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 20 miles north of Santa Cruz).