• Hiking

Here you can see 10,000-pound elephant seals in their natural habitat while hiking along the rugged outer coast.

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More About This Hike

Directions: This reserve is about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Turn left into the parking lot via Año Nuevo State Park Road.

Breeding season is December through March, although there are elephant seals year-round.

For an easy stroll (4.1 miles, flat, but fully exposed) circle the preserve on the Upper Pond Trail and Año Nuevo Point Trail. A visitor’s permit is required to see the seals. These permits are issued between 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the park entrance. Guided walks are also available during breeding season. Reservation are encouraged for these as space is limited (via 650-879-2025).

Año Nuevo State Reserve is home to the largest mainland population of northern elephant seals in the world. The area also provides habitat for other marine mammals including Steller sea lions (which live on Año Nuevo Island), harbor seals and is a nesting habitat for many migratory birds.

In 1997, POST purchased the 6,391-acre Cloverdale Coastal Ranch surrounding Año Nuevo State Park. It was the biggest undeveloped and unprotected property on the Central Coast at the time. POST donated 900 acres to Butano State Park, connecting it to Año Nuevo State Park. The remaining land is protected ranch land and is still used by local ranchers.

Watch for:

Elephant seals, migrating whales, sea lions, harbor seals, coyote and wild flowers.

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