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Año Nuevo Point Trail Hike Information

Año Nuevo State Park is home to the largest mainland population of northern elephant seals in the world. During the breading season (December - March) you can visit this sight to see this wildlife in person, however, a visitor's permit is required to access that part of the preserve. Permits are issued between 8:30 A.M. - 3:30 P.M. at the park entrance. Guided walks are also available during breeding season, although reservations are encouraged for these tours as space is limited (call 650-879-2025).

There is also a great wheelchair accessible trail here and a spectacular beach (see below for more information).

Watch for:

See 10,000-pound elephant seals in their natural habitat. Also keep an eye out for migrating whales, sea lions, harbor seals, coyote, wildflowers and the endemic San Francisco garter snake.

Hiking Details for the Año Nuevo Point Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles round trip

Elevation change: None

Hiking time: 1 hour

Trail surface: Gravel

Best Season: Fall, winter, or early spring

Managing agency: California Department of Parks and Recreation

Parking lot location: Click here for directions

Overview: For an easy 1.5-mile stroll, follow the ADA compliant Año Nuevo Point Trail along the coastal bluffs for roughly three quarters of a mile and back again. Near the pond, a short spur trail descends to the surf at Cove Beach. Occasionally elephant seals are found here but sightings are more seldom compared to the western side of the point.

Three quarters of a mile down this trail you’ll reach a staging area and the entrance to the Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve. There is also a gate at this location to clearly mark the entrance of the restricted access area. Beyond this gate and a few miles down the trail is the largest mainland population of northern elephant seals in the world. It’s quite a sight to see.

A permit is required to pass through the gate into the restricted access area, so plan ahead and be sure to grab a permit at the park’s entrance when you arrive. Guide tours are also available to experience this part of the preserve with a local expert, but reservations are encouraged during the breeding season (December to March) as space is limited (call 650-879-2025).

Directions to the Año Nuevo Point Trail Hike

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

More About the Año Nuevo Point Property

Just north of Año Nuevo State Park lies the 6,391-acre Cloverdale Coastal Ranch. In 1997, POST protected this ranch which, at that time, was the biggest undeveloped and unprotected property on the San Mateo Coast. We’ve since transferred 900 acres of the ranch to adjacent Butano State Park and continue to work protect open space, farms and create recreational opportunities along the coastside.

Get our free hiking guide to explore beautiful POST-protected lands.

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