Experience state parks year round.

Año Nuevo State Park

Treat yourself to an unforgettable wildlife drama at the site of the northern elephant seal's largest mainland breeding colony in the world. February is one of the best times to see these behemoths come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth.

Photo Credit: David Assmann

Ano Nuevo State Park

Getting There

Año Nuevo State Park is 55 miles south of San Francisco between the Pacific Ocean and Highway 1.

Things to Do

It's winter, and you will definitely want to see the elephant seals! 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. 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.

From December 15 to March 31 you must be on a guided walk to view the seals. You can book your walk in advance online. Please read Año Nuevo Guided Walks for more information before calling (800) 444-4445 for reservations.

February CSPF Highlight: Registration for CSPF’s Annual Park Advocacy Day in March is now open. Be sure to register on our website, calparks.org/PAD.

Where to Stay

  • Stay at nearby state park Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park. You can sleep right at the base of the lighthouse by booking a room in the Hostel at Pigeon Point. Guests enjoy cozy indoor lounges, fully equipped kitchens, cove beaches, tidepools, and an oceanfront boardwalk. Amenities include satellite Internet, free WiFi, and free parking.
  • Try camping at Butano State Park. You can book a camp site through our travel center! There is also Coastanoa.

Trip Tips/Things to See

Some tips to make your trip to Año Nuevo even better:

  • It can be very windy and cool during the height of the season, so remember to bring layers of clothing. Also, bring proper walking/hiking shoes, the round trip walk is several miles.
  • Pigeon Point Light Station, located just a few miles north of Año Nuevo off Highway 1, is worth a stop when you are done at Año Nuevo.
  • Farther north, visit the bucolic town of Pescadero. If you are hungry, try the renowkned fare at Durate’s Tavern, it has been in business since 1894.
  • Look for roadside produce stands that might be open with winter produce.
  • Just south, past Waddell Creek, drive along Swanton Road for a nice scenic side trip.

Nearby State Parks

  • Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park and Butano State Park are within 5 miles.
  • Portola Redwoods State Park
  • Pescadero State Beach
  • Bean Hollow State Beach
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park

More Resources

Department of Parks and Recreation: Official Park Webpage

Cooperating Association: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

More Fun Ideas at: Weekend Sherpa



California State Parks Foundation

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