Año Nuevo State Park

Quick Facts

Año Nuevo State Park

California

(650) 879-2025

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

The purpose of Año Nuevo State Park, in San Mateo County, is to preserve and protect 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. The park protects and interprets the pinniped rookeries, a prime resource, and significant wildlife habitats on Año Nuevo Island and the mainland. 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. Its four perennial streams support steelhead trout and coho salmon, and its wetlands are habitat to the rare San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog. Cultural resources include the remnants of Native California Indian Ohlone occupation of the area and a number of structures from the nineteenth century Cascade Ranch and historic Steele Ranch. In conjunction with adjacent and nearby public lands, the unit protects important regional ecological corridors and linkages.

California State Parks preserves, protects, restores, interprets and manages the unit's archaeological, cultural, natural, aesthetic and scenic resources, making them available to the public for their educational, inspirational and recreational benefits.

Map of Año Nuevo (CA)

Latitude, Longitude: 37.166216, -122.327864

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Activities

  • Bird Watching

    In the spring, mallards, pintails, wigeons and both Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals can be seen on or near the fresh water pond within the reserve. Migrating waves of warblers, vireos, thrushes, orioles and other land birds also pass through the area in the spring. Red-winged Blackbirds nest near the pond along with the Marsh Wren. Several species of hummingbirds are present in the reserve and especially noticeable in springtime, when they carry out their spectacular courtship rituals.

    Swifts and swallows can often be seen hunting insects above the upland brushfields. Quail, meadowlarks, sparrows, finches and other seed eaters live right in the brush. Towhees, bushtits and wrentits can be found in both the chaparral and dune areas. Several kinds of hawks and falcons, including Northern Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites, Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are often seen hovering above the fields.

    Flocks of turnstones, sandpipers and plovers search the beaches and rocky areas for food, especially in April and early May, before moving north for the summer. Loons, grebes, terns and brants are also seen during the spring as they pass through this area on their way north, and at least seven different species of gull migrate through the area each spring, most of them on their way to nesting areas in Canada and Alaska.

    Sanderlings, Black turnstones, Marbled Godwits, willets and Black-bellied Plovers are the most numerous shorebirds to be seen during the fall. Brown Pelicans move north from Mexico each spring and can be seen along the California coast throughout most of the year.

  • Hiking

    Hiking trails are available.

  • Historic Sites

    A Visitor Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore offering educational items such as books, postcards and posters.

    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 (New Year's Point) for the day on which they sighted it in 1603.

    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 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.

    During the breeding season, December through March, daily access to the park 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.

    This park is a major gathering area for northern elephant seals, which may be seen year-round. The males battle for mates on the beaches. The females give birth to their young on the dunes. During the breeding season, December 15 through March 31, daily access to the park is available only via guided walks. Advance reservations are recommended for walks.

  • Picnicking

    Restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available near the visitor center only. Food and beverages are not sold at the park.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Perhaps the most compelling attraction for human visitors to Año Nuevo State Reserve is the large colony of northern elephant seals that assembles along the shore each winter. So named because of their large size and long pendulous noses on the males. These large animals spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only to molt, give birth and mate.

    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 make 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 park 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.

    For reservations and more information visit http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523.

Seasonality/Weather

Año Nuevo State Park is fascinating in every season. Elephant seal pups are born between December and February during the "Breeding Season." During the spring and summer months, elephant seals come ashore to shed their fur during the "Molting Season." Each fall, yearling seals "hang out" on the beaches during the "Fall Haul Out Season."

Directions

Driving

The park is located on State Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, about 1.5 hours south of San Francisco.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(650) 879-2025

Links