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A lot of seal pups on the beach
Ano Nuevo State Park
Closest available address
1 New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA 94060
Generally 8-sunset, but hours vary seasonally, check before visiting.
Best time to visit
Ano Nuevo State Park is a coastal state reserve that was established to protect Northern Elephant Seals and the land. The main park area west of Highway One is about 2,600 acres. There is a newer less developed area to the east. 4,000-5,000 elephant seals congregate here each winter, which is the largest such group on the main California coast. The park is typified by chaparral and scattered pines inland while large sand dunes form near the beach. The climate is usually dry, and the weather is mild.
Ano Nuevo received its name from Spanish explorers who passed this way around New Year’s Day in 1603. The Spanish settled the area via Catholic missions in the 1700s and 1800s. Ranches and a dairy farm followed. The farm was bought by the state in 1971, and the main visitor center is located in an old dairy barn.
Northern Elephant Seals and lots of them are the primary draw here. These animals have made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction. They were hunted so relentlessly in the 1800s that only about 50 survived on the Mexican coast. Now the population is thriving. Winter is the best season to view the largest groups of elephant seals, and only guided walks led by docents are offered during winter. You should reserve a tour in advance because good time slots go quickly. Walking up to and around these huge animals is a novel experience that most people will find interesting and memorable. The walk itself is about 3 miles roundtrip. If you can’t make it to Ano Nuevo, elephant seals also gather at Piedras Blancas, which is near the Heart Castle in San Simeon, California. Ano Nuevo’s website also has a live elephant seal webcam.
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