Elephant Seals of Año Nuevo State Park – Pescadero, California - Atlas Obscura
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Pescadero, California

Elephant Seals of Año Nuevo State Park

Once close to extinction, there is no shortage of elephant seals on the beaches of Año Nuevo State Park. 

Año Nuevo Beach is perhaps the most physcially accessible rookery of the Northern Elephant Seal (most others occur on coastal islands). 

Thousand of pups are born there each year, products of the brutish creature’s rather savage mating rituals. The guided tour allows one to view these enormous wild animals in their natural habitat, an opportunity not to be missed, and one which seems quite exotic and rather out-of-place in an urban center such as the San Francisco Bay Area. It feels more like something one would encounter in the wilds of Alaska or Tierra del Fuego rather than San Mateo County.

The males elephant seals can grow to 14 feet in length, and weigh as much as 5,000 pounds, which makes them approximately the size of an old Volkswagen Bug. You’re not permitted to get closer than 25 feet to these animals for obvious safety reasons, but even at a safe distance, the sheer size of these huge and powerful creatures will startle you, magnificent when viewed in their natural habitat.

All tours are guided, and the beach is otherwise effectively closed to humans during the mating season.

Know Before You Go

Año Nuevo State Park is located in San Mateo County, approximately 25 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and 25 miles north of Santa Cruz, on HWY 1. It rests on the coastal edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is a easy day trip from the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.