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Ano Nuevo State Park: 4.1-Mile Easy Hike

4.1-mile loop to an elephant seal overlook, along the coast, this hike is easy, although the trails pass through some sections of loose sand. Elevation change is minimal. We will meet at 12:45 for a 1:00 departure. We will take the Lower Pond Trail to the viewing point and back since that trail has the nicest views.

Important Note: There is only one safe place to park which is the paid parking lot inside the park. Outside the park there are frequent break-ins.

Parking fee: $10/car. Park ranger requests we pay with tens and not twenties.

Meeting time: 12:45 for a 1:00 departure.

Hiking time2 hours.

RulesNo dogs. No food.

Meeting place: the Visitor Center.

Getting thereFrom CA 1 in San Mateo County, turn west into the park. The entrance is 12 miles south of Pescadero Road, 3 miles south of Rossi Road, and just north of the San Mateo/Santa Cruz County border.

After hike:  If anyone wants to grab a bite to eat after the hike, Costanoa (a hotel just down the street from Ano Nuevo) has  reasonably-priced food (e.g., burger + salad or fries for $12) at their restaurant/bar. You head north on HWY 1 for 1.1 miles, turn right on Rossi and drive 0.6 miles. You will see Costanoa on the left.

Trailhead details:  Lots of parking in a paved lot. Maps, drinking water, and restrooms at trailhead. Pay phone at entrance station. There is no direct public transportation to the reserve.  

Additional rules: "Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Trails are open to hikers only. No food is permitted in the wildlife protection area (a good excuse for an after-hike lunch of green chili soup at Duarte's in Pescadero). Although you can take a short loop through the reserve's main unit year round, if you want to hike through the wildlife protection area you can do so by permit (available the same day at the reserve) from April to November. From December to March the protection area is accessible only via guided docent walks, and you must pre-register." 

Exposure: Full sun. 

Trail traffic: Moderate.

Trail surfaces: Dirt trails and loose sand.

Season: Nice year round, but from December to March the protection area is accessible only via guided docent walks, and you must pre-register. 

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS coordinates* for trailhead
Latitude 37° 7'11.07"N
Longitude 122°18'26.49"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, stores, and restaurants north a few miles along CA 1. At Costanoa, on Rossi Road, you can buy great foods to go at the deli, or use a pay phone. No camping in any of the Año Nuevo units, but you can camp at Costanoa.

The Official Story:
CSP's Año Nuevo page 
Park office[masked]

Map Choices
 This hike is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber. Order this book from
• CSP's park map (pdf)
• Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains(map 2), by the Sempervirens Fund (includes Big Basin, Butano, and Skyline-to-the Sea), is a good map to the unit.
• Tom Taber's Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book (order this book from has a simple map.
• Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Frances Spangle, and Betsy Crowder (order this book from has a simple map and some reserve information. 

Año Nuevo in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

 View photos from this hike (trails are routed slightly differently than shown in the photos)"

(Text above and below quoted from Jane Huber's Bay Area Hiker Web site.)

"Año Nuevo State Park encompasses miles of San Mateo county coastline and a separate backcountry unit, but most people know the reserve as the northern California destination to see elephant seals. 

During the elephant seals' mating and birthing season, from December to March, the only way to see the seals is on a docent-lead walk. Reservations are hard to come by; easier if you can finagle a weekday visit. From April to November, simply show up at the reserve headquarters and ask for a visitor permit. Staff members can guide you to the most likely spots in the protection area to see seals.     

You can explore Año Nuevo's undeveloped coastline north of the protected area from a string of small trailheads along CA 1, where primitive trails wander through sand dunes to quiet beaches. The reserve also manages a "backcountry," which stretches east uphill into the Santa Cruz Mountains. While this unit, called Cascade Ranch, is attached to the bulk of the park's coastline property, it feels completely separate, and possesses none of the amenities offered at the park headquarters.

This hike is also good spot for bird watching -- raptors including redtail and coopers hawks are frequently sighted, as are goldfinches and wrens. 

In addition to the famously protected elephant seals, California sea lions, harbor seals, and steller sea lions visit or live in the area. We might also see dolphins.

A short and beautiful boardwalk leads to the viewing area where you can often spot seals just off the shore. You may hear the elephant seals' distinctive vocalizations (kind of like the competitive deep drawn-out belly burps of teenage boys), a sure sign that seals are not far away. 

There are also sweeping views to Año Nuevo Island and North Point." 


Ano Nuevo Point TrailOn the trail to the North Point Seal ViewpointElephant seals on the beach at North PointView south on the returnSand duneReturning, with a great view east to the ChalksPond Loop Trail

(Text above and below quoted from Jane Huber's Bay Area Hiker Web site.)

Join or login to comment.

  • Grant

    Great hike with beautiful views of the elephant seals. It would be fantastic to be here again during the mating season.

    October 27, 2013

  • Steve

    Thanks for a very enjoyable afternoon.

    October 27, 2013

  • Fifi

    Hi Zeta, It was a fantastic hike! Would love to go back again in between December and March for sure. Thanks much for organizing...

    October 27, 2013

  • Pamela A.

    fantastic place and a great day!

    October 27, 2013

  • Allan

    Thanks for organizing Zeta....great hike...

    October 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great place, thanks for organizing Zeta.

    1 · October 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Such a wonderful meet up!!! I'd never been and was mesmerized! Sorry we lagged & missed eating with you. Thank you such Zeta!

    2 · October 26, 2013

  • Fifi

    Hi Zeta, I'm stuck in the traffic now, probabl is running late about 20 minutes or so.....

    October 26, 2013

    • Lisa

      We left about 1:15 so you could probably catch up with us. There's a couple of stops along the way. Hope to see soon.

      October 26, 2013

  • Elizabeth G.

    I didn't sign up for this, but am considering it. Anyone else interested in potentially carpooling from Santa Cruz area?

    October 24, 2013

    • Brendon

      I'd like to join a carpool from Santa Cruz too. - Brendan from 'Take-a-Hike'.­

      October 25, 2013

    • Elizabeth G.

      Oops, I can't go--stove caught on fire & need to go buy a new one today! Have fun guys & gals.

      October 26, 2013

  • adela

    I would like to carpool with someone from South San Jose. Park and Ride at Santa Teresa and 85 is a good meet up or at the Bev Mo on Santa Teresa and 85.

    October 25, 2013

  • Robyn

    So sorry. I forgot I'm working on Saturday. Dang!

    October 21, 2013

  • Kristine C.

    I will be attending my granddaughter's horse & rider costume contest. Hope you all have fun on the hike.

    October 21, 2013

  • Kuro K.

    Is anybody going from Berkeley/Oakland area and is willing to give me a ride? I'll pay the bridge toll and/or share the gas cost.

    October 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'd like to ride with someone from the South Bay. I can chip in for gas.

    October 19, 2013

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