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KimberlyAnnG Level 8
Level 8

Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

1549155808649861.jpgTu and I on a rainy & windy hike to see the elephants seals!


Año Nuevo State Park is an amazing natural jewel in the California state park system, it remains undeveloped and protected since the first sailors arrived on January 1, 1603 and named it for New Years Day.  It is the mating grounds for many different varieties of seals but the most impressive are the elephant seals.

1549155814055744.jpgAll the information you need to know before starting out on a hike!1549155817701216.jpg1549155818317945.jpgEverything is so green!

Elephant seals, prized for the heating oil that could be extracted from their blubber, were nearly hunted to extinction.  In 1884, scientists discovered a small colony of eight individuals on Guadalupe island off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.  In 1922, The Mexican government declared them endangered and protected.

1549155814481237.jpgThe male is twice the size of the female!!

From that extremely small population of animals the elephant seal has made an astounding recovery. According to Patrick Robinson, our expert from UCSC, the number of elephant seals in the wild today is somewhere around 115,000 individuals!  There are approximately 1000 pups born every year right here at Año Nuevo!

The northern elephant seal  is one of two species of elephant seal. Elephant seals get their name from their great size and from the male's large proboscis (nose).  They use it to make extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating competition.

1549155807861649.jpgEnjoying a break in the rain, a moment in some sun!15491558105041.jpgThey look so sweet but it's not wise (or lawful) to get too close!

Starting in December, male elephant seals (called “bulls”) arrive at the beaches where they will battle for supremacy!  The battles are epic and will continue as long as there are females on the beach. The largest and most successful will collect females (cows) to form a harem of 30-100 or more.




Females arrive at the beach pregnant from the previous year.  They will give birth to a single pup that weighs around 60 to 70 pounds (27-31 kg.).  



The milk that the females produce is extremely rich. 55% fat and is said to resemble cream cheese.  All of that is meant to fatten up the pups very quickly. They nurse for about 4 weeks. Around that time, the mothers will come into estrus and mating with bulls will occur.


For females this means about 2 to 3 months on land.  During that entire time they are fasting, give birth and will feed a ravenous baby. After mating they head out to sea to start looking for food. At this point the babies are on their own!


The pups will be around 270 pounds (122kg.) when Mom leaves.  They also don't know how to swim. Over the next four weeks they will learn to swim so that they can go out to sea and start feeding on their natural prey of shrimp, squid and fish.


You can see in the graphic below that male elephant seals have been tracked all the way up to the Aleutian islands in Alaska and nearly to Japan. Females don't travel quite as far to find food but they still travel fairly far out into the Pacific Ocean searching.Screenshot 2019-02-03 at 2.50.22 PM.png



One of our guides, Dr. Patrick Robinson, Año Nuevo Reserve Director and UC Santa Cruz lecturer was a great source of information.  He has made the study of elephant seals his life’s work. We were able to learn a lot about how they managed to get such extremely accurate data on the migration of the seals.  If you are interested in learning more about the work being done, you can find them on their Facebook page ---> here.


Año Nuevo protects the elephant seals by limiting the human exposure. In order to see the elephant seals you must be part of a docent guided hike.  They carefully schedule these hikes so that only one group at a time is at any one of the many viewpoints. It’s a fragile environment and they have taken great pains to protect it.


It's a wonderful experience to be so close to these gigantic animals.  I hope that we will continue to protect them and allow them to increase their numbers.


And what do you do after a three-hour hike into the sand dunes?  You head up the road to Pescadero for pie at Duarte's Tavern.....

15491558060812.jpgDuarte's Tavern is famous for it's olallieberry pie! Make it ala mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

....and goat cheese from Harley Farms.


A little further up the road you'll find Sam's Chowder House. Known for their unbelievably huge Lobster Roll sandwiches, this place is always packed with cars and people waiting for a seat.


Interested in exploring the Bay Area like a Local Guide?  @Twister411  and I are always up for these adventures! Let us know your interested and we'll keep you in the loop for anything we have coming up.

Kimberly Graham
YasumiKikuchi Level 10
Level 10

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

Thank you for an interesting post @KimberlyAnnG 

I feel I got a bit smarter about Elephant Seals🐬🤔. In addition, a very rich lunch!

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Twister411 Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

It's a little terrifying how fast they can move.  Definitely can't wait until out next adventure in the Bay Area.

davidhyno Level 9
Level 9

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

Thanks so much @KimberlyAnnG  for sharing with us your trip! 

Very interesting to learn how the coast of California can accommodate both colonies of marine elephants and sea lions (the latter can also be seen from the famous Pier 39 of San Francisco)!







Google Moderator
Google Moderator

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

Hi @KimberlyAnnG,


Thanks for sharing your trip, photos and videos! This is a beautiful post on conservation done the correct way. I am impressed to read about the efforts of Año Nuevo State Park to keep the area protected. This is for sure a must see to add to my travel list. :) I also like the fact that you can combine your visit with a lovely lunch!


PS: I will move your post to the Travel section.

Due to the volume of private messages Googlers receive, I do not read or respond to private messages. Please post publicly so others may benefit from your discussion. If you require urgent assistance, please tag a Google Moderator. Thank you!

KimberlyAnnG Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

@AlexaAC thank you for the kind words and YES, the next time you travel to the Bay Area (where I live) you should make a trip to Ano Nuevo to see the seals.


Regarding your moving this post to Travel, I'm not sure why you would take it out of Local Stories.  @Twister411 and I both LIVE here.  It's not travel for us but just what any Local might do on a weekend.


My main reason for posting was to try to entice other locals to come out and join us.  If you move this to Travel, how will that help me with my goal????

Kimberly Graham
Twister411 Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

@KimberlyAnnG  and @AlexaAC people don't realize how much there's to do here in the Bay Area beyond visiting San Francisco, tech companies, and major landmarks.  


I would really like to encourage travelers and future Summit attendees to reach out to the Bay area group if they're interested in doing something.  We want to show off the Bat Area to enjoy.

KimberlyAnnG Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

@davidhyno YES there are a lot of of marine mammals that use the coastline for mating and raising young.  Some of them you can find here regularly:

  • Harbor Seals.
  • California Sea Lions.
  • Stellar Sea Lions
  • Elephant Seals.
  • Northern Fur Seals
  • Sea Otters.
  • Bottlenose Dolphins
  • Pacific White-sided Dolphins
  • Orcas.
  • Grey and Humpback Whales.

furseal.jpgNorthern Fur Sealstellar.jpgStellar Sea Lionsea lion.jpgCalifornia Sea Lionseal1.jpgHarbor Seal

Our coastline is the beneficiary of what's known as "upwelling".  Our waters are nutrient rich with phytoplankton and zooplankton.  This brings the fish and all of the other things further up the food chain!  It's a great place to live if you love nature!

upwelling (1).jpgThis graphic shows how displaced surface waters are replaced by cold, nutrient-rich water that “wells up” from below. Conditions are optimal for upwelling along the coast when winds blow along the shore.

Kimberly Graham
KimberlyAnnG Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

@Twister411 soooooo many amazing and fun things to see in the Bay Area!!!  I've lived here for the past 35 years and I'm STILL finding cool "new" things to explore!

Kimberly Graham
KimberlyAnnG Level 8
Level 8

Re: Walk with the Elephant Seals 🐘 at Año Nuevo State Park

@YasumiKikuchi I think that the next time you visit San Francisco we should take a drive down Highway 1 along the coast!!!  I know how much you love photography and nature.  This day trip would be a very fun day.  Plus the food all along the way is amazing!!! 


This is where you will find the very freshest seafood dishes.  Much of it comes in on the boats that dock at Pillar Point Harbor.


The last time @Twister411 and I were there (we went whale watching) there was a small boat that was selling their Dungeness Crab morning catch and another boat selling their sea urchin (uni) morning catch.  There were people lined up to buy the crab and uni.  The people buying the uni carried their giant plastic bags of urchin to a nearby picnic table where they cracked them open and ate the uni on the spot!!!  Doesn't get fresher than that!


Kimberly Graham