Año Nuevo

  • Visitor center
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Particularly good for families
  • Hiking
  • Docent-led tours
  • Beach Wheelchair


  • Visitor center
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Particularly good for families
  • Hiking
  • Docent-led tours
  • Beach Wheelchair


visit link
1 New Years Creek Rd., Pescadero, CA 94060
South Bay
Info: 650-879-2025
Res: 800) 444-4445.
Park: 8 am-sunset. Equal Access Trail: weekends and some holidays, mid-Dec. through mid-March.
Not allowed, service animals OK
Inquire with the park if service dogs are allowed on the Equal Access Trail or within the natural preserve where the elephant seals visit.
Last Visited:
April 2016
Año Nuevo is one of the few places in the world where you can see northern elephant seals and their pups during breeding and birthing season, mid-December to mid-March. Tens of thousands of people flock to here each year to see them; the giant males are quite a sight when they compete for females, rearing up and making threatening sounds. Elephant seals sleep a lot, sometimes piling up together by the hundreds, and they grunt a lot, too. As many as 1,500 have been born here in a single year. But even when the seals are away, the 4,000-acre reserve is worth a visit.

During breeding season, all visitors must make advance reservations to tour the seals’ beach area with a park docent. These tours are not wheelchair accessible, so for those with limited mobility, the “Equal Access Tour” is offered twice a day on weekends. After you check in for the tour at the Marine Education Center, a docent will pick you up in the parking lot in an accessible van and drive you to the Equal Access Trail––you can’t drive there in your own vehicle. The van can accommodate several passengers and two wheelchairs. The nearly .25-mile boardwalk runs across dunes on the beach and affords up-close views of the mammoth animals. Because you must stay 25 feet from the seals, the boardwalk may be off-limits if any are dozing on or near it. Tours last two hours and are only offered during breeding season; however, arrangements can be made at other times.

 The Marine Education Center (enter at the front; the rear entry has a very steep approach) is housed in a restored cow barn that was an operating dairy barn in the 19th century. There are exhibits about the dunes, tides, uplands, seals, and Ohlone Indians, as well as a live-feed video of the breeding grounds. The restored horse barn, behind the cow barn, serves as a classroom and theater where you can watch a film about elephant seals. It’s a good place to start your exploration of the park.

Trails and Pathways

Año Nuevo Point Trail
Trailhead Location:
West of the Marine Education Center
Trail Length:
Under one mile total
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Trail Overview: On the ocean side of the visitor center, two dirt and gravel paths branch around a pond. Several hundred feet from the start you'll reach a signed junction where there is a 5-ton remnant of the hull of a wrecked Point Arena schooner that went down off this coast in 1913. Año Nuevo Point Trail, to the left, follows a nearly level course through coyote brush, coffeeberry, and blackberry brambles. The path to the right, Upper Pond Trail, is not accessible, though a ranger told me that there are plans to make it accessible, with construction starting in 2015. Following Año Nuevo Point Trail, from the junction you travel down a gentle slope; several sections here with water bars resembling speed bumps may be difficult for manual wheelchairs on the return uphill. After this point the trail is level the rest of way. There are partial views south to the ocean, and on a clear day you can see the remains of a lighthouse, fog signal, and keepers' dwellings on Año Nuevo Island. I could even hear seals barking in the distance. Binoculars are an asset here. After several hundred yards you come to an inaccessible viewing platform overlooking the pond; across from the platform, Cove Beach Trail drops steeply down to Cove Beach. A few feet past this point the trail becomes inaccessible, climbing steeply through a stand of Monterey pines.

Accessibility Features

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – At the parking lot; an accessible porta-potty is at the beginning of the Equal Access Trail

Beach Wheelchair:
Yes – Check with a ranger or call (650) 879-2025

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance; Tables by the restroom are more accessible than the more scenic ones by the Marine Education Center, which require you to travel over rough terrain and are surrounded by fixed benches that prevent wheelchair riders from rolling up to the table.

Accessible Visitor Center:

Good to Know:
The ride out to the Equal Access Trail can be rough riding in the van depending on road conditions. 

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