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...
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.
Check with a ranger or call (650) 879-2025
At the parking lot; an accessible porta-potty is at the beginning of the Equal Access Trail
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.