July 4, 2010

Ano Nuevo State Park

Our last stop of our holiday weekend coast trip was Ano Nuevo State Park. It's located just off Highway 1 in Pescadero, in San Mateo County. After paying the $10 entrance fee we parked in the good sized lot. There are also picnic tables and bathrooms at the parking lot. Not too many people at the parking lot or at the picnic tables, not sure if this is typical or if it was because of the cold breezy day. After grabbing our gear and jackets we stopped at the visitor center to pick up the free permit that is required to hike in the reserve. We didn't think we'd be able to see any Elephant Seals at this time of the year but the docent at the visitor center let us know otherwise. Excited about the news we headed out to the Ano Nuevo Trail. The trailhead is only a few feet from the visitor center. The dirt trail is nice and level and passes around a pond. The Ano Nuevo Point Trail passes to the east side of the pond but we passed along the west side which is Pond Loop Trail. Passing through the wetland areas, kept an eye out for garter snakes which are native to this area. We didn't see any on our trip. Just under a mile in we came across a kiosk and staging area for the Wildlife Protection Area. There is often a docent here with exhibits pertaining to elephant seals. You need the permit to continue beyond this point. The dirt trail soon turned into sand and we were on the sand bluffs for the rest of the hike. There were three turnoffs from this trail that lead to coastal views and on this day, views of the Elephant Seals. The first turnoff is to South Point which we bypassed since we had been told earlier that you could only see a couple of pinnipeds there. We continued on and took the turnoff to Bight Beach where we were met by three docents. They gave us lots of information about the few elephant seals we could see from that viewpoint. We could also see Ano Nuevo Island which is few miles off the shore and houses an abandoned lighthouse.
On most days, including this one, it also houses sea lions and seals. Binoculars came in handy to view the island, and the docents had a telescope we could use as well. After a brief stop here we made our way back on the sandy trail and continued to North Point. Again we were met by knowledgeable docents that gave us additional information about the large elephant seals, specifically their behavior. We were fortunate enough to get great views of the huge elephant seals. We marveled at the sight and loud sounds of the seals before heading back on the trail. We retraced our steps on the sand and dirt. After passing the pond we heard and luckily saw a happy little bird that was a nice end to our hike. We took about 2 hours to do the four mile roundrtip hike, including the stops at the viewpoints. We would like to comeback during the elephant seal mating season (December-March) when the area is accessible via guided walks only.

Visitor Center

Ano Nuevo SP Website