San Mateo County
19 miles north of Santa Cruz
28 miles south of Half Moon Bay
Hours: 8:00 AM - sunset
Dec. 15 - March 31 - admission to restricted area (i.e. elephant seals) via guided walks only.
Hiking permits required to enter restricted areas from April through November
Entry Fee: $10 per vehicle
Guided Tour/Walk Fee: $7
Aņo Nuevo State Park spreads across 4,209 acres from Aņo Nuevo Point, up the coast and across to the western slope of the coastal mountains. While the park is best known for the elephant seals that visit there every year, other parts of the park are worth visiting.
North of Aņo Nuevo Point is a coastal region of the park between Cascade Creek and Gazos Creek with trails, picnic areas, and beach access. South of the park headquarters is Cove Beach. East of Highway 1 a large parcel of land extends up Gazos, Whitehouse, and Cascade creeks and merging with Butano and Big Basin Redwoods state parks.
Cove Beach is a half-mile-long stretch of sand, often void of people. Use caution along the rugged trail as you may encounter poison oak. You are likely to run into flocks of pelicans on the beach as well as solitary elephant seals and occasional harbor seals. Look for a narrow opening through a rock jutting into the waves.
At the main entrance to the park, visitors stop at a kiosk to pay entrance fees and park in a paved lot. Adjacent to the parking area are a picnic area and restrooms. The park's visitor center is in the historic Dickerman Barn, a short distance from the parking lot. More restrooms are found there
At Gazos Creek there is a large parking area owned by the California Department of Fish and Game. There are chemical toilets next to the parking lot. A public access trail leads to the beach. Surf fishing is not allowed south of Gazos Creek.
Franklin Point was the site of several ship wrecks during the 19th century. The point is named after the San Francisco bound clipper ship Sir John Franklin which struck rocks on the point in 1865. The captain and eleven crewmen died. Four of the crewmen were buried on the point.
A year later the Coya ran aground near Aņo Nuevo Island and 27 people lost their lives. Thirteen of the bodies recovered were buried on Franklin Point. More wrecks followed in 1868 and 1897.
When eroding sand exposed human skeletons in 1980 a series of archaeological excavations were authorized and six graves were uncovered. Four were believed to have been from the Franklin and two from the Coya.
The peak time to observe the elephant seals on Bight Beach is during the Breeding Season from December 15 to March 31, although there are elephant seals on the beach at most other times of the year. During the Breeding Season the only way to visit the beach is as a member of a guided tour.
For more information, including how to make a tour reservation, see our next page
Aņo Nuevo State PARK ACTIVITIES
Reservations are needed for the guided tours and they fill up quickly. To make a reservation, read the information at Aņo Nuevo State Park. Then you can either call the phone numbers provided or make your reservation online.
It is possible to show up and hope that all the tours were not full or that someone does not show up for their reserved tour. Some visitors have suggested that on rainy days your chances of getting a spot on a tour are better than when the sun is shining.
During non-peak times (April 1 - November 30) guided tours are not offered. During those months you may visit the beach on your own to observe the elephant seals. Simply pick up a free pass to visit Bight Beach at the park headquarters.
The beach is closed from December 1 - 14 when elephant seals are first arriving, settling in, and giving birth.
Aņo Nuevo Island served as a light station from 1872 to 1948. An elaborate keeper's house, tramway, dock, boathouse, and other support facilities were added over the years. Originally only a fog horn was used to warn away ships, but later a light house was added.
When the functions of the station were replaced by a buoy with an automatic light, the federal government sold the island to the state of California. Designated as a wildlife reserve, the island is now home to elephant seals, sea lions, harbor seals, and birds. The buildings have been allowed to deteriorate, many taken over by sea lions and elephant seals. The island is closed to the public.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety