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Overview

A treasure for wildlife lovers, Ano Nuevo State Park, located an hour south of San Francisco on Highway 1, was created to protect the rich ecological and biological riches of the San Mateo Coast. Most people trek to Ano Nuevo in winter to view the largest population of elephant seals in California during breeding season — the best date to view the mating ritual is Valentine's Day! But don't expect a romantic display: mating entails serious fighting between the males, then them running over the babies to essentially attack the females. It is not a pretty sight, but it beats watching Discovery Channel! Year round the beaches house these ...

A treasure for wildlife lovers, Ano Nuevo State Park, located an hour south of San Francisco on Highway 1, was created to protect the rich ecological and biological riches of the San Mateo Coast. Most people trek to Ano Nuevo in winter to view the largest population of elephant seals in California during breeding season — the best date to view the mating ritual is Valentine's Day! But don't expect a romantic display: mating entails serious fighting between the males, then them running over the babies to essentially attack the females. It is not a pretty sight, but it beats watching Discovery Channel! Year round the beaches house these blubbery beasts; they just are not as randy or violent outside mating season. In winter you must make a reservation and all tours are guided. Regardless of when you visit, the park itself is quite lovely. The two-mile path to the seals snakes along the coast, over sand dunes and past Ano Nuevo island (which is a habitat for a wide variety of birds, including green-winged teals, hummingbirds, hawks and many more). Occasionally you may spot sharks, dolphins and whales in the sea. You may picnic at the interpretive center. Strollers and wheelchairs cannot be used on the trail (but beach wheelchairs are available).

Michele Bigley
About the Expert

Michele Bigley is the author of Northern California: An Explorer's Guide and Great Destinations Kauai from Countryman Press.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Ano Nuevo State Park, which includes Ano Nuevo Island and Ano Nuevo Point, is located in San Mateo County in Northern California, south of San Francisco.
  • Research: Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Winter