Technology Hiker

Ano Nuevo Elephant Seal Tour: Hiking with Kids

Few things compare to watching ~1000 elephant seals cavort on a beach.  Ano Nuevo State Preserves protects a large elephant seal rookery on the San Mateo County Coast.  Docents host elephant seal walks from Dec 15 until March that can be reserved online.  Our family and friends recently took an Ano Nuevo Elephant Seal tour that walks ~3 miles in about 2.5 hours.

The first 0.9 miles of the trail follows the California coast from the visitor center to a nature center.  Strollers (thankfully) are permitted on this first part.  CA State Parks recently improved the trails with causeways and better drainage.

We met Robert, our volunteer docent guide.  Robert shared stories about the elephant seals, other animals of the coast, and California history.  Robert captivated the kids.  We’ve visited Ano Nuevo elephant seal tour for the last five years, and Robert was the best guide for families.

My youngest son and I are seeing our first elephant seals with the Santa Cruz Mountains in the background.  The beach is nicknamed losers beach where many immature males congregate so as not to be bothered by the larger males.

The route across the dunes continually changes to avoid elephant seals on the move.  One very active CA Park Ranger continually ran the dunes to find the safest route for people and animals.

We spent most of our time at this overlook watching the elephant seal males, females, and pups.  We even built a few sand castles during the Ano Nuevo Elephant Seal tour.

Two younger elephant seals fighting on the beach.


A younger male flees from a larger male (a beachmaster).


Elephant seals movement created a few closer than expected encounters on our way out on the Ano Nuevo elephant seal tour.

Ano Nuevo State Reserve protects wetlands and mountains.  We saw many shore & ocean birds on the walk including pelicans flying in formation.

We celebrated our excellent hike at Costanoa.  Costanoa is about 2 miles north of Ano Nuevo along CA 1.  The Cascade Grill has excellent food and is kid friendly.  The adjoining fields provide excellent spots for kids to run, climb trees, and explore.