Guest Post: Spending a day at Año Nuevo State Park


Jennifer is a writer and travel enthusiast based in the Sacramento area of Northern California. She has recently given in to the insatiable urge to wander and loves to share photos and experiences over on her blog, People + Places + Things

When my mom and I decided to treat ourselves to a beach getaway weekend in April of this year, we knew we would be spending much of our time relaxing at a beautiful vacation rental, eating delicious food and exploring the area around Pescadero, California.

We had heard about Año Nuevo State Park, which offers stunning coastal views and the opportunity to see elephant seal pups in March and April. Naturally, we decided to go for it.

The park is located south of the town of Pescadero on Highway 1 and is a major gathering spot for northern elephant seals. Over a span of several months, female seals give birth, males fight for dominance, mating takes place and pups are nursed, weaned and begin molting.

We showed up in mid-April after many of the adult seals had gone, leaving hundreds of sleepy, molting pups behind. They were adorable.

In all honesty, they didn’t do a whole lot. There was quite a bit of snoring, snorting and grunting happening. Other than that, they just seemed to be resting. We were fascinated, though. Seeing creatures like this up close was pretty amazing.

The seals completely covered the beach. This seal had just lifted up her head, stretched and then looked right at us:

One of the rangers on duty was kind enough to take a picture of us with our new friends:

We didn’t get too close to the seals, even though they were everywhere: on the path, in the dunes and right in the middle of the viewing area. Visitors are advised to stay at least 25 feet away at all times. If these cuties get angry enough, they can move pretty fast and know how to throw their weight around. So, my camera’s zoom feature got a nice little work out.

To get to the multiple viewing areas in the park, visitors follow a well-worn trail for about a mile and a half (3 miles round-trip). There is also a section where you’re walking on sand dunes, so be prepared for that. You definitely won’t be viewing elephant seals from your car.

Luckily, the sights along the way are pretty spectacular:

The trip to Año Neuvo State Park was incredible and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the outdoors. To learn more about the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park and the best times of year to visit, click here.

Jennifer has also authored an app titled Northern California for Nature Lovers, which can be downloaded from the App Store here.

Volunteers Head to Malibu Creek

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
–Muhammad Ali

Malibu Creek State Park is a popular Santa Monica park that has been the set for many TV shows and movies, including M*A*S*H, Planet of the Apes, Love Me Tender, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Pleasantville.  Although it looks great on the big screen, these days it needs a little extra TLC to maintain it in all its glory.

Malibu Creek State Park
Photo © Brent Durand

Thankfully, we have a throng of awesome volunteers heading to Malibu Creek this Saturday to fix it up. It’s all part of our Annual Earth Day Restoration & Cleanup event.  Normally our Earth Day takes place in April, but this year we had to reschedule due to heavy spring rains.  We are glad the big day has finally arrived!

Volunteers, Edison International employees, park rangers, CSPF staff and Malibu Creek Docents will all work together to restore the lawn by planting several hundred native grasses and plants, remove other non-native plants and conduct general cleanup of the Visitor Center area. This is a great opportunity to do this clean-up because in a few weeks there will be water in the creek. They will also be putting up a temporary fence to protect the plants from the deer while they are getting established.

We are very grateful to Edison International, whose grant has made this day possible. (Volunteer registration is full.)

CSPF Annual Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup 

Statewide, thousands of volunteers each year plant native trees and community gardens, restore trails and wildlife habitats, remove trash and debris from beaches and parklands and make overdue repairs to fences and boardwalks. Since its inception in 1998, CSPF’s Earth Day Restoration & Cleanup program has resulted in — 76,000 participants contributing more than 305,000 volunteer hours worth over $6 million in park maintenance and improvements.  Additionally, the program has awarded more than $1.35 million to state parks throughout California.

Our next Earth Day is scheduled for April 13.  Stayed tuned for opportunities to register as a volunteer at a state park near you!