"Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo and Piedras Blancas" Flora / Fauna Tip by Ewingjr98
Flora / Fauna, California: 8 reviews and 19 photos
There are only two places in California where you can view the elephant seals: Aņo Nuevo State Reserve (north of Santa Cruz) and Piedras Blancas (just outside of San Simeon). We chose Piedras Blancas to see the seals because Aņo Nuevo is so busy you must reserve a spot weeks in advance and they charge a fee for a guided tour, with no self-guided tour option.
At Piedras Blancas the seals are visible from two main parking areas between the lighthouse and the entrance to Hearst Castle. There are also a few small pull-offs and trails north of the lighthouse that allow you to avoid the tourists and fences to view a smaller number of seals (from a safe and respectable distance of course).
Our first stop was at one of these small pull-off area with a walking trail to the water. Here, we were the only visitors in sight, and we got to enjoy a view of some 20 seals, mostly females and pups unrushed and uninterrupted. After about 30 minutes we moved south to the first of the two paved parking lots which also was the less busy of the two. From here you can see dozens of seals up close, with the bulk of the seals off in the distance maybe a half mile away and surrounded by throngs of tourists.
Elephant seals were thought to be extinct in the 1950s, but have since recovered to approximately 100,000 individuals with all of the breeding colonies in Mexico and California. The group at Piedras Blancas first arrived in the 1990s, and now numbers about 7,500 and is growing at a faster rate than the older, 5,000-member colony at Aņo Nuevo. These elephant seals are massive creatures, with average meals tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds.
Directions: Ano Neuvo is located north of Santa Cruz near Pigeon Point; Piedras Blancas is just north of San Simeon near Hearst Castle.
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