Ano Nuevo is situated on a point just about half an hour north of Santa Cruz. It's a prime location for surfing, hiking, and wildlife watching. Every year elephant seals use Ano Nuevo point as a breeding ground on their way up and down the coast. They breed, they molt, they move on. December - April the barks of the seals ring through the park which is the best place to see elephant seals in California.
The loop trail runs from the main parking lot to Ano Nuevo point but a permit is required to continue past the rangers station on to the elephant seal beach. Even without a permit to visit the beach the reserve offers plenty of wonderful ocean views, scarred coastline, and pristine beaches. In a lot of ways Ano Nuevo feels like a little Point Reyes. The trail options at Ano Nuevo are fairly limited however.
From the park entrance follow the New Years Creek trail to Cove Beach. The trail passes through some white historic buildings before descending into the New Years creek drainage. Poison Oak was hanging over the trail on the afternoon I wandered into the park which is something to be considered. New Years creek itself leads right out on to cove beach which is seldom visited and strewn with interesting rocks and seashells.
A right up cove beach leads into the heart of the park. It is not obvious from the beach but after half a mile or so of walking along Cove beach a trail leads back up the bluffs connecting to the parks trail system above. At the top of the bluff is a small pond and some great views of the cliffs and ocean below. From the pond the Ano Nuevo trail takes a straight line course through some coastal scrub brush out to the rangers station blocking the trail out to the Elephant Seals.