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October 19, 2020

San Simeon: Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery; things to do

1 South

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery  On Hwy. 1, 6 mi. N of San Simeon, at Point Piedras Blancas, just S of Piedras Blancas Light Station, (805) 924-1628.  Daily.  Free.  Reservations not needed.  No restrooms.  Visitor Center:  250 San Simeon Ave.; daily 10am-2pm.  

viewers at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook in San Simeon, California
viewers at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook
in San Simeon, California

Elephant seals began appearing at this relatively new colony in 1990.  (An older colony, Año Nuevo, is up the coast in Pescadero.)  This easily accessible, well-maintained vantage point has plenty of parking and provides the opportunity to view northern elephant seals from a safe distance.  The elephant seal rookery extends along 6 miles of the shoreline, and the gigantic seals can be seen year-round.  The more than 25,000 elephant seals in this colony come and go from here, but are never all here at once.  In summer (July and August) there are hundreds, and in winter (January through May) there are thousands.  Though elephant seals live in the open ocean and endure long migrations searching for food, they return to the rookery for birthing, breeding, and molting.  In September, I witnessed several hundred seals snuggled up against each other, sleeping in the sun.  Some were tossing sand on their backs to cool off, and many others were upright engaging in neck nuzzling.  Best viewing occurs during late January, April, and October.  Docents are usually on site to answer questions.  

viewers at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook in San Simeon, California
viewers at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook
in San Simeon, California


Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook in San Simeon, California
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook
in San Simeon, California


nuzzling elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook in San Simeon, California
nuzzling elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery overlook
in San Simeon, California






From here, you can join the flat and easy 1.9-mile Boucher Trail leading to the Piedras Blancas Light Station.  It offers spectacular vistas and wildlife viewing along with a varied terrain of grassland and wetland areas.  Map.

2020 pandemic update:  About half the visitors I encountered during my visit were not wearing masks.  People also did not maintain social distancing, which granted was difficult to do because of the general excitement and limited viewing space. 

 

View a webcam focused on the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas.




6 comments:

  1. I had never heard of elephant seals! If I ever make it back out to San Simeon again when the world opens up perhaps I will consider going to do an elephant seal watch.

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  2. I can't believe I've never been to this lookout point and area, need to go visit this wildlife preserve some day.

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  3. We were completely enamored with your visit to San Simeon until we noticed your comments about social distancing. In these days we are trying to be better at wearing masks and keeping a safe distance for ourselves and other's sakes. Hopefully this will catch on as we move into flu season.

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  4. Happy to say that I have seen the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. It's really pretty amazing and they are so fun to watch.

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  5. Seals of any sort are a favorite and these are great! I wouldn't have liked the lack of masks though on the humans!

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  6. I've seen seals many times but I don't think I've ever seen an elephant seal. They look amazing!

    ReplyDelete

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