WHILE ELEPHANT SEALS spend most of their life at sea, from early fall through mid-spring a breeding colony of these huge pinnipeds (they can weigh as much as 5,000 pounds) can be observed from Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock, above breathtaking Drakes Bay.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE Mating and birthing behavior, including male dominance contests and the interactions of mothers and pups. Listen for the distinctive vocalizations of females and pups and the trumpeting of the adult male as you make your way around the Chimney Rock area.
HISTORY The elephant seals were absent from Point Reyes for decades after overhunting, but a “new” colony is thought to have migrated from the Farallones and Año Nuevo rookeries. This colony, which now has more than 1,700 animals, all started with the first elephant seal pup born at Drakes Beach in 1981.
WHERE TO PARK Chimney Rock parking lot, the closest access point, provides limited spaces. From December to April on weekends and holidays, shuttle buses run from Drakes Beach to the lighthouse to Chimney Rock. Fare is $7; free for ages 15 and under.
TIPS On weekends and holidays look out for docents with binoculars and spotting scopes, who can help identify and provide information about the seals. To avoid crowds go on a weekday. Check nps.gov for closures and more viewing tips.