Elk & Elephant Seals at Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a peninsula on the coast of California north of San Francisco. Alexa and I went here two weekends in a row in January 2021. We saw elephant seals and Tule elk in their natural habitat along the dramatic cliffs and rolling grasslands of the California coast.

Locations: Tule Elk Preserve, Drakes Beach, Elephant Seal Overlook in Point Reyes National Seashore
Elevation: 600ft to Sea Level

Useful Links:
Park Map PDF: (NPS)
Driving Directions: (Tule Elk Preserve), (Drakes Beach), (Elephant Seal Overlook)
Weather: (NPS), (Drakes Beach Weather.gov)

Weekend 1: Tule Elk Preserve

We drove the 1.5 hours to the Tomales Point Trailhead, which is the primary access point to the Tule Elk Preserve. On the hike we were quickly rewarded with beautiful views along the coast.

About an hour into the hike we came across the main objective for the day: Tule Elk. They were on either side of the trail pretty close by, and didn’t seem too bothered by us being there. They looked super soft!

On the hike back to the car we didn’t see any more elk up close, but there was still plenty of other pretty stuff to look at!

Weekend 2: Elephant Seals

Elephant seals frequent certain beaches in Point Reyes at different times of the year. When we were there, the females already had pups but the male seals were still around. This was exciting because we had never seen male elephant seals before.

Sometimes the seals congregate on beaches that are popular with humans and they close the beach. The Point Reyes website said that Drakes Beach was closed due to Elephant seals but that we could sill observe them from the parking lot. When we got there, we could only see a 3 or 4 male seals. At first it was a little disappointing, but we soon learned that because there weren’t as many seals that day, they would actually open the beach to people. We would get to walk amongst the seals!

After visiting Drakes Beach, we took a quick stop at the Elephant Seal Overlook a little farther down the road. This spot provided a good but farther away view of males & females with young pups.

My camera didn’t have enough zoom for anything good, but I cropped way in on a few of the pictures below to show it a little better. We were happy to have binoculars so we could see the cute pups a little better.