Año Nuevo State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of California, located along the Pacific Ocean in Northern Santa Barbara County. The park was established on July 1, 2002, and has an area of 5,300 acres (21km2). It lies between the towns of Aptos and Carcasona and about 10 miles southeast of the city of Santa Barbara. Its main entrance is at La Jolla Canyon Road East, near the junction with Rancho Sierra Vista road, off State Route 154.
This entrance leads to the campground, day-use areas, and trails for hiking and biking. There are several other entrances around the perimeter which provide access to different parts of the park. One such entrance is accessible from Sycamore Drive SE, another from Los Arboles Avenue, both of these roads being local streets connecting residents to their neighborhood businesses as well as providing alternate routes out of town.
Entrances can also be found along the coastal highway, State Route 153, one of which provides access to the beach. At the back of the park there are additional parking lots and trails leading up to Signal Hill where visitors have views of the entire park and coastline. The park includes two Marine Protected Areas; one that stretches along the coast between Point Conception and Cape Mendocino and another that encompasses most of Laguna Beach Island.
These marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems. The land within the boundaries of the park consists primarily of rocky bluffs and beaches with patches of sage scrub and grassland interspersed with stands of oaks and sycamores. The ground slopes slightly westward toward the sea, dropping 500 feet over a distance of less than a quarter mile.
The western edge of the park adjoins a large natural harbor known as San Marcos Bay. On its northern boundary, the park abuts private property under leasehold by the Nature Conservancy; this portion of the park is therefore not publicly owned or managed. The park’s primary attraction is its proximity to the ocean. Visitors may walk down to the water’s edge, swim in it, surf it, sunbathe naked if they wish, and even camp overnight in tents.
There are more than 100 campsites, many of them shaded by coast redwoods, some with fire pits, all with access to restrooms and showers. Other amenities include:
- picnic sites
- equestrian staging area
- boat launch
- fishing pier
- 3 miles of multi-use trails
The park hosts an annual event called “Festival of Lights” each December, featuring illuminated art installations and live music. In 2003, the festival became part of the official holiday lighting season in California, occurring during the first full weekend of Christmas. Festival of Lights features multiple stages of entertainment including concerts, KARAOKE, comedy shows, acrobatics, magic acts, food, wine, and interactive displays.
The event takes place rain or shine every year, without exception. The park is popular among tourists from all over the world, especially those traveling to Los Angeles to visit Hollywood. Because of the relatively remote location, however, traffic jams often form at peak times, particularly on weekends.
To alleviate this problem, since 2011, when the park opened, weekday admission prices were increased from $8 per adult to $15 per adult. Also, because of the high demand, reservations for events at the park are no longer accepted. Passes good for three days or a week are available; annual passes good at all 22 parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state visitors or $60 for Californians.
- horseback riding
- mountain biking