Viewing Tule Elk

Click on the following links to find out more about viewing opportunities for these species and to learn about their habitats and behaviors:

Birds ¦ Coho Salmon ¦ Elephant Seals ¦ Tule Elk ¦ Whales

Fourteen tule elk on Tomales Point. The Pacific Ocean is in the background.
Tule Elk Herd

The tule elk herds had virtually disappeared by 1860, 13 years before the state awarded them complete protection. In the spring of 1978, two bulls and eight cows were brought in from the San Luis Island Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos. The elk were contained within a temporary, three acre enclosure to allow for adjustment to their new surroundings. That summer, six of the cows bore calves. In the fall, 17 elk were released from the enclosure on Tomales Point to the 2,600 acres (1,052 hectares) of open grassland and coastal scrub. By the summer of 1988, the population was at 93 animals. The population census taken in 2000 counted over 400 elk, after peaking at around 550 in 1998. Since 2000, the population on Tomales Point has fluctuated, but remains one of the largest populations of tule elk in California. In 2019, the National Park Service increased the size of the reserve to 2,900 acres (1,174 hectares).

The tule elk can be found in several locations within the park, such as along Drakes Beach Road and in the Phillip Burton Wilderness west of Limantour Road, but the best chance of seeing them is in the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point. They graze freely and are often seen near the road as you drive into the preserve.


Tule Elk Rut Season

Two tule elk docents wearing red vests helping two visitors view tule elk through spotting scopes.
Tule Elk Docents and visitors viewing tule elk through spotting scopes at Windy Gap on Tomales Point.

August through October is an exciting time of year on Tomales Point. Visitors will likely hear bull elk bugling and see them attempting to round up harems of females. The lucky visitor may even get to see a couple of bull elk sparring.

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Elk Watching Tips

To help you enjoy your experience, please follow these elk watching tips:

  • For your own safety, always observe elk from a distance. Use binoculars and spotting scopes. If an elk becomes alert or nervous and begins to move away, you are too close.
  • If viewing from your car, pull off the road or park in designated areas.
  • If you are on foot, stay on the trail; do not come between a cow and calf, a bull and a group of cows, or two bulls challenging each other.
  • Watch quietly; whisper. Move slowly.
  • Do not feed the elk. Feeding elk or any other wildlife is unhealthy for the animals, potentially dangerous for visitors, and strictly prohibited.
  • Ride your bicycle only on designated trails. Within the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve, bicycles are only permitted on the Pierce Point Road. Bicycles are prohibited on the Tomales Point and McClures Beach trails.
  • Pets are prohibited in most areas where elk may be seen, including the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve.
  • Do not collect or remove elk antlers. They are an important source of calcium for many wildlife species such as rodents and deer.

Learn More

Discover more about the tule elk by visiting our Tule Elk web page.

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Last updated: February 5, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (e.g., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; fire danger information; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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