Where is Hearst San Simeon State Park
500 San Simeon Creek Road Cambria, CA 93428
Hearst San Simeon State Park is located in California between Cambria and San Simeon. It is one of the oldest parks in the California State Park System, offering unobstructed views of the ocean and rocky shores. Famous for the Hearst Castle and many promontories, this historic park features miles of trails across coastal bluffs, scenic overlooks, and natural preserves. The park is 5 miles south of the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument Visitor Center and only 2 miles south of Cambria. It is 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo on Highway 1.
How Big is Hearst San Simeon State Park
Hearst San Simeon State Park is roughly 3,409 acres of coastal wetland, riparian forest, and undisturbed native plant species. The park includes the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Preserve, and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve. All of which were established in 1990. In 2005, an additional 1,100 acres of land were added to the park, following an agreement and property exchange with the Hearst Ranch. There are two campgrounds with a combined total of 202 campsites for tents, trailers, and recreational vehicles.
Hearst San Simeon State Park Weather
San Simeon has fairly mild weather year-round. The summers are comfortable with little rain, averaging in the low 60s. The winters get slightly chiller, averaging in the mid to high 50s. Additionally, the sea breeze blows moist air over the ground, activating a consistent fog throughout the day. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies, but rarely drops below 40°F or raises above 78°F. The most popular time of year to visit for warm weather activities, like hiking, fishing, or camping, is from late June to early October. Another prominent activity unique to the area, elephant seal watching, can be seen throughout the year, although the largest populations can be observed during late January, April, and October.
When did Hearst San Simeon become a State Park
Starting in 1865, George Hearst started acquiring the land that would become the Hearst Ranch. He used the land to raise cattle and racehorses. In 1919, the Hearst’s only child, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land. He began the construction of the historic estate called the Hearst Castle. In 1932, the state acquired 500 acres of beach and inland parcels from local ranchers and established the state park. In 2005, the Hearst Corporation donated an additional 1,131 acres.
Things to do in Hearst San Simeon State Park
There a quite a few things to do both in the Hearst San Simeon State Park and the surrounding town of Cambria. Here are the main sites you won’t want to miss.
La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill” sits on a San Simeon hilltop and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It was designed and developed by William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. The construction lasted for nearly 30 years, turning the land into a magnificent 115-room estate with several pools and 8 acres of gardens. Guests included President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, and Charlie Caplin. The estate was eventually donated to the state and can now be toured by visitors.
Santa Rosa Creek Preserve
A preserve within the park that includes many trails where riparian forests and coastal wetlands can be seen. It also provides habitat for the endangered Tidewater Goby, a species of goby native to lagoons and streams along the coast of California.
San Simeon Natural Preserve
A nature preserve that contains vast wetlands, riparian areas, and quite a few native plant communities. Additionally, monarch butterfly populations can be seen here in the winter months.
Pa-nu Cultural Preserve
A 13.7 acre preserve that houses the most significant archeological sites in the entire state park. This area has been dated to 5,850 years prior to the current day. It contains much evidence documenting prehistoric technology and social organization from the ancestors of the Chumash and Salinan people.
The Elephant Seal Boardwalk in Hearst San Simeon State park provides a unique opportunity to see northern elephant seals. The rookery extends along 6 miles of shoreline. They mostly spend their lives in the ocean, but arrive at the shore to give birth, breed, molt, and rest from migration.
William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach
Located near the town of San Simeon, this popular beach spot gives visitors the chance to hike, swim, kayak and pier fish. It is a protected cove just off of Highway One. There are also picnic tables, barbecue grills, and restrooms available for use.
The San Simeon Creek Campground
With over 115 campsites available for tent camping or recreational vehicles, this vast campground offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the state park. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table, with toilets and shower facilities located in the common area of the grounds.
The neighboring town of Cambria is located on Highway One at the north end of San Luis Obispo. Nicknamed the “Gateway to the Big Sur Coast”, Cambria is a stunning waterfront town with sandy beaches and quaint storefronts.
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
This 1-mile long boardwalk takes you along coastal bluffs from the northern end of Cambria into the Santa Rosa Creek. It crosses a pristine beach that is preserved by the Hearst San Simeon State Park. Along the boardwalk you will see ducks and snowy egrets.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
This nonprofit aquarium is located in Monterey, California, only two and a half hours north of the park. This oceanfront aquarium offers unique exhibits including sea otters, fast-swimming sharks, jellyfish, and waddling penguins. There are over 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals housed here.
When to go to Hearst San Simeon State Park
Hearst San Simeon State Park is open year-round, 7 days a week from 8AM to 10PM. Those who are camping are permitted to stay overnight. With each weather change comes a new reason to visit the park. Tourism is most popular starting in June, trickling down until late October. The summer and fall months are the best times to hike, fish, camp or head to the beach. January, April, and October are the best months to see the elephant seals. With that being said, the park can be enjoyed year-round. The temperature rarely drops below 40°F and there are always quite a few elephant seals lying across the shoreline.
Must-Have things to bring to Hearst San Simeon State Park
Here are the top ten essentials to bring along your visit to Hearst San Simeon State Park. From gear to food to safety equipment, we’ll have everything covered here.
Getting lost is pretty much a given when exploring any new place. Some sort of navigation resource can help you figure out where you are and where you need to go. A map of the trail, compass, or GPS device will do the trick and help aid your adventure.
Headlamp or Flashlight
This item is especially important when camping in the park. This may be a given, but the sun will eventually set and the park will get very dark. Whether in your tent or finishing up a hike, access to light is an essential for a safe visit.
Sun-protective clothes, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all vital when spending the day outdoors. Even if it’s a cloudy day, the UV rays can still reach your skin. It’s important to protect yourself from the sun. Remember to reapply sunscreen sporadically throughout the day.
First Aid Kit
Be sure to bring a well-stocked first aid kit. Keep it in a place that’s easily accessible and double check you have the right supplies to handle any emergency. You can get a quality first aid kit from your local drugstore.
This one is very important if you plan to camp overnight in the park. It is almost a given you’re going to make a campfire, especially when the temperature dramatically drops as the sun goes down. Not only will they work as a heat source, but an alternative to light if you forgot your flashlight. Matches or a lighter are great options.
There are not many food options within the park, making it essential to bring along extra snacks. An intense hike can spark your appetite. Bring snacks that will fuel your body properly for an outdoor activity. Protein bars, dried fruit, almonds, pretzels, and crackers are all great options.
It’s very important to stay hydrated during your visit to the park. Bring extra water for yourself and anyone else with you. Prepare ahead by packing some refillable water bottles. If you run out, there are some stores to buy more along Highway One.
California temperatures drop at night, especially being near the Pacific Ocean. For the daytime, bring breathable, comfortable clothes that work for warmer weather conditions. Bring extra layers in case the wind picks up or if you’re planning to stay overnight.
Binoculars are a must-have for Hearst San Simeon State Park. There are plenty of opportunities to see whales, dolphins, monarch butterflies, elephant seals, and other interesting animals. The binoculars can help you get a better look.
There’s nothing worse than being bitten by misquotes while trying to enjoy beautiful landscape. California hosts a diverse assortment of mosquitos with 53 species recognized in the state. Avoid the bites by packing bug spray.
Where to stay in Hearst San Simeon State Park
There are two camping grounds within the park – San Simeon Creek Campground and Washburn Campground. San Simeon Creek Camp offer 115 campsites for tent camping and RVs. Washburn is around 1-mile inland and overlooks the Santa Lucia mountains as well as the Pacific Ocean. As far as hotels and Airbnb’s, you’ll find many accommodations in Cambria, which is 10-minutes south of the Hearst San Simeon State Park. San Luis Obispo is a 45-minute drive from the park and also has many hotel options.
Food Nearby Hearst San Simeon State Park
There are some great restaurants just outside of the park in the heart of Cambria. Places like Madeline’s Restaurant, The Hidden Kitchen, and Moonstone Beach Bar offer customers a combination of quality food and a unique aesthetic. Inside the park, however, there are no available options to buy food.
Airports near Hearst San Simeon State Park
There are a few major airports near the park. The closest one is San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. It is approximately 40 miles south or a quick 50-minute drive. The Santa Barbara Airport is 135 miles further south from the park. Monterey Regional Airport is 142 miles north. You can rent a car or take the bus from any of these airports to the park.