After the Castle, Visit Nature
What’s there to see in San Simeon besides Hearst castle? It’s a common question, one asked by thousands of travelers on their way to the castle.
The answer, for beach hikers anyway, is found at San Simeon Bay, one of the Central Coast’s most dramatic stretches of shoreline.
A walk along San Simeon Bay is a nice diversion before or after a tour of “La Cuesta Encantada,” “the Enchanted Hill"--the name of the famous castle built by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.
In the mid-1860s a severe drought wrecked the Central Coast cattle business and forced many debt-ridden Spanish rancheros to sell their land. Sen. George Hearst, father of William, bought them and began developing his family estate.
After the death of William Randolph Hearst in 1951, his heirs donated the beach south of Sebastian General Store, established in 1873 and still in operation, for a park.
Directions to trail head: William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach is located on San Simeon Road, west of California 1. (Hearst Castle is also located on San Simeon Road, east of the highway.) Park in the state beach day-use lot or along San Simeon Road south of Sebastian General Store. Park in designated areas, and please respect private property signs.
The hike: Proceed through the picnic ground located in the eucalyptus grove north of the fishing pier. When you reach the beach, turn north. When the beach begins to arc westward, ascend to a dirt road leading atop the wooded bluffs. The road, which narrows to a trail, offers fine coastline and castle views as it curves toward San Simeon Point. From the point, you’ll see more breathtaking views to the south of the undeveloped San Luis Obispo County coast.
The path continues around the point on overgrown bluff-top trails, then passes under the boughs of Monterey cypress on a dark tunnel-like trail for one-quarter mile before reemerging on the bluffs. The bluff trails grow more and more faint and erratic and you descend a low sand dune to the beach. You can follow the beach until tides and rocks prevent continued progress and you meet the Coast Highway quite some distance north.
McKinney’s book “Day Hiker’s Guide to Southern California” is available through The Times for $16.45 (including tax, shipping and handling) by calling (800) 246-4042.
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San Simeon Bay Trail
WHERE: William Randolph Hearst State Beach
DISTANCE: To San Simeon Point is 2 miles round trip
TERRAIN: Beach and bluff top.
HIGHLIGHTS: Fine coastal and castle views
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Easy
FOR MORE INFORMATION: San Simeon State Park, 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452; tel. (805) 927-20020