After two years, Hearst Castle is reopening

The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle is a tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.
The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle, reopening in May, is a tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Hearst Castle, which closed during COVID, then stayed closed after storm waters forced major road repairs, will reopen Wednesday, May 11, with slightly lowered admission prices.

The move is sure to please travelers planning spring and summer road trips but may mean even more to state parks officials, concessionaires and businesses in San Simeon and nearby Cambria, which have relied on spending by legions of castle-bound visitors since the state park system acquired the mansion from the Hearst family and opened it to the public in 1957.

Rangers have counted up to 860,000 visitors yearly to the ornate site, where at least nine different tours are offered. Park revenues in 2019 amounted to $16.2 million, superintendent Dan Falat said.


The first months of the castle’s closure in 2020 were forced by the pandemic — an inescapable move for one of the busiest sites in the state’s 279-unit park system. Then the shutdown was prolonged in early 2021, when rain runoff undercut the winding road that buses shuttling visitors must follow to the hilltop mansion.

Park officials said workers essentially reconstructed the upper 2¼ miles of the 5-mile road between the Hearst Castle Visitor Center, where guests park, and the top of the hill.

Those repairs, officials said, cost $13.7 million and took 10 months, a delay that postponed plans to celebrate the centennial of the castle’s construction. In a bid to restart tourism, park officials have put together a new tour of the property, focusing on Julia Morgan, the architect who collaborated with Hearst on the castle. The Julia Morgan tour will last two hours and cost $100 (same price for adults and children ages 5-12).

Here’s what happening behind the locked gates of Hearst Castle.

Oct. 16, 2020

Park superintendent Dan Falat said the park also is simplifying and reducing its pricing, consolidating previously separate ticket prices and booking fees into “one total price, which will make the reservation process seamless, and will reduce the overall cost to visitors, by $3 to $6 per ticket.” The most affordable castle tours, previously priced at $25 plus an $8 fee, now will start at $30, Falat said.

On March 31, the park will resume taking reservations via or (800) 444-4445.

During the two-year closure, Falat said, “We kept everybody employed and working” — about 220 workers on the hilltop.


Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst Jr. enlisted Morgan and began designing the castle in 1919, gathering up artworks, artifacts and antiques from throughout Europe, often mixing styles from different centuries and regions.

Over the next four decades, the project grew into a 115-room main house surrounded by guest houses and pools — 165 rooms in all — along with extensive landscaping and a menagerie of exotic animals that wandered the neighboring hillside. Zebra still roam the hills.

On reopening, Falat said, he expects the park to move quickly toward its previous levels of 1,500 to 5,000 visitors per day.