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William Randolph Hearst State Beach

San Simeon Bay Trail

To San Simeon Point is 2 miles round trip

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. Senator George Hearst bought out the rancheros 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 for a park. It’s a tranquil place; San Simeon Bay provides fairly good refuge from northwest and west winds. San Simeon Store was established in 1873 and is still in operation.

A major resort and golf course development proposed by the Hearst Corporation near San Simeon Point was a major California coastal conservation issue in 1997 and 1998. The California Coastal Commission rejected the resort plan in 1998, but left open the possibility of a scaled-down version of the development. The debate is likely to continue for some time.

Directions to trailhead: William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach is located on San Simeon Road west of Highway 1. 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 just north of the fishing pier. When you reach the beach, turn up-coast. (Note that, as of this writing, the state park property ends at San Simeon Creek.)

When the beach begins to arc westward, ascend to a narrow 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 are additional breathtaking views to the south of the undeveloped San Luis Obispo County coast.

The path continues around the point on overgrown blufftop trails, then passes under the boughs of Monterey cypress on a dark tunnel-like trail for
0.25 mile before re-emerging back 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 further progress and you meet the Coast Highway quite some distance north.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at