San Simeon: Hearst Castle and Elephant Seal Point


What? : Visiting hwy 1 section near San Simon includes few attractions: Hurst Castell, Elephant Seal Vista Point, Piedras Blancas Light Station and the bay of San Simeon.


Where? : If you are coming from the south this section of hwy 1 is right before the starting point of the narrow winding cliff section of the road.

Google Map Link


Due note: As of Feb. 2021, because of major landslide hwy 1 is completely blocked again for driving, 4 miles north of Lucia to 14.4 miles south of Big-Sur at Lime Creek Bridge


My thoughts: Even if I’m not planning to drive up hwy 1 into the Big Sur section or to Monterey I visit this place to see up close the Elephant Seal. a must stop for anyone driving hwy 1.


Few Related Blog Links:

The visit:

At this hwy 1 section, north of Cambria, the road is starching right along the oceanfront. There are many roadside places to stop and enjoy the view or to go down and explore the sandy beaches.


I will cover the interesting stopping points from south to north:


Hearst San Simeon State Park:

The San Simeon Creek Campground offers 134 campsites for tents or recreational vehicles and 2 hike-and-bike campsites. This is an excellent place to spend a night near to all local attractions.

The park includes the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve which were established in 1990.

There is a 3.3-mile trail runs through parts of the San Simeon Natural Preserve and the Washburn Campground.


William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach:

On the opposite side of Hearst Castle entrance you can find a nice small sandy beach, you can find here the long San Simeon Pier (built in 1958).

Recreational activities include picnicking, swimming, fishing, and walking on the long beach.


Hearst Castle:

National Historic Landmark large castle built in the top of a hill. Build by William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon, between 1919 and 1947.

The tour program offers various guided daytime tours and one guided evening tour. The three daytime tours, the “Grand Rooms Tour,” the “Upstairs Suites Tour,” and the “Cottages and Kitchen Tour,” are each 60 minutes in length.

Descriptions of other tours can be found at:

Visitors are welcome to remain after the tour to enjoy the vistas and to explore the grounds, including the gardens and the Neptune Pool and Roman Pools until closing time. Overall plan for overall few hours activity.

After you decide which guided tours you want to reserve, get the tickets online or purchased at the Visitor Center upon arrival depending on availability (you can call 1-800-444-4445). Tours price Adult 25$, Children 12$.

The Hearst Castle Visitor Center is located at the foot of "The Enchanted Hill", right off Highway 1. Bus tours depart from the Visitor Center, 15-minute rides will take you to and from the hilltop.

Elephant Seal Vista Point:

A highly recommended stop on the road, usually this is my main visiting destination in this area, is to see the big Elephant Seal at Elephant Seal Vista Point.

I saw Elephant Seal also in other location in California (Point Reyes) but this is probably the best place to experiences them so close.


Warning: there are Elephant Seal in many other coasts, do not approach them or try to touch them, they are very present and quiet animal but can be danger if provoked.


Up to 17,000 Elephant Seals are populating the beaches below the cliffs. In January 2017 President Barack Obama made this site part of the California Coastal National Monument.


Five miles up the coast from Hearst Castle, just off hwy 1 on your left you can find the Elephant Seal Vista Point parking lot (free access). Just park your car and hike few meters to the wooden deck on the cliff edge, the Elephant Seal are just few feet below you.

Elephant Seals are huge marine mammals, giant bulls can be up to 16 feet length and may wight more than 4,000 pounds, females are much smaller. Females generally live for about 19 years, while males only live for about 13 years, their age can be identified by their nose shape. Mature males have large thick chest area with a red coloration.

The large bulls have distinctive roaring bellow that that can be heard from long distance. The smaller females soak up the sun or tend to their pups.

Peak season is December through May; smaller numbers of seals may be seen during other months.

Note about their habit to cover themselves with sand, Sand flipping helps them keep cool on land by acting as a sunscreen. In addition, they sometimes can be seen flipping sand under stressful conditions.

When we last visit there during early Feb 2021, this was the mating season. The beach was completely packed with females and their small cabs. Females generally give birth to one pup each year and nursing their pups for 4 to 6 weeks. The large bulls were engaging in battles for breeding access to the females, the beach below was very active.



Piedras Blancas Light Station:

Piedras Blancas is an active lighthouse since 1875. the lighthouse was originally 100 feet (30 m) high earthquakes damaged the structure over the years, now it stands about 70 feet (21 m) tall.

Access to the light station will temporarily be limited only to the scenic trail.


More Pictures: