Explore San Simeon by Hiking through the Heart of It
Hiking in San Simeon offers a vast array of beauty, giving visitors the chance to see sand, sea, rolling hills and rocky cliffs—all in one amazing journey, and in one amazing place.
San Simeon Creek Trail
Running straight through Hearst San Simeon State Park and its nearby campgrounds, the San Simeon Creek Trail, sometimes called the Washburn Trail- offers a 3.3-mile hike featuring route variations that lead to picturesque vistas, rest stop benches, across a wetland and through the Monterey pine forest.
The trail winds through the diverse California landscape offering views of Monterey pines, riparian valleys, scenic bluffs and pastoral grassy areas. From October to March, you may see gatherings of monarch butterflies that use the trees for warmth and rest.
The upper part of the trail goes alongside Washburn Campground with glimpses of Hearst Castle and the Santa Lucia Mountains. Burnett Peak, pictured above, is just one of the many peaks visible along the Santa Lucia Mountain Range.
Park in the Washburn Primitive Campground day-use area, and walk along the service road until you reach the marked trailhead on the right. From the campground, walk along the road until you find the trailhead just west of the San Simeon Creek bridge.
Jungle Ranch Coastal Trail
The Jungle Ranch Coastal Trail follows the coastal bluff between the San Simeon Campground and the town of San Simeon at Vista Del Mar. The trip is about a mile each way and offers easy access to pristine tidepools and low tide. Look for snowy egrets, red-tailed hawks and other local bird life. The trail can be muddy after a rain, so be prepared.
On Highway 1, at the south end of San Simeon, look for Vista Del Mar Avenue. Turn west (towards the ocean). The trailhead is visible from the road and there is plenty of street parking. From the south, the trail starts at the end of Lone Palm Drive, directly across Highway 1 from San Simeon Creek Road.
Be sure to check out San Simeon’s newest hiking trail, the Boucher Trail, dedicated in 2017. This secluded trail offers spectacular scenic vistas of the coastal bluffs and four elephant seal viewpoints. The trail runs from the paved elephant seal viewing parking for 1.9 miles, to a half mile north of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. The Boucher Trail is designated as an easy trail that is well-marked and well-maintained. It’s more about the views and wildlife than the workout. It takes about an hour and a half to complete the out-and-back hike, so you might want to bring a small snack and water. The roundtrip walk is just under three miles.
You can start the hike at the main elephant seal viewing area, located 8 miles north of San Simeon, and proceed over the north boardwalk, through the paved parking area, to the trailhead. Or you can drive to the parking lot just north of the main elephant seal viewing area, park your car, and start the hike. The trail ends at the Piedras Blancas Light Station property and you must turn around to get back to the parking area.
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
A leisurely oceanside trail, the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is a 2.85-mile round trip excursion bordered by sandy beach, tide pools, ocean wildlife and endless views of the Pacific.
The trail protects the delicate Moonstone Beach bluffs from foot traffic while still allowing visitors to experience San Simeon’s natural beauty and wonders. With this idea in mind, the California Conservation Corps partnered with California State Parks to create the easy, scenic boardwalk which extends down from Leffingwell Landing to Santa Rosa Beach.
Take some time to soak up the scenery at one of the viewing platforms, or head down to the beach and sink your toes in the sand. Numerous park benches along the path are ideal for a picnic lunch or simply to sit and revel in the coastal beauty.
This accessible trail begins at Leffingwell Landing, just south of the Moonstone Beach Drive exit off of Highway 1. To get there, turn onto Moonstone Beach Drive from the highway and drive south until you see the landing and trailhead. Numerous parking areas are available nearby. The south end of the trail begins at El Colibri Motel and proceeds north to Leffingwell Landing. Try it from both directions for a different view each way.
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