An insider’s guide to everything you need to know about San Simeon’s open outdoors.
Hiking Along the Coast
San Simeon’s coastal trails offer stunning scenic views of rolling hills, rocky bluffs and turquoise waters. Whether you are hiking with children or looking for something more challenging, there is a perfect hike for you. The Boucher Trail at Piedras Blancas is an easy four-mile round trip hike along the coast with secluded views of the elephant seals. The San Simeon Point Trail is fun for the whole family (plus the dogs!) with a two-and-a-half-hour loop along the bluff where stunning Central Coast views await at the point. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, head to Black Swift Falls at Ragged Point where you will descend 300 feet down cliffside to a private black sand beach with a waterfall.
Trip to the Elephant Seals
Visit the northern elephant seals at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery located just south of Point Piedras Blancas and six miles north of Hearst Castle. The Piedras Blancas Rookery offers the best viewing location along scenic Highway 1 for these fascinating creatures as well as other wildlife. There is abundant parking, easy access on large viewing boardwalks, and it’s all free!
Biking the Central Coast
San Simeon is a biker’s paradise ⏤ cool ocean breeze, breathtaking views and exciting discoveries around every bend for a memorable ride. Cruise down stretches of the coastal highway, ride along beach boardwalks or explore daring mountain biking trails. Whether you are an avid or novice cyclist, you will find paths and trails suitable to your comfort level.
The Gateway to Big Sur
A road trip of a lifetime awaits on Highway 1 where scenic vistas are aplenty and the adventures are endless. Explore the quaint, coastal towns of San Simeon and Ragged Point, known as the Gateway to Big Sur, where you will discover secluded hikes along coastal bluffs, wildlife sanctuaries and wide-open beaches perfect for fishing, walking and relaxing.
The Whale Trail
San Simeon boasts an official Whale Trail viewing site on Highway 1 three miles south of Hearst Castle. The marine protected waters along the Whale Trail offer some of the best wildlife viewing spots in the world with 34 species of marine mammals. The best times to spot whales is when the wind and sea is calm, such as in the early morning and an hour or so before sunset. Keep an eye out for the heart-shaped blows of gray whales, tall dorsal fins of orcas or feeding humpback and blue whales. Dolphins and other marine mammals are also abundant from June through November.
Stay in Paradise
San Simeon offers a diverse selection of hotels with ocean views at different price points. Accommodations on the beach include Ragged Point Inn, Sands by the Sea and Cavalier Oceanfront Resort. Take advantage of seasonal discounts and/or packages throughout the year at all San Simeon lodging properties. Looking for food, wine and the sun melting into the Pacific? Of course you are! Dine with ocean views without leaving your hotel at the Cavalier Restaurant (check out specialties like their Pacific Snapper, or Country Fried Chicken) or the Ragged Point Restaurant (don’t miss their fresh catch of the day, or the pork tenderloin sourced from their farm).
Beach Day in a San Simeon
Pack your sunscreen, umbrella and kids for a day of fun in the sun at William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, the sunniest spot in San Simeon. This beautiful secluded beach boasts a protected cove perfect for swimming, relaxing and kayaking. Bring a picnic or walk over to the Hearst Ranch Winery for a glass of wine.
Kayak San Simeon Bay
Enjoy San Simeon’s beauty from a kayak in San Simeon Cove, directly across Highway 1 from Hearst Castle. The calm water is the perfect place to launch your kayak and spend the day paddling around, taking in the coastal views and looking for sea life. The clear waters offer great views of sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and maybe even dolphins! If you get a glimpse of these amazing marine mammals, make sure to keep a respectful distance as to not disturb them in their home.
Cast a Line
Saltwater fishing is popular off of the San Simeon Pier (no license is required) where surfperch and white croaker can be caught year-round. Hop in a boat to venture out further offshore for cabezon, lingcod and rockfish. If you are looking to surf fish, the entire San Simeon coastline is your oyster.
Zebras on the Coast
Traveling the winding roads to Hearst Castle, guests once passed through fields populated with exotic animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain Elk and zebras freely roaming the estate’s land. Today, you may catch a glimpse of zebras on the east side of Highway 1 grazing on Hearst Castle’s land.
Bird Watching on the Beach
San Simeon beaches provide a fantastic place to see birds, including pelicans, gulls, and shorebirds. Be sure to download the SeaPhoto App, which includes thousands of photos of marine life, some with detailed ecological information about California’s protected ocean and coastal waters stretching from Cambria and San Simeon to the Farallon Island.