Piedras Blancas Light Station is an important part of the history of San Simeon and the northern Central Coast of California. Built in 1875, it once served a crucial role warning mariners of the impending rocky cliffs, as well as helping them navigate their location off the craggy shores. Today, it is both a historic park and wildlife sanctuary that bears a powerful reminder of the history of the area.

Piedras Blancas Light Station History

Piedras Blancas Point has been important for as along back as is traceable. For indigenous people, the Point was part of the natural resources along the sea and land in the Central Coast of California. Post-exploration and colonization maritime trade increased significantly and Piedras Blancas became a location marker and a warning point. Named for the white-covered rocks rising out of the ocean, Piedras Blancas was more easily sited than other markers and highlighted where dangerous rocks were.

By the later 1800s, the need for a lighthouse to help guide mariners along the rugged Pacific Coast was clear and construction began on the Piedras Blancas Light Station in April 1874. The lighthouse was completed in February 1875 and was first illuminated on February 15th with a Fresnel lens, crafted by Henri Lapaute in France in 1872.

Today, maritime trade around San Simeon is no longer significant and the need for maritime navigational support exists beyond light stations. The Piedras Blancas Light Station’s Fresnel lens is now on display in neighboring Cambria, where a glass enclosure has been built around it to ensure its safety. The Piedras Blancas Light Station has transformed to be a park and sanctuary with walking tours available to the public.

Piedras Blancas Light Station Aerial Footage

Piedras Blancas Light Station Tours

To best protect the Piedras Blancas Light Station’s flora and fauna, tours are available by reservation only. Visitors can make reservations online or by telephone, the information for which can be found here.

The walking tour of Piedras Blancas Light Station is easy and even. Only about 1 mile, tour time is allocated for 2 hours to give guides and guests plenty of time to explore and talk about the history of the Light Station. The informative,
enthusiastic guides can help transport visitors back in time to the rugged lives of Light Station keepers and the mariners they helped.

The wildlife around Piedras Blancas Light Station is awe-inspiring. Depending on the time year, guests can view whales, elephant seals, otters, falcons, cormorants, and more off the coast. On shore, wildflower blooms throughout the spring have been known to blanket the brush in pink and yellow blossoms.

Videos of Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is free, accessible, and open to the public year-round. Located off Highway 1 about seven miles north of San Simeon, the rookery has become one of the largest draws for visitors from around the world. It’s helpful to learn more about Elephant Seals before visiting, both by reading through this page or by visiting Friends of the Elephant Seals in San Simeon. There, volunteers helpfully guide visitors through best practices when visiting the rookeries in the area.

elephant seals

Piedras Blancas Marine Life

In addition to elephant seals, Piedras Blancas is teeming with marine life. During the tour of the Light Station, visitors are able to examine the size of various marine mammals and fish that abound in the area through the informative displays. However, for those with binoculars or simply keen eyes, whales, otters, tidepools, and a wide range of sea birds can be seen along the coast throughout the year. The Coastal Discovery Center located at San Simeon Pier is a fabulous resource for those who want to learn all about the sea life in the area.

California Sea Otters Call San Simeon Home.

Fun Movie Fact

For film fans out there, watch “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” before your visit! This campy 1959 horror film follows the valiant efforts of Light Station keeper Sturges as he seeks to protect his teenage daughter from an enamored sea monster. In fact, make it a Central Coast double feature and follow up with “Arachnophobia” filmed in neighboring Cambria!

Near Piedras Blancas

Hiking and Boucher Trail

Beyond the trail around Piedras Blancas Light Station, hikers enjoy the Boucher Trail that runs from the rookery viewing area to north of the Light Station. Just under 2 miles, Boucher Trail has stunning views of bluffs and grasslands that provides a snapshot of Central Coast ecosystems.

Coastal Discovery Center

Coastal Discovery Center at Hearst Memorial State Beach is easily accessible and provides engaging information for the whole family. Located at the base of San Simeon Pier, guests can make a day out of the visit by bringing lunch to enjoy on the picnic tables or on neighboring Hearst Beach.

Hearst State Beach

Located across Highway 1 from Hearst Castle, Hearst State Beach is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. Stroll along the sandy shores or opt to hike up into the tree line and out onto the point. It’s common to see an elephant seal or two on the beach so be sure to provide respectful distance!

Ragged Point

Another 10 miles north from the Piedras Blancas Light Station is Ragged Point. This winding, cliffside drive is one of the most exhilarating in the world. The views from Ragged Point are unparalleled and include the largest waterfall on the Big Sur Coast. Be sure to check the condition of Highway 1 before driving because it is subject to closure after storms.

Hearst Castle

A quick 7 miles to the south of Piedras Blancas Light Station lies the famous Hearst Castle. It’s the perfect bookend to the Light Station: where the Station is sparse and rugged, Hearst Castle is decadent and ornate. Check out the range of tours in advance to explore the museum-caliber holdings of William Randolph Hearst in his bit of heaven.

Historic Piers & Lighthouses

History lovers will certainly be thrilled to learn that Piedras Blancas Light Station is not alone! Point San Luis Lighthouse is another historic light station along the Central Coast about 60 miles south in Avila Beach. Built in 1890 alongside housing, the Point San Luis Lighthouse contrasts the life of its light keeper to that of the Piedras Blancas keeper. Tours can be booked in advance online.

Other San Simeon Attractions

Come see the elephant seals at the largest free viewing area in California.

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