RV campers who crave the ocean and coastal views will find Hearst San Simeon State Park a shoreline gem. Hearst San Simeon State Park is one of California’s oldest parks in the state park system. Located along the California coast between Monterey and San Luis Obispo, the park has many raw and natural elements that bring visitors from near and far. The natural preservation makes this park even more special. The Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Preserve, and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve are all housed within the park’s boundaries.
One of the unique aspects of the park is the scenic viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. These viewpoints not only give guests extensive views of the water but also views of Point Piedras Blancas, an elephant seal rookery that extends along six miles of the shoreline. During certain times of the year, the elephant seals are abundant, and seeing these creatures makes staying at the park even more special.
The park is also close to some popular historical points of interest. Hearst Castle, a museum showcasing the vision of William Randolph Hearst and Julia Morgan, is approximately five miles north of Hearst San Simeon Park. Park guests who are interested in art, architecture and original buildings should plan to take a tour of the castle and see why people talk about the facility.
San Simeon State Park is located 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo and 98 miles south of Monterrey, via Highway 1. The closest town is the community of Cambria, which is two miles south.
All guests must pay a park fee upon entry to the park. If the entrance station is closed, please use the self-pay area. The campsites only permit two vehicles per site. Additional fees apply for extra vehicles over two. The RV or trailer counts as one of the vehicles.
The Washburn Campground is a primitive camping area. Campers access the campground through the same entry point as the San Simeon Campground. The campsites sit one mile inland on a plateau that offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. Each site allows campers and RVs up to 35 feet in length. The gravel spaces all have a fire ring and a picnic table. This campground has vault toilets. Campers who need water, firewood, or a dump station will have to go to the San Simeon Creek Campground area. The campground is pet-friendly, but be aware that dogs must be on a leash or crated at all times, and no dogs are allowed on the beach. Generators may be operated between the hours of 10:00 am and 8:00 pm.
The San Simeon Creek Campground sits alongside the San Simeon Creek, a waterway that leads to the Pacific Ocean. The two-looped campground has many amenities, such as water faucets, pay showers, flushing toilets, vault toilets, a dump station, and firewood sales. Each space is paved and allows RVs and trailers up to 35 feet in length. The campground permits two vehicles per site. The RV or trailer counts as one of the vehicles. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. While the campground is pet-friendly, be aware that dogs must be on a leash or crated at all times, and no dogs are allowed on the beach. Generators may be operated between the hours of 10:00 am and 8:00 pm.
There are so many things to see along the trail system inside of San Simeon State Park. If you have your leashed dog with you, you can stroll along the Moonstone Boardwalk, which runs along the coastal area. The other trail in the park is not dog-friendly, so you will have to leave your furry friend behind if you want to hike along the three mile trail that runs through the Washburn Campground and parts of the San Simeon Natural Preserve. The trail is scenic and informative and offers hikers benches to rest, ocean overlooks, and interpretive signs for hikers to learn more about the area along the walk. The portion of the trail that passes through the wetland area is a designated wheelchair accessible trail so people of all abilities can enjoy the trail.
If you love the ocean and you love adventure, then you should spend some of your visit out on the waters of the Pacific Ocean. If you are an experienced sea kayaker, you can access the boat launch near the Leffingwell Landing Day-Use Area. If you don’t have a boat or kayaking is a new sport you’ve wanted to try, then contact one of the area’s kayak rentals or kayak tour facilities. Visit the park’s website for more detailed information on the recommended and reputable rental facilities close by the park.
The park has three day-use areas where visitors can spend time outside along the ocean. The Santa Rosa Day Use Area is located in the southernmost portion of the park. This area offers visitors places to park, lagoon overlooks, and access to the beach. The centrally located Leffingwell Landing Day-Use Area has a public beach with a boat launch, restrooms, and picnic area. It's also connected to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Near the northern section of the park, close to the campground, is the Washburn Day Use Area. This area gives visitors places to hike, picnic, and have close access to restrooms.
Two of the park’s preserves, the Santa Rosa Creek Preserve and the San Simeon Natural Preserve are areas where nature lovers can go to seek out unusual plants and wildlife. The Creek Preserve is known for its wetland areas that support and house the endangered Tidewater Goby. If fish don’t interest you, the other wetland area, the San Simeon Natural Preserve, is known for the undisturbed plant communities and as the wintering site for monarch butterflies. If plants, nature, and wildlife interest you, pick up a brochure from the park office and spend your days seeking out the beautiful native and migratory species that inhabit the park.
One of the most exciting points of interest in the park is the elephant seal rookery. Guests who want to see elephant seals from a safe distance should visit the Elephant Seal Boardwalk. While the seals are visible year-round, the largest populations of seals can be seen in January, April, and October. The seals, who spend most of their time in the ocean, come to the rookery to rest, breed, give birth, and molt. The viewing areas are free and open year-round. The wheelchair accessible viewing points give everyone something exciting to see, and well-informed docents spend their time answering questions about the seals.
People interested in history, architecture, and art should plan to visit Hearst Castle, located about five miles away from the park. The Hearst Castle Visitor Center gives guests plenty of information about the origins of the Castle as well as details on William Randolph Hearst. While at the Visitor Center, you can view a movie at the Castle Theater or arrange a tour of the Castle itself. Guests to the vicinity will also learn about the Hearst Ranch, one of the largest working cattle ranches along the coast of California. The ranch is still a working ranch, and it specializes in grass-fed beef.