Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area
Guide

Introduction

Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area (ONA) is a wildlife sanctuary and historic park that lies six miles north of Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. This 0.7 square mile ONA, managed by the BLM, is popular for the Light Station which sits within its area and is named after the distinctive white rocks offshore. This lighthouse was first illuminated in 1875 and still casts a beam of light that guides mariners along the coast of California.

The rocks and rugged shoreline characteristic of this ONA make the area home to sea lions, seabirds, and elephant seals, all of which provide fantastic sightseeing opportunities. Flora enthusiasts love this ONA because of the presence of more than 70 native plant species in the areas surrounding the Light Station. Recreational opportunities include bird viewing, wildlife watching, elephant seal viewing, and nature photography. There are lots of nearby attractions to see and visit here, some of which are Hearst Castle, Estero Bluffs State Park, Hearst San Simeon State Park, and San Simeon and William Randolph Hearst State Beach.

There are no camping areas at this ONA, but primitive and modern campgrounds are available nearby.

RV Rentals in Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area

Transportation

Driving

Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area lies six miles north of Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. This BLM park can be accessed via Highway 101 both from southern and northern California areas. If you’re coming from the south, take Highway 101 to San Luis Obispo and exit at Highway 1. From the north, exit Highway 101 at Highway 46 west and follow Highway 1 to the ONA.

The roads that lead to this BLM park in California are paved and maintained, so visitors driving to the park have nothing to worry about. A large gravel parking area for cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles is provided just off Highway 1 that offers convenient parking options for guests.

There are no direct public transportation services to Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA.

RV and trailer rental services are available nearby at Hearst San Simeon State Park and San Simeon for guests that wish to enjoy modern camping around Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area

Campsites in Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area

Reservations camping

Hearst San Simeon State Park

Primitive and developed camping options are available at Hearst San Simeon State Park within two campgrounds that are open to campers of all ages.

The developed campground – San Simeon Creek Campground – offers 115 tent and RV campsites equipped with picnic tables and fire rings, as well as shower facilities and flush toilets. Chemical toilets, payphone, and a dump station are also provided. Recreational activities include hiking, picnicking, surfing, bird watching, and many more. The RV length limit is 35 feet.

The primitive campground – Washburn Campground – overlooks the Santa Lucia Mountains and is accessible from the entrance station to San Simeon Creek Campground. Campers are able to enjoy showers, fire rings, and picnic tables.

Reservations are accepted.

Seasonal activities in Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area

In-Season

Bird/Wildlife Viewing

There are good opportunities for guests at Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA to watch birds and wildlife that call this area home. Bird watchers will see many species of birds around the surrounding beach areas, wetlands, and popular trails in the area. You should look out for black phoebes, egrets, white-tailed kites, and black oystercatchers.

Commonly seen wildlife species include California ground squirrels, bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer, and brush rabbits.

Hiking

Hiking opportunities are provided to visitors at Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA through guided tours. A 3.2-mile round trip hiking trail leads to the boundary of the ONA and crosses a coastal bluff that offers beautiful ocean views. Boardwalks are also provided in the park for good sightseeing opportunities.

Additional hiking opportunities are available at Hearst San Simeon State Park along a 3.3-mile trail that features scenic overlooks, interpretive panels, and rest-stop benches, with an ADA-accessible area.

Elephant seal viewing

By far the most popular feature of Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA is the Elephant Seal Rookery, a site where visitors and travelers are able to very comfortably get up close to 5,000-pound animals and watch this wonder of nature.

The rookery spreads over six miles of shoreline around the ONA. As a result, there are several viewing areas available at and around the ONA where guests can enjoy unlimited views of these beautiful creatures going about their business in their natural habitat.

Off-Season

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle, the home of the world-famous William Randolph, lies six miles from Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA, along Highway 1. This structure is arguably the top attraction in the area, as it receives visitors from all around the world.

Renowned for its high-quality art collection, the estate houses in the castle feature landscaped gardens and a private zoo. The estate was opened to the public in June 1958. Tours are available to the castle for visitors who fancy exploring the magnificent edifice.

Estero Bluffs State Park

Guests at Piedras Blancas Light Station ONA often fancy short trips to Estero Bluffs State Park nearby, where beautiful whale watching opportunities abound. The gray whales are best seen between December and March when they are migrating south.

In summer, visitors at the park take part in recreational activities such as sunbathing, observing the sea and shorebirds, and enjoying the seaside. Kayaking and hiking are also other ways to stay active in the state park.

San Simeon and William Randolph Hearst State Beach

San Simeon and William Randolph Hearst State Beach lies six miles from Piedras Blancas and offers the perfect outdoor setting for memorable getaways. Equipped with a sheltered beach, historic post office, picnic areas, and other amenities like barbecue grills and restrooms, visitors will find everything they need to make their experience lovely here.

Common activities here include hiking, fishing, and beachcombing. If you’re a kayaker, then there’s nothing stopping you from going ocean kayaking.