The Hilltop House that Shaped San Simeon
Towering above the unincorporated town of San Simeon, Hearst Castle is one of the town’s most treasured sights—and one of California’s most visited landmarks. Millions of travelers each year make the trek to see the magnificent estate, located five miles inland and perched atop rolling hills overlooking the picturesque Pacific Ocean.
Visiting the Castle
Located just off California Highway 1, Hearst Castle is easy to get to from anywhere in San Simeon. Open seven days a week, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, Hearst Castle opens for ticket sales at 8:00 a.m., with tours starting at 9:00 a.m. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made up to eight weeks in advance. Tours are walking intensive, but Hearst Castle does feature Accessibly Designed Tours for visitors who may have difficulty with stairs or standing and walking for long periods of time.
Plan your Hearst Castle Tour
Hearst Castle’s storied history dates back to 1865 when George Hearst, a wealthy miner, purchased more than 40,000 acres of land that included Piedras Blancas, San Simeon and Santa Rosa ranchos, which used to be part of the San Miguel Mission.
The land remained largely untouched until George Hearst’s only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land after his mother passed. By then, George Hearst’s original 40,000-acre purchase had steadily grown to more than 250,000 acres and became known as “Camp Hill,” a place where family members and friends gathered to camp out beneath the San Simeon stars.
But William Randolph Hearst had bigger plans for the land, envisioning more comfortable arrangements so that he, his family and friends could visit the area and enjoy the beauty, without “roughing it.” Famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan received a plea from Hearst to help him bring his vision to life:
“Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the
open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like
to build a little something”
While Hearst and Morgan started planning a modest hilltop retreat, their plans soon blossomed and grew, without either of them knowing that they would soon be constructing one of the world’s most famed landmarks.
During construction, Hearst renamed the rocky perch “La Cuesta Encantada,” Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill.” By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had finished the Castle, creating a magnificent and towering estate comprised of 165 rooms on 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, walkways and guest houses—all inspired by the Mediterranean Revival style and Spanish cathedrals and housing the family’s vast European and Mediterranean art collection.
For more information about the history of Hearst Castle, ticket prices and tour times, please visit HearstCastle.org.
Friends of Hearst Castle
Dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Hearst Castle, Friends of Hearst Castle (FHC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates in cooperation with Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and the San Luis Obispo Coast District of California State Parks. Because of FHC’s active fundraising and membership efforts, funds for valuable educational and interpretive programs are made available to help continue the preservation of this historic landmark for generations to come.
To learn more about how to become part of Friends of Hearst Castle, visit FriendsofHearstCastle.org today.