Hearst Castle Overview
With its extravagant antiquities, architecture, and heritage, Hearst Castle welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Once the home of businessman William Randolph Hearst, this hilltop estate awed and entertained the luminaries of his time. Winston Churchill, Hedda Hopper, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin all stayed and played on his “Enchanted Hill.” After Hearst’s death, the estate opened its doors to the public in 1958. Today, it stands much as it did during his lifetime, comprising 90,000 square feet and Hearst’s world-class art collection. In fact, it’s the only California State Park that is an art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The Hearst Family
In 1865, Hearst’s father, a wealthy miner, purchased about 30,000 acres from Rancho Piedra Blanca, a Mexican land grant. George Hearst also bought portions of adjoining Rancho San Simeon and Rancho Santa Rosa. After his death and that of his wife, Phoebe, ownership of the property went to their son, William Randolph Hearst.
With additional land purchases W. R. Hearst eventually grew the ranch to encompass about 250,000 acres. Originally called “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. In 1919, he told San Francisco architect Julia Morgan, “I would like to build something up on the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents. I’m getting a little old for that. I’d like to get something that would be more comfortable…”
Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces and later an accredited museum. As they built his dream home, Hearst renamed the site “La Cuesta Encantada”― Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. That hill would see lavish parties and celebrity visits between 1919 to 1947, when Hearst finally left the property.
“Few places better capture the opulence of early–20th century California than Hearst Castle, the 165-room former personal estate of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. The property, which will celebrate its centennial next year, has its own theater, billiard room, beauty salon and pair of dazzling swimming pools. The Neptune Pool, in particular, is the stuff of legend, with a Vermont marble basin and alcove as well as vast colonnades flanked by a quartet of Italian relief sculptures.” ~ Ashlea Halpern
Hearst Castle Tours
Among the most awe-inspiring attractions on California’s Central Coast, Hearst Castle tours bring history vibrantly to life. Enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific and Hearst’s thousands of acres of ranch land. Wander the gardens and witness ancient artifacts Hearst collected. Experience the luxury of the Neptune Pool, the Library, Billiard Room ― even watch historic film footage in the Theatre! With several options to choose from, you’re sure to find a tour that satisfies your curiosity.
Year-Round Tours at Hearst Castle
Grand Rooms Tour
Gather in the grand social rooms of Casa Grande ― the largest house at Hearst Castle ― to experience what it was like to be a guest at this hilltop retreat. Recommended for first-time visitors, this tour also has the fewest stairs to climb. 60 minutes.
Upstairs Suites Tour
Explore the upper floors of Casa Grande and its winding staircases to see how Hearst and his guests lived at the Castle. 60 minutes.
Cottages & Kitchen Tour
Discover two very different parts of this fascinating historic attraction. See some of its most personal and practical rooms, including Hearst’s beloved Casa del Mar and the industrial-sized kitchen. 60 minutes.
Designing The Dream Tour
This tour focuses on the product of Hearst’s working relationship with architect Julia Morgan, highlighting architecture and interior design. The first woman to hold an architect’s license in California, Morgan helped Hearst develop his unique home over three decades. Witness her evolution from the Casa del Sol guest cottage and Roman Pool dressing rooms to the Art Deco North Wing. 75 minutes.
Seasonal Tours at Hearst Castle
Offered every spring and fall, this tour allows visitors to view the historic California mansion at twilight. Guests and staff dress in 1930s period attire and wander the Castle as part of the Living History Program. 75 minutes.
The Art of San Simeon
This semi-private tour for eight guests focuses on the many works of art Hearst acquired for the property. Participants will learn about the paintings, sculptures, antiquities, tapestries and other works that comprise Hearst’s collection. In addition to four rooms featured in standard tours, this tour includes rooms that remain otherwise closed to the public. (2 hours; not available in summer.)
Julia Morgan Tour
Collaborating with Mr. Hearst for 28 years to build La Cuesta Encantada, mold-breaking architect Julia Morgan made the Hearst Castle dream a reality. Morgan was the first licensed woman architect in California and the first woman architecture graduate from L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Her long career spans 700 projects, of which Hearst Castle is number 503. This tour delves deeply into Morgan’s life, work and accomplishments with photographic displays of her designs, family photos and personal items. (2 hours, not available during summer.)
Hearst and Hollywood Tour
From the Jazz Age to the Digital Age, Hearst Castle has been a destination for celebrities of the stage and screen. In his day, Hearst hosted some of the most notable figures in Hollywood, from Bette Davis to Cary Grant. This semi-private tour focuses on the connection between Hearst and Hollywood. Participants may choose to visit any of the rooms featured during the four standard daytime tours. (2 hours; not available in summer.)
Holiday Twilight Tour
Hearst and his guests reveled in the festivities of the holiday season, and decorating the estate was no exception. Today, Hearst Castle decks the halls for a special tour in the evening, when lights twinkle brightly. Highlights include Casa del Sol, the grand rooms of Casa Grande, the Kitchen, Theater, both pools and the gardens. (75 minutes; available late November through late December.)
The tour of choice for passionate travelers, this private guided tour accommodates up to six people. Guests may see any area of the estate open to the public on other tours. Tours are offered during normal daytime hours, though availability may be limited during certain seasons. (Up to 4 hours.)
Accessibly Designed Tours (ADA)
Hearst Castle offers many accessibly designed (ADA) tours to accommodate guests. These include visitors who have difficulty climbing or descending stairs, or who can’t stand or walk for lengths of time. Accessibly designed versions of tours include:
- Grand Rooms Tour (60 minutes)
- Evening Tour (75 minutes)
- Holiday Twilight Tour (75 minutes)
Hearst Castle Pools
A place where the who’s who of Hollywood once played, the luxurious Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle must be seen to be believed. Finished in 1936, the classical outdoor pool is 104 feet long, up to 10 feet deep, and holds 345,000 gallons of water. A Roman temple stands watch over the north end, along with multiple statues of mythical Roman figures. Long stone colonnades flank the poolside, offering shade and seating, and vintage dressing rooms stand as they did during Hearst’s time. Perhaps most notable, though, is the pool’s 180-degree view of rolling hills and ocean below.
Since its heyday, the Neptune Pool has been a sought-after destination for film crews. Stanley Kubrick filmed scenes from the famous movie “Spartacus” there, and Lady Gaga filmed a music video poolside.
Equally breathtaking is the indoor Roman Pool, constructed between 1927 and 1934. Julia Morgan’s symmetrical, light-filled design is inspired by traditional Roman baths, with watery “rooms” and hallway links. Thousands of one-inch tiles cover the surface of the pool and walls in Art Deco mosaics, reflecting the evolution of Hearst and Morgan’s style. Elegant finishes include alabaster lamps, marble ladders, and classical statues.
The Grand Rooms Tour includes visits to both the Neptune Pool and Roman Pool.
Hearst Castle Visitor Center & IMAX Theater
The launching point for any journey up the “enchanted hill,” the Hearst Castle Visitor Center offers multiple creature comforts to ensure a pleasant, memorable visit.
Parking at Hearst Castle
Enjoy ample, safe parking in the Visitor Center parking lot before heading inside for your bus trip up the hill. Private vehicles are not permitted on Hearst Ranch.
Restrooms at Hearst Castle
Find clean restrooms available at the Visitor Center before making the trip to Hearst Castle, where options for restrooms are limited.
Dining at Hearst Castle
The Visitor Center offers several dining options for guests’ convenience, from a cafe and coffee bar to boxed lunch and dinner options as well as a seasonal barbecue stand.
Hearst Castle IMAX Theater
Admission to the Visitor Center IMAX Theater screening of “Hearst Castle: Building The Dream” is included with every daytime tour ticket. Learn about the Hearst family’s fondness for San Simeon and William Randolph Hearst’s love of art, architecture and antiquities.
William Randolph Hearst Exhibition
Part of the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, this exhibition shares Hearst family history, artworks, historical photos and documents. The exhibit is free to the public.
Hearst Castle Gift Shop & Bookstore
Find a thoughtful selection of books, jewelry, art pieces, mementos and souvenirs in the Visitor Center gift shop.
Buying Tickets to Tour Hearst Castle
Tickets for tours can be purchased and reserved on the Hearst Castle website or as available at the Hearst Castle Visitor Center. Each tour ticket includes a shuttle up the hill to Hearst Castle (the only way to reach the property – private vehicles are prohibited). Daytime tour tickets also include admission to the film “Building The Dream” at the Hearst Castle IMAX Theater, and access to the Hearst Exhibition in the Visitor Center.
To see all of the locations along the Highway 1 History & Heritage Trail, check out our interactive map.
Hotels Near Hearst Castle
Guests to Hearst Castle will find plenty of lodging options in San Simeon, Cambria and neighboring communities on Highway 1. Whether it’s a chic hotel, boutique bed & breakfast, resort, or budget motel, you’ll find your perfect accommodations here.
TIP: Use the Highway 1 Discovery Route lodging finder for direct access and the best deals at area hotels.
Other Activities Near Hearst Castle
William Randolph Hearst loved animals and even kept a private zoo at Hearst Castle to entertain his guests. Visitors to his home could view antelope, camels, llamas, ostriches, kangaroos, oxen, yaks, giraffes, and zebras. The zoo dismantled slowly between 1937 and 1958, with animals sold or donated to public zoos. But the descendants of Mr. Hearst’s zebras can still be seen roaming Hearst Ranch today, especially when the weather is warm.
Hearst Ranch Winery
The Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room sits just over Highway 1 from the Hearst Castle Visitor Center in Old San Simeon. Open daily, the tasting room occupies Sebastian’s General Store, built by Captain James Clark in 1852 to support the whaling industry. Visit to sample and purchase wines from Hearst Ranch Winery’s estate vineyard in Paso Robles. Then, grab a sandwich at Sebastian’s Deli and enjoy views of San Simeon Bay from the patio.
Directions to Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle lies midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on SLO CAL’s majestic stretch of Highway 1.
Driving directions from San Francisco:
Drive the US-101 South to Paso Robles. Take exit 228 for CA-46 West toward Cambria and turn right onto CA-46 W/Green Valley Rd. At Highway 1 (CA-1 North), turn right and stay on Highway 1 North for nearly 12 miles. Turn right onto Hearst Castle Rd and follow signs to the Hearst Castle Visitors Center.
Driving Directions from Los Angeles:
Take the US-101 North to San Luis Obispo. Take exit 203B to merge onto Highway 1 North (CA-1 N) toward Morro Bay/Hearst Castle. Turn right onto CA-1 N/Santa Rosa St, and continue to follow Highway 1 North just over 41 miles. Turn right onto Hearst Castle Rd and follow signs to the Hearst Castle Visitors Center.
Driving Directions from Bakersfield (2.5 hours)
Take Interstate 5 North (I-5 N) to CA-46 W / Paso Robles Hwy (signs for Lost Hills). Turn left on CA-46 West and continue for 37 miles. Merge onto the US-101 South. In 4 miles, take exit 228 for CA-46 West toward Cambria and turn right onto CA-46 W/Green Valley Rd. At Highway 1 (CA-1 North), turn right and stay on Highway 1 North for nearly 12 miles. Turn right onto Hearst Castle Rd and follow signs to the Hearst Castle Visitors Center.
Weather at Hearst Castle
While the Hearst family chose San Simeon for its ideal climate and panoramic views, weather conditions vary depending on the season. In July, August, and September, temperatures average in the mid-70s, with highs sometimes reaching 98°F. (These are also Hearst Castle’s most touristed months.) Though lows in November through April can sink to the mid-40s, these months can also surprise visitors with stunningly clear views of and from Hearst Castle. No matter which season you choose to visit, be prepared. Dress in layers and be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and bottled water.