Hearst Castle – so many tours, so little time

Friday, March 15th, 2024

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is open and ready for visitors.

‘Something a little more comfortable up on the hill’

—Hearst Castle, one of California’s world-famous landmarks, is not to be missed when visiting the Central Coast. The castle offers at least nine tours, not counting privately arranged tours. Some of the most popular tours are wheelchair-accessible and accommodate visitors (with their support dogs) who have standing and mobility difficulties.

Hearst Castle celebrated its reopening in 2021 after being closed for extensive road repairs by introducing the Julia Morgan tour. The two-hour Julia Morgan tour gives visitors an in-depth look at Morgan’s life and career as well as tours of rarely seen areas of Hearst Castle. Morgan was hired as the architect of the castle after the death of Phoebe Hearst, William Randolph Hearst’s mother. Hearst reportedly hired Morgan to create “something a little more comfortable up on the hill.”

Phoebe Hearst was an accomplished woman in her own right, founding the University of California Museum of Anthropology, among other major contributions. With Phoebe’s influence in his life, it’s no wonder Hearst was drawn to hire Julia Morgan to build his castle on the enchanted hill.

Morgan not only designed the castle on the hill but also the Hearst San Simeon property and other family properties. As one of America’s preeminent architects, Morgan’s designs graced private homes, college campuses, women’s clubs, and religious buildings. The tour highlights Morgan’s gift for design and includes photographic displays of architectural drawings, family photos, and personal items.

The history

Hearst started building the fabulous estate on family ranchland overlooking the village of San Simeon in 1919. He called the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” – Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, the hilltop complex included the iconic twin-towered main building, three guesthouses frequently occupied by Hollywood’s famous, and 127 acres of terraced gardens, fountains, and pools.

Regular visitors to the castle included a long list of Hollywood greats, political leaders such as Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge, and other notables such as Howard Hughes, George Bernard Shaw, Hedda Hopper, and Louella Parsons, well-known gossip columnists of their time.

The castle was donated to the State of California in 1957 and managed by the California State Parks System. The doors first opened to the public in 1958. The castle sees over 850,000 visitors from all over the world every year.

The tours

The guided tours include year-round and seasonal tours. The year-round tours include the private rooms and suites, the guest cottages, the kitchen, and the Julia Morgan Tour. Seasonal tours, only available at certain times of the year, include The Art of San Simeon, Hearst, and Hollywood Tour, an evening tour, and a holiday tour. Private tours for schools and other groups are also available by prior arrangement.

Daytime tours include a viewing of the film “Hearst Castle – Building the Dream” in the Hearst Castle Theater at the visitor center. The film is not included in the evening tours but visitors who wish to see it can do so for a discounted cost.

Hearst Castle is located on Highway 1 above the village of San Simeon, a four-hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Francisco. Reservations are strongly encouraged. For directions, reservations, ticket prices, and information about the tours visit hearstcastle.org or call (800) 444-4445.


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