California’s Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument (Hearst Castle) will reopen to the public on May 11, after being closed for two years following the COVID-19 pandemic and severe rainstorms that damaged its access road in early 2021.
Located in San Luis Obispo County, La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill” high above the ocean at San Simeon, was the creation of two extraordinary individuals, William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. Their collaboration, which began in 1919 and continued for nearly 30 years, transformed an informal hilltop campsite into the world-famous Hearst Castle – an estate that comprises the magnificent 115-room main house plus guesthouses, pools, and 8 acres of cultivated gardens. The main house itself, “La Casa Grande,” is home to Hearst’s extraordinary art collection and has hosted many influential guests, including President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, and a diverse array of luminaries from show business and publishing industries.
THE HEARST CASTLE ACCESS ROAD is used by tour buses, contractors, and staff, and carries as many as 850,000 visitors a year. This includes approximately 22,000 bus trips, some running as frequently as every 10 minutes in the busy summer season. The steep, curvy road rises 1,650 feet over a distance of 5 miles. In the upper sections of the road where this project is located, the road navigates rocky outcroppings and steep canyons by splitting into separate, narrower, one-directional sections for uphill and downhill traffic.
Over the course of the 10-month access road project, the upper 2.25-mile portion of the road was reconstructed and re-engineered to provide safe passage for all visitors to the historic monument.
State Parks will celebrate the reopening of the castle and the delayed 100th anniversary of the construction of the castle by offering a new tour entitled The Julia Morgan Tour as part of the reopening celebration. The tour takes an in-depth look at the life and career of this extraordinary woman, focusing on rarely seen areas of Hearst Castle that highlight her gift for design, and photographic displays of architectural drawings, family photos, and personal items.
In addition, the ticket pricing structure for Hearst Castle was revamped to make it more user-friendly for the public and business partners. The ticket price will now have all fees integrated into one total price, which will make the reservation process seamless and will reduce the overall cost to visitors by $3, to $6 per ticket. Tour reservations are strongly recommended and starting on March 31, reservations can be made online at HearstCastle.org or by calling (800) 444-4445.