From San Simeon to Ragged Point and back, this 37-mile ride will take you on Highway 1 past notable landmarks, challenging hills, and stunning views. It features some of the historic points for which San Simeon and Ragged Point are best known: Hearst Castle, the elephant seals, the Piedras Blancas Light Station, the San Simeon Pier, and beyond. Take this route for the ultimate ride back in time.
Points of Interest
Piedras Blancas Light Station
Piedras Blancas Light Station15950 Cabrillo Hwy
San Simeon, CA 93452
Piedras Blancas Light Station
Piedras Blancas Light Station, meaning “white rocks,” is an ode to the rocky coastline that houses the light station. The historic lighthouse, with its distinct light pattern of a white flash every 15 seconds, assured mariners of their location and warned of the approaching coastline. Construction of Piedras Blancas Light Station began in April 1874. The lighthouse was first illuminated a mere 10 months later, on February 15, 1875. The lighthouse was originally 100 feet tall and housed a first-order Fresnel lens. A fog signal building was constructed in 1905, and the first sound was produced in 1906.
Hearst Castle Zebras
Traveling the winding ranch road to Hearst Castle, guests once passed through fenced fields populated with many species of exotic wild animals freely roaming over the hillsides as though they were native to this land. It was an amazing sight, featuring an ever-changing collection of animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and zebras. After Mr. Hearst passed away, some of the beloved wildlife that called Hearst Castle home were set free to live life in the pastures along Highway 1. While riding through San Simeon, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Hearst Castle zebras grazing in knee-high grass.
Old San Simeon
Old San Simeon is the historic town center for local residents and visitors alike. Adjacent to the W.R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, guests enjoy the day-use coastal access that offers picnic sites, parking, restrooms, water faucets and barbecue grill stands. The protected beach has a spectacular view, soft sand and miles of easy walking. The Coastal Discovery Center provides educational exhibits about San Simeon Cove, local wildlife, whaling history, marine mammals and more. Hearst Ranch Winery’s tasting room is located in the heart of Old San Simeon. Join the locals for a wine tasting and lunch on the outdoor patio before completing the ride to Ragged Point, or while on your way back.
Perched high above the ocean, Ragged Point is located about 15 miles north of San Simeon and is known as the Gateway to Big Sur. This quaint community is nestled between the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and the serene Pacific Ocean, with stunning coastal views around every turn. Rest and relax at Ragged Point Inn and Restaurant, or if you feel more adventurous, hike down a steep cliffside to a black sand beach. At Ragged Point, you will find some of the last amenities before you reach the iconic Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to the north on longer rides.
In 1865, George Hearst, purchased 45,000 acres of the Piedra Blanca Rancho in San Simeon. And in 1886, Senator George Hearst increased his holdings to 270,000 acres. When George died in 1891, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land. In 1919, William Randolph Hearst starts construction on the famed castle with San Francisco architect Julia Morgan. Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces and an accredited museum. Today, Hearst Castle offers a variety of tours for San Simeon guests. Take a trip back in time to enjoy the life that William Randolph Hearst and his guests lived.
Elephant Seal Rookery
The Piedras Blancas Rookery is the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible, free, and open every day of the year. The rookery is located seven miles north of San Simeon on Highway 1. Northern elephant seals haul out on beaches near San Simeon year-round, as they go through different phases in their life cycle. During peak times in January, April, and October, there can be up to 17,000 animals on the San Simeon shores. Come see these magnificent marine mammals up close on one of the prettiest coastlines in California.
San Simeon Pier
Before the advent of the railroad and easily traversed highways, most of the commerce in central California was conducted by ship with piers and wharfs being vital. Local products were shipped out to markets in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Early on, during the Spanish and Mexican eras, ships anchored off the coast and goods were exchanged via small craft, powered by oar. That can be risky even in the best weather. The earliest piers, like the San Simeon Pier, were enterprises underwritten by wealthy landowners or by collaborators forming a company which owned the pier. This made the shipment and import of goods much easier and cheaper.
The Whale Trail is a series of sites where the public may view orcas, other cetaceans, and marine mammals from shore. Along the Whale Trail on your way to Ragged Point, you’ll be overlooking the waters of one of our nation’s most spectacular marine protected areas, offering some of the best wildlife viewing in the world—including 34 species of marine mammals. Search for the heart-shaped blows of gray whales, tall dorsal fins of orcas, or feeding humpback and blue whales. Look for seals and sea lions on offshore rocks and sea otters wrapped up in kelp. You can see amazing marine life at the Whale Trail’s shore-based sites at any time of year.