California State Parks is due to reopen Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, better known as Hearst Castle, on May 11.
The world-renowned house museum has been closed for two years following the COVID-19 pandemic and severe rainstorms that damaged the access road to the castle.
“Hearst Castle is a state treasure and we are thrilled to reopen this wonder to the public to enjoy in a safe and responsible manner,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “We are confident that these once-in-a-lifetime repairs and improvements to the road facility will serve countless generations to come.”
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 eight 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.
“They say that the Hearst Castle is a jewel in San Luis Obispo County’s already dazzling crown, and I couldn’t agree more; and Hearst Castle is not only a fascinating place to visit, it serves as a backbone to the North County’s economy,” said State Senator John Laird. “So, I couldn’t be happier about its re-opening, with a safer and more rewarding experience for residents and tourists alike. I want to thank State Parks for their diligent work in getting the Castle re-opened. The spirits of William Randolph Hearst and castle architect Julia Morgan are surely joyous today.”
The Hearst Castle access road is used by tour buses, contractors, and staff and carries up to 850,000 visitors per year. This includes approximately 22,000 bus trips per year, 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 five 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 Hearst Castle Road was reconstructed and re-engineered to provide safe passage for all visitors to the historic monument. Old asphalt was removed and recycled into a thicker, stronger new roadway by a process known as full-depth reclamation. New concrete retaining walls were installed and some of the historic stone retaining walls were restored by hand. The storm-damaged clay pipe culverts dating from the 1920s were replaced and enlarged to withstand modern storm systems such as the atmospheric rivers that recently damaged the road. The total estimated cost of the project is $13.7 million.
“Hearst Castle is a Central Coast gem and one of the many drivers behind our growing tourism economy,” stated Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham. “I am glad to hear that it will be reopening in time for the summer travel season and look forward to visiting again soon.”
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 Julie 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 can be made online at HearstCastle.org or by calling (800) 444-4445.
State Parks continues to follow all applicable California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the San Luis Obispo County Public Health guidelines as the castle reopens for tours during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors are encouraged to review the CDPH and SLO County Public Health websites for guidance for museums and parks and the department will update the website with current guidelines.