State Parks Offers New Tour Called ‘The Julie Morgan Tour’ as Part of Reopening Celebration
– California State Parks has announced plans to reopen the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument (Hearst Castle). The world-renowned house museum will reopen to the public on May 11, after being closed for two years following the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy rains that damaged the access road to the castle in early 2021.
“Hearst Castle is a state treasure and we are thrilled to reopen this wonder to the public for safe and responsible enjoyment,” said California State Parks Superintendent Armando Quintero. “We are confident that these one-of-a-kind repairs and upgrades to the roadside facility will serve countless generations to come.”
Located in San Luis Obispo County, La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill” above the ocean in San Simeon, was the creation of William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. Their collaboration, which began in 1919 and has continued for almost 30 years, has transformed an informal hilltop campsite into the famous Hearst Castle – an estate that includes the 115-room main house plus guest houses guesthouses, swimming pools and eight acres of cultivated gardens. The main house itself, “La Casa Grande”, houses Hearst’s extensive art collection and has hosted many influential guests, including President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin and a wide range of luminaries of the show business and publishing sectors.
“They say Hearst Castle is an already dazzling crown jewel of San Luis Obispo County, and I couldn’t agree more. and Hearst Castle is not only a fascinating place to visit, it serves as the backbone of North County’s economy,” said State Senator John Laird. “So, I couldn’t be happier that it’s reopened, with a safer and more rewarding experience for residents and tourists alike. I want to thank State Parks for their diligent work in reopening the castle. The spirits of William Randolph Hearst and castle architect Julia Morgan are surely high today.
The access road to Hearst Castle is used by tour buses, contractors and staff and carries up to 850,000 visitors a year. This includes around 22,000 bus journeys per year, with some going up to every 10 minutes during the peak summer season. The steep, winding 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 outcrops and steep canyons by splitting into separate, narrower, one-way sections for uphill and downhill traffic.
During the 10 month access road project, the upper 2.25 mile section of Hearst Castle Road was rebuilt and redeveloped to provide safe passage for all visitors to the historic landmark. The old asphalt was removed and recycled into new, thicker, stronger pavement through a process known as deep salvage. New concrete retaining walls have been installed and some of the historic stone retaining walls have been restored by hand. Storm-damaged clay culverts dating from the 1920s have been replaced and expanded 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 engines of our growing tourism economy,” said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham. “I am happy to hear that it will reopen in time for the summer travel season and I look forward to returning soon.”
State Parks will celebrate the reopening of the castle and the delayed 100th anniversary of the castle’s construction by offering a new tour called 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 showcase her gift for design, and photographic exhibits of architectural drawings, family photos and personal items.
Additionally, the ticket pricing structure for Hearst Castle has been overhauled to make it more user-friendly for the public and business partners. The ticket price will now have all fees rolled into one total price, making the booking process seamless and reducing the overall cost to visitors to $3-$6 per ticket. Reservations for tours are highly recommended and from March 31 reservations 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 San Luis Obispo County guidelines as the castle reopens for visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors are encouraged to check the CDPH and SLO County Public Health website for advice on museums and parks and the department will update the website with current guidelines closer to the date. of reopening.
For more information on Hearst Castle, visit parks.ca.gov/HearstCastle.