Day trip to San Simeon's Hearst State Beach
San Simeon is beautiful year-round. When Fresno is at its coldest, you may encounter T-shirt and shorts weather along the Central Coast. Conversely, when Fresno feels hotter than the surface of the sun, you might need a light jacket on the Central Coast.
One of our favorite places for photography is right across Highway 1 from Hearst Castle, along an easy out-and-back trail that starts at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach, part of the State Park system. The photo opportunities are endless, featuring breathtaking vistas, forested paths, and wildlife.
Here is a brief description of what you can expect on the trail: Begin by walking along the crowd-free sandy beach to a path that leads you up onto the bluffs. Follow the trail beside a barbed wire fence for a while until you spot an obvious opening, allowing you to reach the wide trail. Spectacular views of the rocky coastline, giant Eucalyptus, and birds await you. The trail takes you to a point where you can look back at the beach and pier, observe large groups of pelicans, cormorants, egrets, and a heron or two. Continue, and you'll stroll through a tunnel of Monterey Cypress, with side tunnels leading you right up to the edge of the bluff for photo-worthy scenery, including a distant working lighthouse.
Walk along the trail for as long as you like; it will lead you to a couple of secluded beaches where you may encounter elephant seals, depending on the time of year. When you've used up half of your energy and/or time, simply turn around and head back.