San Simeon Bay Trail (also called San Simeon Point Trail) is a beautiful beach hike along the Central California coast that features stunning views of the ocean, cliffs, San Simeon pier, unique trees, and wildlife. San Simeon Bay Trail is located near the Hearst Castle and is part of the Hearst San Simeon State Park system.
This area is especially popular for whale watching and is a natural wildlife habitat for elephant seals that you can often see along the trail.
Location & Parking
The San Simeon Bay Trail starts at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach. There are a couple of free lots right next to the beach where visitors can park but they do fill up quickly, especially on the weekends.
Many people come to the William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach to relax with their families or to visit the San Simeon Pier. The trail itself is not very busy but the parking area can be.
After parking, walk down to the sandy beach and head north along the beach. The trailhead can be a bit tricky to find unless you know what to look for.
About 10 minutes in you will see a small side trail to the right that leads into the forest. This is the starting point for the San Simeon Point & San Simeon Bay Trail.
Hours: 8 am to sunset
About San Simeon Bay Trail
San Simeon Bay Trail is a 4.3-mile long out-and-back trail. This hike starts with a little bit of climb but then it flattens out and can be rated as easy.
If you want to shorten the hike, you have the option to hike only 2.5 miles to San Simeon Point and back. But I highly recommend doing the entire 4.3 miles because there are some viewpoints at the end that overlook elephant seals hanging out on a secluded beach cove.
Dogs are also welcome to use the San Simeon Bay Trail but must be leashed. If you see any elephant seals during this hike please make sure to keep a safe distance because they can be quite dangerous.
While elephant seals can go for long periods without moving and sleep a lot, they can be very fast and aggressive when it comes to protecting their territory.
Overall, San Simeon Bay offers a great mix of ocean views and shaded forest trails. Along this hike, you will pass along rocky cliffs, walk inside enchanting tree tunnels, and see lots of wildlife.
The San Simeon Bay Trail is a family-friendly hike with incredible views for very little work.
My Hiking Experience
The trailhead to San Simeon Bay Hike starts just a short walk from the William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach parking area.
Despite being a Sunday morning I was able to find a parking spot somewhat easily, but by the time I returned from the hike all the spots were taken by people visiting the beach and the San Simeon pier.
After parking just head down to the sandy beach and walk to the right. This trail is not super obvious to spot which makes it a great hidden gem for hikers.
This hike is dog friendly so I brought my pup with me. The beach had lots of signs that dogs need to be leashed because of the elephant seals that reside in this area.
Once you reach the trailhead you will need to hike up a cliff. This is the steepest part of the hike and it flattens out shortly after.
The first section of the trail goes along a narrow path inside a eucalyptus forest.
The air here smelled really good with a mix of eucalyptus trees and ocean breeze.
During this section, I could see the ocean to the left but soon after the trail passes through a small gate and goes slightly inland through a forest with mossy trees.
There is one viewpoint here that offers a clear view of the William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach.
Along this trail, I also passed a cluster of 3 large trees that grow in many different directions and look really interesting.
About a mile in the trail reaches San Simeon Point. Many people stop here to take in the views of the bay, the nearby cliffs, and the ocean.
There is a small private beach to the right and I saw a man fishing out on some rocks. There might be a side trail that leads down to the beach, but the cliffs looked very steep.
At this point, you can turn around but I decided to keep going past the San Simeon Point for another mile to the end – which I highly recommend if you have the time. Plus the further you go along this trail, the fewer people you will encounter.
The next section of the trail passes through beautiful tree tunnels made of large trees with bare trunks.
A thick cypress tree barrier separates the trail from the ocean but occasionally you can spot an opening that leads through.
If you can make your way through the overgrown trees, you can also walk along beautiful ocean cliffs but this path is less traveled and more dangerous due to erosion and steep drop-offs.
I opted to take the safe route and walk through the captivating tree tunnels to the end of the trail and back.
After passing through the tree tunnels the San Simeon Bay Trail opens up again with views of the ocean and goes through an overgrown section near the cliffs.
Many people turn around here but if you go all the way to the end, you get to a cool little viewpoint that overlooks elephant seals napping in the sand.
While you can hear the seals during the hike, there are not that many viewpoints where you can see them. The viewpoint at the end of the trail is one of the best spots to observe the elephant seals in their natural habitat.
Most of the seals here were lazily lounging around but I did see one come out of the water and join the group. Some seals didn’t move at all while I was there but I read in an information plaque at the beginning of the trail that it’s perfectly normal.
When they do move to establish dominance or to protect their territory, they can move very quickly and be aggressive. At least this viewpoint is high up so you don’t have to worry about that.
I did find a tick on me at the end of the hike that I probably picked up in this overgrown section.
The thick bushes can also scratch up your legs so I recommend wearing long pants.
After watching the seals for a while I turned back around and backtracked to the starting point.
I did this hike on a summer day but because it’s located near the coast and is covered by trees, the weather felt chilly. I wish I had brought a light jacket with me but once I started hiking I warmed up pretty quickly.
This is not a difficult trail so you don’t need any special hiking gear to do it, just good walking shoes, water, and maybe some snacks.
The hike is 4.3 miles long but the scenery is just simply gorgeous and the hike goes by quickly.
We hope this guide has helped you prepare for a wonderful hiking trip to San Simeon. Looking for more Central Coast travel inspiration? Check out these posts next:
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