There are a number of excellent short hikes along awe-inspiring coastal bluffs in the area.
The boardwalk Moonstone Beach Trail follows the eroded cliffs along the rocky shoreline, past coves, tidepools and rock formations with views of San Simeon Point and the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. Several staircases lead down to the beach. From Highway 1, turn west on Windsor Boulevard then make a right on Moonstone Beach Drive. Park in the Santa Rosa Creek parking lot and pick up the trail on the north end. When you reach Leffingwell Creek, head down to the beach and up the hill to Leffingwell Landing then through the parking lot to continue on the trail to an overlook at the end of the Moonstone Beach Drive. Two and a half miles roundtrip.
There’s no beach access along the Fiscalini Bluff Trail (formerly the East West Ranch bluff trail), but the vistas are spectacular. Cross footbridges and take a rest on the wooden benches as you enjoy the view. From Highway 1, turn west on Windsor Boulevard past Shamel Park to the end. Park in the neighborhood. Two miles roundtrip.
Further north, the San Simeon Bay Trail heads off from Hearst State Beach and follows the bay around to San Simeon Point, a peninsula with coves, rock formations and tidepools. Unlike the other trails, this one follows the coastline through a serene forest of eucalyptus, pine, cedar and cypress trees. From Highway 101, turn left into Hearst State Beach and park in the pullouts before the bridge. You’ll start out on the beach, cross the creek and head up the wooded bluffs on the well-worn path. Follow the path around to the peninsula and explore the various trails, coves and viewpoints. Two and a half miles roundtrip.
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A historic $95 million deal struck in 2004 conserved 959 acres – with 13 miles of coastline – of the former Hearst Ranch. That land is now being added to the state park system. Much of it has yet to see any improvements, but it has also yet to be discovered by the masses. Click below to read a series of stories exploring the county’s newest parkland, which is also some of its most magnificent.
* Southern Quarter (Junge Ranch and coastal strip): Harbor seals, tidepools and isolation.
* South of Piedras Blancas: A popular spot with elephant seals and humans alike.
* North of Piedras Blancas: Invasive plants, coastal erosion and a defunct motel mean a need for TLC.
* Northern Stretch: The crown jewel -- a treasure trove of ocean vistas, grassy bluffs and tidepools.
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