San Simeon is probably best known as the home to Hearst Castle, but just south of this California landmark is diverse Hearst San Simeon State Park
with great trails, camping, and a wide-open beach. Head out on the San Simeon Creek Trail for a 3.5-mile (round-trip) hike through one of only four native Monterey pine forests. Start by crossing a seasonal wetland that's home to pond turtles, red-legged frogs, egrets, and herons. Then climb up Pine Ridge—dotted with the Monterey pines. Descend a boggy lowland, crossing grassy slopes covered in coastal scrub and offering unobstructed views of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The trail passes through the Washburn primitive campground, a great car-camping option with 58 sites. From here, follow the road back to the trailhead (while the trail continues, it's quite overgrown and not recommended). Finish up with a short walk to the spacious beach.Where to Eat and Stay: Robin's Restaurant
(4095 Burton Drive) has a diverse wine selection (try the Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc), delicious fresh salads, and a garden patio bursting with color. For those who don't want to camp, Cambria Pines Lodge
has cabins set in a forest up on a hill, with a short hiking trail that leads right into town. El Colibri Boutique Hotel & Spa
(5620 Moonstone Beach Drive) is one of the newest spots in town, with 34 modern rooms and a boardwalk leading to Moonstone Beach.
San Simeon State Park is 2 miles north of Cambria on Hwy. 1, and 5 miles south of Hearst Castle. For the San Simeon Creek Trail, park at the Washburn day-use area and start heading east on the boardwalk. At about the halfway point of a counterclockwise loop, the trail reaches the campground. Walk back to the trailhead on the road, rather than continuing on the trail as it becomes very overgrown. Ticks and poison oak are common, so wear long sleeves and pants. Here's a map of San Simeon Creek Trail. Campground reservations can be made March 15 to September 30 by calling 800-444-PARK. Robin's Restaurant patio is dog-friendly; the trail is not. Cambria Pines Lodge and El Colibri Boutique Hotel offer dog-friendly rooms.