San Simeon State Park

Cross the valley floor by taking Willow bridge, then continue across the grassy slope to a trail fork at Washburn Campgound.  The left fork leads back to the trailhead.  Take the right fork instead and cross a grassy mesa to reach an overlook at the Mima Mounds and vernal pools.  Bear left and traverse the hillside above San Simeon Creek to reach a massive outcropping.  Continue downhill to reach a eucalyptus grove at the Whitaker Flats Ranch site, which dates back to the 1860s. 

Ascend the hillside and join the trail leading from the campground.  Take a right on this trail, which parallels the campground road, and follow it back to the trailhead.  For a beachcombing detour and a chance to glimpse marine wildlife, once you reach the boardwalk continue to follow it west, underneath Highway 1, to San Simeon Beach.

Distance: 4 miles round-trip

Time: 2 hours

Highlights:  San Simeon State Park, 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo, has shoreline vistas of sandy beaches, rocky promontories and the Santa Lucia Mountains.  Within its grassy meadows, eucalyptus groves, pine forests and vernal pools live a diversity of animals, such as bobcats, coyotes, brush rabbits, gopher snakes, pond turtles, monarch butterflies, hawks and herons, with gray whales occasionally passing south on their yearly migration.

Similarities/Differences:  Within the Monterey pine forest and coastal scrub communities at San Simeon dwell numerous animals not found at Rancho Alegre.  Should you desire a guide to help you learn more about the local wildlife, nature programs are held at the State Park regularly.  Check the entrance station and bulletin boards for program subjects and schedules.

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Drive two miles north on Highway 1 from the town of Cambria to the San Simeon Beach State Park turnoff on the right.  Park in the Washburn Day Use Area parking lot.

Directions:  From the boardwalk, head east to the campground access road and bridge.  Take a right onto the signed gravel path through the coastal scrub community.  You will cross a footbridge over the wetlands, and then the trail ascends several steps up the forested hillside.  Follow the trail east through the Monterey pine forest, and after one mile, descend into Fern Gully.  

Credit: Original website found at

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