La Cuesta Encantada, "The Enchanted Hill" high above the ocean at San Simeon, was conceived by two extraordinary individuals, William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. Their collaboration, which began in 1919 and continued for nearly 30 years, transformed an informal hilltop campsite into the world-famous estate best known as Hearst Castle -- a magnificent 115-room main house plus guesthouses, pools, and 8 acres of cultivated gardens. The main house itself, "La Casa Grande," is a grand setting for some of Hearst's art collection. It was also a most fitting site for hosting the many influential guests who stayed at Hearst's San Simeon ranch. Guests included President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, and a diverse array of luminaries from show business and publishing industries.
To start the tour, visitors board a bus at the Visitor Center that takes them to the Castle at the top of the hill. Tours depart from the Visitor Center by bus at the time printed on the ticket. An audio presentation provides background information during the 15 minute, 5-mile trip to the Castle. All of the tours include the two 15-minute bus rides to and from the hilltop.
The tour program offers various guided daytime tours and one guided evening tour.
The three daytime tours, the “Grand Rooms Tour,” the “Upstairs Suites Tour,” and the “Cottages and Kitchen Tour,” are each 60 minutes in length. Descriptions of other tours can be found at www.hearstcastle.org. Following the guided portion of the tour, visitors are welcome to remain on the hilltop to enjoy the magnificent vistas and to explore the grounds, including the gardens and the Neptune Pool and Roman Pools until closing time. Visitors can also take multiple daytime tours without returning to the Visitor Center between tours. At least one hour should be allowed between tour times when scheduling multiple tours to avoid overlap.
Tour buses arrive at regular intervals to transport visitors between the Visitor Center and the hilltop estate. Each of these daytime tours also includes the companion movie, "Hearst Castle - Building the Dream,” which is shown throughout the day in the Hearst Castle Theater adjacent to the Visitor Center.
The “Evening Tour” is offered on a seasonal basis, usually in the spring and fall on Friday and Saturday evenings, with additional nights added during holiday periods. These tours also depart from the Visitor Center. The guided tour on the hilltop is one hour and 40 minutes in length. This tour also includes a Living History Program with docents dressed in 1930s attire. At the end of this tour, visitors board a bus and return to the Visitor Center.
All the tours entail considerable walking and stair climbing, so comfortable shoes are recommended. The weather on the hilltop can also be changeable. Accessibly designed tours are available as well.
All tours include the gigantic outdoor Neptune Pool and the Roman Pool, an indoor pool lined with mosaics in Venetian glass and gold leaf. The Neptune pool is closed for repair.
Grand Rooms Tour
Best for first-time visitors, this overview of Hearst Castle offers an itinerary through the main building called Casa Grande: the Assembly Room, Refectory, Morning Room, Billiard Room and Theater. Tours begin outdoors with several stairs to negotiate on the terraces.
The Grand Rooms Tour is 60 minutes long and includes approximately 140 steps, both up and down, and 2/3-mile walk. An Accessibly Designed Grand Rooms Tour is also available for those who may have difficulty standing and walking for extended periods of time. It is wheelchair accessible.
Upstairs Suites Tour
Ascend narrow winding staircases to explore the breathtaking libraries, guest accommodations, and Hearst's own suite.
Climb the spiral stairs (322 steps) through the upper levels of Casa Grande to admire Mr. Hearst’s own Gothic Suite, the enchanting Celestial Suite in the bell towers’ level, the main library with 150 ancient Greek vases, the della Robbia Room, and a clever Duplex Suite.
The Upstairs Suites Tour is 60 minutes long and consists of approximately 367 stairs, both up and down, and a 3/4-mile route to walk. For those who have difficulty walking or standing for lengths of time, we recommend Accessibly Designed Tours.
Cottages & Kitchen Tour
This tour features two of the luxurious mansions that housed the Hearst family and their guests before Casa Grande was ready. Offering magnificent Pacific coast and mountain views, these ornately gilded “cottages” are thousands of square feet in size. The famous wine cellar and gigantic kitchen in Casa Grande are included in this tour.
The Cottages & Kitchen Tour is 60 minutes long and consists of approximately 193 stairs, both up and down, and a 3/4-mile route to walk. For those who have difficulty walking or standing for lengths of time, we recommend Accessibly Designed Tours.
Designing The Dream Tour
For those fascinated by the trajectory of the Enchanted Hill, and W. R. Hearst’s unique collaboration with architect Julia Morgan, the Designing the Dream tour weaves through the nearly three decades of planning and construction that comprised the astounding estate’s history. The earliest years are viewed in Casa del Sol, a guest cottage from the very first stage of the project; the middle-years are represented by the iconic swimming pools so closely associated with the estate; and the final years are seen in the North Wing of Casa Grande, the very last phase to be realized. With an emphasis on both changing design and architectural styles of the time, and the tumultuous events in W.R. Hearst’s own life, this tour spans the entire history of Hearst Castle.
The Designing the Dream tour is 75 minutes long and includes approximately 341 steps, both up and down, and 1.2 mile walk. For those who have difficulty walking or standing for lengths of time, we recommend Accessibly Designed Tours.
Educator Package: Includes educational resources, interactive project ideas, trip organization, direct experiential opportunities to help better connect the experience with your students and complimentary chaperone ticket. Does not include student ticket.
Student Package: Includes engaging pre and post educational visit activities, trip organization and student ticket.
Once you submit an order for tickets with your charter school, they will reach out to us with your request. You will be receiving your e-tickets and educational materials in an email within 1-2 days after we receive that request. Please make sure to check your email spam folder if you don't see your tickets in your inbox by that time. Submitting your order at least 7-14 days prior to your trip date is generally best unless you are trying to book a venue that requires more advanced planning.