San Simeon State Park encompasses 15 miles of coastal bluffs and beaches, streams bordered by riparian habitat, one of the world's last native stands of Monterey pine, an elephant seal rookery, and two campgrounds. Its 2,280 acres also contain the Santa Rosa Creek Preserve; the San Simeon Natural Preserve, a seasonal marshland; and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve (no public access), an important archaeological site that dates back nearly 6,000 years. Three short trails are accessible to wheelchair riders, as is the vista point overlooking the elephant seal rookery. Level entry to the beach is at San Simeon Creek Campgrounds; however, there is no day use parking here, and you must bring your own beach wheelchair. Protected snowy plover habitat within the nature preserve is closed to the public from February 1 to September 30.
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.
San Simeon Creek Trail
Trailhead: North end of Washburn day-use lot
Length: Under one mile total
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
The wooden boardwalk has turnouts, but the hard-packed dirt trail is less than three feet wide, which prevented me from hiking alongside my companion.
Obstacles: A slight dip where the end of the boardwalk meets the road might be problematic for some manual wheelchair riders. I had no problems in my motorized wheelchair.
A little over a half-mile of this 3.5-mile trail through San Simeon Natural Preserve is accessible to wheelchair riders. From the Washburn day-use parking lot, follow the wooden boardwalk west 100 feet to a vista point overlooking San Simeon Beach and the ocean. Stairs block wheelchair access to the beach from here, but the view makes the short side trip worthwhile. Heading east on the boardwalk from the parking lot, highway noise diminishes as you pass through coastal scrub, which at times obscures views from a wheelchair. After less than a quarter-mile, the boardwalk ends at a service road; on the other side, a longer, hard-packed dirt trail travels alongside a seasonal marsh. The Santa Lucia Mountains provide the backdrop to the north and east, but you'll want to turn your eyes downward at times to catch a glimpse of the numerous lizards darting about. Interpretive panels along the way provide information on the preserve’s plant and animal life, including the endangered southwest pond turtle. During my visit in summer I saw a lot of wild oat, wild radish, thistle, and poppies, and spotted several red-tailed hawks. After traveling a quarter-mile you cross a slightly elevated 200-foot bridge; on the other side, steps up a bluff mark the turnaround point.
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk and Santa Rosa Creek
Trailhead: There are several entrances to the trail along Moonstone Beach Drive, but the most accessible are at either end: Leffingwell Landing (north) and Santa Rosa Creek Access (south).
This very popular, well-worn boardwalk in Cambria travels for a mile along a low ocean bluff, with stairs providing access to pocket beaches and tidepools. Starting at the southern (Santa Rosa Creek) end, you follow the rocky shoreline, at times close to Moonstone Beach Drive, then curve away from the road where the boardwalk ends at Leffingwell Landing. About halfway, a viewing platform with informational panels about the harbor seals and tidepools below is a great place to watch seals lounge on the rocks and frolic in the ocean. Lodging and homes across the road don't detract from the scenery. Yarrow, wild radish, and poppies were plentiful during my summertime visit. On a clear day, Piedras Point is visible to the north and and the Santa Lucia range to the northeast.
From the Santa Rosa Creek parking lot, another boardwalk follows the creek east for a quarter-mile before it dead-ends at the south end of Moonstone Beach Drive. Traveling below Moonstone Beach Drive, you can barely hear the cars above the sound of waves crashing nearby. A lagoon near the mouth of the creek provides habitat for heron, migratory grebes, ducks, and shorebirds. At the parking lot, accessible viewing decks overlook a wide, sandy beach strewn with driftwood.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
At Washburn day-use and Santa Rosa Creek Access. A small brown sign marks the entry to Washburn day-use lot. Roadside dirt parking for Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is along shoulder of Moonstone Beach Drive. Accessible parking at southernmost end of trail at Santa Rosa Creek.
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