Nestled under the watchful eye of William Randolph Hearst’s famous castle is San Simeon Cove, a jewel in San Luis Obispo’s crown of beaches. Emerald-green water, abundant wildlife and ample space to romp makes this dog-friendly beach a must-see for DogTrekkers.
It’s worth noting that San Simeon Cove is next to Hearst Memorial State Beach, where leash laws are strictly enforced, including the parking and picnic areas. Leashed dogs are welcome on Hearst Beach, but for an off-leash adventure, simply walk just a few hundred feet to the right of the pier, where signs announce the state beach boundary. Here off-leash dogs and their humans can enjoy the sand and surf.
Beachcombers with an eye for treasure are often rewarded with sea glass, small pieces of Big Sur jade and moonstones on this stretch of coastline. Look up from the sand, and you’re sure to notice the abundant wildlife. Creatures that fly, flutter, swim and stick to a rock call this beach home. Shorebirds such as the long-billed curlew hunt for sand crabs, while pelicans glide over the gentle surf.
Make your way to the tide pools at the north end of the cove. You’ll find them crowded with anemones, barnacles, crabs and sea stars. These tiny creatures are fascinating, but keep an eye out for marine mammals as well. Sea otters and dolphins find their way to the cove to feast and play in the sheltered waters. The occasional elephant seal will lie on the sand, lured by the solitude from the noisy elephant seal rookery four miles to the north in Piedras Blancas. Signs along the sand warn beachgoers to keep a safe distance from the wayward elephant seals, as these blubbery giants can be quite temperamental and move faster than one might imagine.
The eucalyptus, pines and cypress trees on the bluff overlooking San Simeon Cove hide a beautiful, dog-friendly trail with stunning views of the coastline. The entrance to this trail begins on the beach shortly after the creek. After an initial climb up the bluff, the path becomes an easy stroll in the shade. In winter, you’re likely to spot graceful Monarch butterflies fluttering about. Year-round, these trees host egrets, herons and other shore birds.
Visitors wishing to spend some time with the local elephant seals are encouraged to travel up Highway 1 four short miles to the docent-staffed elephant seal rookery. Here the beaches are alive with a thriving colony that inhabits the shoreline year round. Spring finds the beaches awash with molting females and juveniles, while fall is full of action as bulls arrive to battle for territory. Dogs are welcome to accompany their humans on the trails overlooking the rookery, and the occasional docent has been known to carry a dog treat.
Up the coast another 30 miles from Hearst Castle you’ll find dog-friendly Plaskett Creek campground, and nearby Jade Cove and Sand Dollar Beach. The bluffs above the beach are a popular hang-gliding spot and part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Dogs are allowed on leash. Jade collectors have better luck here, but be sure to read the regulations.
No trip to San Simeon Cove is complete without a stop in Cambria for some tail-wagging chow. Robin’s Restaurant is famous for its dog-welcoming patio and exquisite global cuisine. Cambria Pines Lodge is popular for its outdoor fireplace dining and well manicured (and dog-friendly) gardens.
After a long day exploring San Simeon Cove, treat Duke and yourself to a night at Cambria Shores Inn. This pooch-welcoming motel 10 minutes south of San Simeon provides dogs with a special gift basket, beach towel, canine bedspread, food and water bowls and breakfast room service. Dogs can romp on the lawn and have their pictures taken for inclusion in the inn’s VIP dog photo book. The staff will be happy to assist with arranging a qualified dog-sitter for those wishing to take in a tour and the gardens of nearby Hearst Castle.