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Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

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Boston...
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Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

We would like to visit Hearst Castle on June 28. I've been trying to make reservations both online and over the phone for a few weeks. Finally, someone today told me that the castle is changing over its tours and nothing is available between June 27-June 30. But she wasn't able to tell me whether it was likely the castle would open its inventory at that time or not. Seems like a pretty big tourist time to be closed. Does anyone have any idea whether we will be able to get in June 28?

Also, we plan to leave Santa Monica on June 26, stayi two nights in Pismo, and then one night in Cambria, would it be worth the drive from SM to Hearst to get a tour on the 26th (last day they are available, right now). Then we would have to come back down to Pismo for our two nights.

Lastly, I know this should be on another thread, is it likely Highway 1 will be open by the end of June? If not, should we take the one day we are supposed to spend overnight in Big Sur and spend a second night in Cambria instead?

Thanks, it's our first family trip and we want to see as much as we can!

Cambria, California
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1. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Hello -

The tours at Hearst Castle are, indeed, being revamped for the summer - I work there as a guide. We have been told that you should be able to make reservations online and/or by phone for the last week of June into July/August somewhere around May 19th. They're in the process of updating everything to reflect the changes in tours and pricing (adults $1 more and children's pricing is changing). No way would the place be closed.

As for how long Highway 1 to Big Sur will be closed, now they're saying June. It's a roll of the dice as to realistically when it will be open so you might just want to make reservations in both Cambria and Big Sur and find out their cancellation policy-then keep watch of the Caltrans web site for updates and cancel one of those hotel reservations in time not to be penalized as the date closes in.

Hope this helps!

Grover Beach...
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2. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

I would change the overnight in Big Sur to Monterey, Carmel or Pacific Grove and just drive down to Big Sur from there for a day visit. (They expect the highway to be closed at least through June)

It's an easy detour from Cambria. Just drive south on Highway 1 to Highway 46 (4 miles south of Cambria) and drive the 20/25 minutes over to Highway 101 north, Then continue to the Monterey Peninsula exit in Salinas & follow the signs to Highway 68 for the drive into Monterey. It's approx. a 2 1/2 hour drive.

Edited: 17 May 2011, 00:02
Boston...
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3. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Thank you, Wanderluster2, that is very helpful! Question for you, Kibblesmom. We are staying two nights in Pismo, one in Cambria, one in Big Sur, two in Carmel, and then ending in SF. How would it be to spend one more in Cambria? Is it better to drive up and then down again, or down and then up again? What won't we be able to see in Big Sur, if it is closed?

Thank you, again!

Grover Beach...
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4. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

How do you feel about driving over narrow, twisty mountain roads? The reason I ask is because there is an alternate route into Big Sur over the Santa Lucia mountains: Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. This is the road many locals/tourists are using to get from Monterey to Cambria or Cambria to Monterey. It's slow, but it would allow you to see a majority of Big Sur coming from the south.

While you're in Cambria, you can drive up to where the road is closed (approx. 33 miles from Cambria), but Ragged Point is really as far as you need to go. Ragged Point is a lovely commercial property with beautiful views of the Big Sur coast. It's a nice place to walk around and soak in the views. The only other real site on that part of the Big Sur coast is the Salmon Creek Trailhead up to a waterfall. It's a short hike along a creek to the base of the falls. Salmon Creek is located inside one of Highway 1's deep hairpin turns. There will be a guardrail to your right with a brown sign indicating the trail's location.

From Big Sur, all the main sights are accessible: McWay Falls, Partington Cove, Pfeiffer Beach, Jade Cove, Sand Dollar Beach, Bixby Bridge, etc.

Edited: 17 May 2011, 01:52
Hoboken, NJ
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5. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

You can now book tours for the last week of June on hearstcastle.org.

But the tours are different than they used to be, shorter in duration, but it looks like there is more public access to touring the grounds yourself. I got tickets for The Grand Rooms tour, which seemed similar to the old Tour 1.

Cambria, California
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6. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Yes, the tours are now available for booking and there's a description online at

http://www.hearstcastle.org and click on the right side at the top where it says

TOUR INFORMATION and it will take you to a page about new summer tours. They haven't yet updated the home page to reflect that, maybe because up until June 27 we'll be doing the 75 minute indoor/outdoor tours that have been offered for years. This change is due to visitor input to have more time on their own and because, due to California's state budget problems restricting hiring over the past couple of years, there aren't enough staff to support the tours as they've been for so many years. The tours will be guided in the guest houses for and Casa Grande and last about 40-45 minutes, then you'll be able to see the gardens/grounds on your own time and return by bus to the visitor's center when you're ready, not when the tour is over. There will be guides outside to answer questions and provide assistance.

Edited: 18 May 2011, 23:14
Boston...
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7. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Can I assume that the Grande Rooms Tour would be the best equivalent to Tour 1? Rather than Guest Room Suites or Cottage and Kitchen?

Thank you very much for your help!

Cambria, California
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8. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

You are correct with your assumption.

The Guest Room Suites tour is equivalent to Tour 2, minus a few of the rooms. The Cottages and Kitchen/Wine Cellar is the most different from what we do now.

You're welcome - and enjoy!

Minnesota
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9. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Interesting news about the new tours. I'm just getting into researching Hearst Castle for an upcoming trip in mid-August. With the current tour set-up, it seems there is a limited number of tickets for each tour slot throughout the day - perhaps because there needs to be a dedicated guide and bus ready to take the entire tour back.

With the new tour set-up, will there still be only a certain number of tour tickets available throughout the day, or will this change as well? Thanks!

Cambria, California
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10. Re: Hearst Castle reservation difficulty and Big Sur

Hello MinnesotaPatty-

There are indeed limited numbers of tickets available for the tours and the tours are still set for specific times throughout the day. The buses to the hilltop can only accommodate so many people, and they do have to be able to schedule dedicated drivers and guides for the tours to start and end at specific times. The guided indoor tours last 40-45 minutes. Once you're done with the indoor tour and get outside, it's up to you when to leave. For the trip down, buses will stand by until they're full (or close to it) and then head down, so not so structured for the return. Summers are busy, so I would suggest you reserve in advance.