By JOSH FRIEDMAN
After a two-year closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy rain that damaged the castle’s access road, Hearst Castle will reopen to the public on May 11, California State Parks announced on Tuesday.
Rainstorms in early 2021 damaged the steep, curvy road that tour buses, contractors and staff use to get up to Hearst Castle. State Parks then embarked upon a 10-month, $13.7 million project to restore the road.
“Hearst Castle is a state treasure and we are thrilled to reopen this wonder to the public to enjoy in a safe and responsible manner,” State Parks Director Armando Quintero said in a statement. “We are confident that these once-in-a-lifetime repairs and improvements to the road facility will serve countless generations to come.”
The Hearst Castle access road is used by up to 850,000 visitors a year. That total includes 22,000 bus trips per year, with buses running as frequently as every 10 minutes in the summer season.
Over the course of 10 months of renovations, the upper 2.25-mile stretch of the road was reconstructed and reengineered to enable safe passage for visitors. Workers removed old asphalt and recycled it into a thicker, stronger new roadway though a process known as full-depth reclamation.
Crews also installed new concrete retaining walls and restored by hand some of the historic stone retaining walls.
Damaged clay pipe culverts were replaced and enlarged to withstand modern storm systems, including the atmospheric rivers that damaged the road. The clay pipe culverts date back as far as the 1920s.
“Hearst Castle is a Central Coast gem and one of the many drivers behind our growing tourism economy,” Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham said in a statement. “I am glad to hear that it will be reopening in time for the summer travel season and look forward to visiting again soon.”
As part of the reopening celebration, State Parks will offer the new Julie Morgan Tour, which will take an in-depth look at the architect’s life and career. The tour will also focus on rarely seen areas of Hearst Castle that highlight Morgan’s gift for design, as well as photographic displays of architectural drawings, family photos and personal items.