Virtual Tours – Living on the Land Tour
Historic Agricultural Sites Throughout
San Luis Obispo County
Coastal Cattle Country
San Simeon: From Cambria, take Hwy 1 northwest 11 miles to the marked Vista Point just beyond Oak Knoll/Arroyo Laguna Creek.
This stretch of rolling rangeland between the sea and the Santa Lucia Mountains is vintage cattle country, a surviving remnant of pastoral California. Originally a coastal rancho belonging to the Mission San Antonio, in 1840 the 48,405 acre spread passed as a Mexican land grant to Don Jos de Jsus Pico. Vaqueros on Picos Piedra Blanca Rancho tended vast herds of cattle for the hide and tallow trade.
These grasslands look much the same as they did when George Hearst began buying up local real estate in the 1860s. Hearst leased small farms to Swiss dairymen until the Hearst family ceased the practice in the late 1890s. George Hearst raised beef cattle and horses on the ranch. His son, William Randolph Hearst, maintained the cattle and horse ranch, but also raised grain, grain hay, silage, field crops, fruit, and garden produce to supplement his pasture operations. Fruit, garden produce, and field crops were raised on a small scale. The ranch also featured a dairy, a poultry ranch, and a 2000 acre exotic animal park. Now 90,000 acres, the Hearst Ranch seasonally pastures 5000 beef steers and maintains a breeding herd of 1000 cows. Grazing cattle dot the landscape to the northeast and northwest of Vista Point (at this point the coast runs east-west, so that the seemingly north up-coast direction is actually west). Visible on a hilltop to the northeast, Hearst Castle towers over the landscape.