Hearst Castle and More: Discovering Julia Morgan's Genius

Tour the state to see the works of California’s first woman architect.

From Hearst Castle’s expansive opulence, to quietly elegant Arts & Crafts buildings blending with the environment, Julia Morgan created an unforgettable California style. Consider taking all or part of this driving tour to visit some of the most memorable (and open to the public) buildings created by this Bay Area native.

Trip Length: 3-4 Days
Total Distance: 689mi/1,111km

Day 1
Grass Valley. Pick up fresh fruits and vegetables at the Saturday Nevada County Certified Growers Market or take a monthly horticultural tour on the 14-acre grounds of Morgan’s North Star House , a 1905 Arts and Crafts masterpiece. INFO 800/655-4667; grassvalleychamber.com

Oakland (141mi/227km; 2hrs 22mins). Stroll around historic Mills College , the park-like campus where Morgan designed six buildings, including landmark El Campanil bell tower—considered the West Coast’s first reinforced concrete building (and a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake). INFO 510/839-9000; visitoakland.org

Berkeley (9mi/14km; 16mins). Immerse yourself in the vintage world of Morgan’s 1929 Berkeley City Club , the so-called “Little Castle,” and spend the night in rooms with views of San Francisco Bay and the Berkeley Hills. Check club schedules for docent-led tours and musical performances. INFO 800/847-4823; visitberkeley.com

San Francisco (13mi/21km; 27mins). Look for the distinctive Chinese motifs and details that Morgan integrated into her design for a former YWCA in Chinatown that’s now home to the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum . INFO 415/391-2000; sanfrancisco.travel

San Francisco (3mi; 5k/10mins). Get centered at the San Francisco Zen Center , where you can take classes, visit an art gallery, and browse at a bookstore in a 1922 Morgan brick structure—all designed by Morgan—originally built for a Jewish women’s organization. INFO 415/391-2000; sanfrancisco.travel

Pacific Grove (118mi/191km; 2hrs 14mins). Let a ranger guide you on a tour of the largest collection of classic Arts and Crafts buildings designed by Morgan at Asilomar Conference Grounds . For an unforgettable experience, stay overnight in Asilomar’s Morgan-designed wood-and-stone lodges (request historic rooms when booking). The handsome wood-and stone- buildings, constructed between 1913 and 1928, include details like working fireplaces and tiny decks overlooking the grounds and nearby Asilomar State Beach . INFO 888/221-1010; seemonterey.com

San Simeon (101mi/163km; 2hrs 20mins). Be dazzled by the lavish Mediterranean-inspired romance of Hearst Castle —the legendary hilltop estate Morgan created for newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Choose from six tours, including unforgettable Evening Tours, which let you experience Hearst Castle under a whole different (rose-colored) light. INFO 800/634-1414; sanluisobispocounty.com

Santa Monica (233mi/376km; 4hrs 22mins). Savor a day by the sea at the Annenberg Community Beach House , the oceanfront estate that Morgan designed for actress Marion Davies—the long-time love of William Randolph Hearst. Hang by the historic marble pool, play beach volleyball, or discover the estate’s history on docent-led tours. INFO 800/544-5319; santamonica.com

Riverside (71mi/114km; 1hr15mins). View exhibits of American and California art at the Riverside Art Museum , housed in a two-story Spanish Revival landmark Morgan built as a YWCA in 1929. Don’t miss the lobby’s history wall for an overview of Morgan’s career and to see how the original building was converted into the museum. INFO 888/748-7733; riversidecvb.com