The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse – A 19th century lightstation south of Big Sur

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is an easily accessible ninteenth century lightstation at the southern end of Big Sur. Near Cambria, Hearst Castle and the elephant seal colony, it offers tours and is in the process of being restored to its former glory.

Pre-1949 photo of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

The Piedras Blancas lighthouse is located on California Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) just about 6 miles north of the turnoff for Hearst Castle at San Simeon. It takes its name from the “white rock” at the point which is a favored spot for sea birds

The photo to the right shows the lighthouse as it appeared before an off-shore earthquake on Dec. 31, 1948 damaged the lantern room. The lens and lantern room were removed and the tower capped off, which is how it remains today.

In 2001 the light station was transferred from the administration of the Coast Guard to the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM has undertaken a program to stabilize and renovate the light.

The Piedras Blancas Light Station Association was formed in 2004 to assist with this goal.

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Quick Facts:

Year built: 1875
Lighthouse GPS coordinates: 35.66553 / -121.28416
Height: 142 ft.
Light signature: Flashing – White – 10s
Open to the public? Yes (tour details below)
Attractions nearby: Hearst Castle (6 miles south); Elephant Seal rookery (2 miles south of light) and the Big Sur Coast (the next 90 miles north on Highway 1)

View north toward Big Sur from the top of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

This photo is a view to the north taken from the top of the lighthouse and shows the beginning of the Big Sur coast. The broad coastal benches end here with the mountains nearly plunging right down to the sea.

Photo of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse before its new paintjob

Renovations at the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

If you compare the photo to the above (taken around 2008) with the photo at the top of this page and the one directly below here, you can see that the recent, color photo shows the lighthouse tower to be dingy and stained.

However, an extensive paint job has just been completed on the tower so that it once again appears in its brilliant white covering.

How to visit the Piedras Blancas Light Station:

Visiting the Piedras Blancas Light Station is available by reservation only at

Or call the reservation line from 10 a.m. – 12 a.m. EST):

  • US toll-free: 877-444-6777
  • International: 606-515-6777
  • TDD: 877-833-6777


A tour showing the new paintjob on the lighthouse at Piedras Blancas

One of the fascinating things to see in any historic building is the attention to detail that was put into simple items. That is certainly evident here.

The first order fresnel lens of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse now residing in Cambria

After the 1948 earthquake, the first-order fresnel lens was removed. It was refurbished and has ended up just down the road in Cambria where it can be found at 870 Main Street at the Lion’s Club grounds.

The photo below shows the great display of the fresnel lens. It’s difficult to gauge just how big it is since there is nothing in the shot that allows comparison. However, the glass shelter in which the lens is now housed is approximately 20 feet tall. That makes the lens and the original mechanism below it about 18 feet tall. It’s really quite big and impressive.

Stop by when you’re in Cambria. It’s an interesting thing to see.

The Piedras Blancas fresnel lens lit up

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