There is a little known gem of a chapel in Shandon California, just outside of Paso Robles, high on a hill with a trail of grapevines leading up to it. It’s got an amazing view of the Paso Robles countryside, and is an enjoyable short but steep hike―about a half mile and 300 feet elevation. The chapel is close to Shandon’s James Dean Memorial and the Jack Ranch Cafe, where you can get a burger made from Hearst Ranch grass-fed beef (but you have to ask for it specifically – otherwise you get basic beef) as well as taste Hearst Ranch wines.
Judge William Clark, a local Shandon rancher and Catholic (along with his wife Joan) built Serra Chapel on their property in 1993. It was built in the style of the English architect Christopher Wren who worked on St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It also houses some artifacts from magnate William Randolph Hearst, including a wooden Moorish ceiling from the 13th century.
To get there, drive east past Shandon, then turn left on McMillan Canyon Road. You can see the chapel far off in the distance. Drive to the base of the chapel to a small parking lot. You may be the only car in the lot and the only folks for miles!
The chapel is only open to the public on Sunday mornings for Catholic services, as well as a yearly summer concert of classical music from Festival Mozaic. The grounds are open daily for folks to hike up.
There are no official hours posted anywhere, so you may encounter a closure.
And the best part: once year in July, Festival Mozaic puts on a show every July at the chapel – see photo above. The orchestra sits inside with the big wooden doors open, and the audience sits outside in the evening air. With a picnic, friends and classical music wafting over the vines, it’s the ultimate, tucked-away event of the summer.
We made it to the top!
Looking down from the chapel.