20 Best Campgrounds in Big Sur – 2021 Top Rated Campgrounds

Are you in search of the best place for camping? We have been camping in Big Sur several times and it is one of our favorite campsites of all time. This stretch of coast is truly magical and some of the most beautiful campgrounds can be found in this area.

We usually visit in the spring or fall as we want to avoid the summer crowds. A visit at this time of year can mean beautiful sunsets, uncrowded hikes, and mild weather during the day, and slightly lower temperatures at night However Big Sur is a Great Place to camp all year round.

Campgrounds in Big Sur generally fall into two categories: private campgrounds and public parks, the latter of which covers the area’s state parks and national forest land. Public parks are usually hooked-up free and more rustic, while the bevy of private camping options offers more amenities and city comforts.

Best Campgrounds in Big Sur:

Where to camp in Big Sur? So Below you will find a camping guide to some of the top places to set up camp in Big Sur. These marvelous places are perfect for enjoying time in the breathtaking wilderness, with plenty of gorgeous places to set up your tent and camp chairs so as to marvel at the terrific views of beautiful Big Sur.

1.  Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park:

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur Campgrounds has 180 campsites near the Big Sur River and can accommodate trailers up to 27 feet in length and RVs up to 32 feet.

There is a dump station and some locations have water taps but no other connections. It has several places for tents only. There are hot showers and restroom facilities. This is a popular campsite and book months in advance so reserve your spot As soon as possible, even in winter!

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Some restrooms will be temporarily closed to keep up with cleaning schedules. Bring soap/hand sanitizer.
  • Leave areas better than how you found them by staying on designated trails and packing out all trash. Do not disturb wildlife or plants.
  • Book in advance

Exact Address: Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA, 28 miles south of Carmel

Fee: $35-50 per night

Highlights: Pfeiffer Beach

Current Situation (Open/Close): The campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is open.  Please be aware of the following:

  • Six (6) people allowed per campsite, children are counted.
  • Two (2) vehicles allowed per campsite, trailers, and towed vehicles are counted.
  • The cost of a second vehicle is included in the camping fee.
  • Check-in time is 2 p.m.  Check-out time is 12 Noon.

 


 

2.  Ventana Campground:

Ventana Campground

Ventana Campground is situated in a magnificent 40-acre redwood canyon only 30 miles south of Carmel. Each site has a parking space, a campfire ring with a grill, a picnic table, and enough space for at least two tents. There are several clean bathrooms with showers and a general store selling firewood in case it runs out.

If you feel like having a night off from cooking camp food you can head up the hill to the Ventana Resort for a meal or a cocktail. The redwood trees keep this campsite relatively cool and shady all day, so pack a light sweater in case you get cold. When night falls rug up next to the fire and looks through the trees to see glimpses of the moon and stars.

  • Exact Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA,30 miles south of Carmel
  •  Fee: $85 per night
  •  Highlights: 40 acre Redwood Canyon, Restaurants nearby
  •  Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open now.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • You must drive past the traditional campsites before you arrive at the tented cabin “glampsites”, which are technically also located within Ventana Campground.
  • If the weather had been worse or if rain is expected, it would definitely be safer and I would recommend driving an SUV or an AWD car.
  • Tent & Campervans only

 


 

3.  Kirk Creek Campground:

Best Campgrounds in Big Sur - Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek Campground is perched on a 30-meter cliff with sweeping views of Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean, and each campsite has ocean views, which makes this campsite hard to beat as the best campsite in the Big Sur area.

The Kirk Creek Campground has RV and tent pitches, but no hookups are available. Each place has a picnic table and a campfire with a grill to roast burgers or tofu dogs.

  • Exact Address: CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA, 4 miles south of Lucia
  • Fee: $35 per night
  • Highlights: Ocean views from every campsite
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Remains closed to the public until 30 June 2021

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Do visit “the beach”. Don’t expect sandy beaches, just rocks. The walk over to the beach is adventurous and very nice!
  • Remember to bring your own water as there is no water available at this

 


 

4.  Big Sur Campground & Cabins:

Another private campsite, Big Sur Campgrounds, and Cabins have a more park-like setting than the state park campsites so again, expect expensive nightly rates.

This campground accommodates tent sites and also welcomes you and your RV or trailer up to 40 feet in length. A fire pit and picnic table are provided at each site and you’ll find a bathhouse with hot showers here.

  • Exact Address: 47000 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA, 26 miles south of Carmel
  • Fee: $65-80 per night
  • Highlights: Tubing, Volleyball & basketball courts, Hot showers
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open.

Tips for Visiting Here:

 


 

5.  Limekiln State Park:

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park offers a 24-site campground with various sites nestled in a shaded redwood grove along Limekiln Creek and more exposed spots in the sun with ocean views at the bottom of Limekiln Canyon.

The campsites come with picnic tables, fire pits, and pedestal barbecue grills. There are also picnic tables by the beach at the bottom of the canyon.

  • Exact Address: 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA, 2 miles south of Lucia
  • Fee: $35 per night
  • Highlights: Redwoods, Limekiln Falls, Limekilns
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): All trails are closed due to damage from the Dolan Fire. Campground, Day use parking lot, Restrooms and Beach are open

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Do not park in undesignated areas! Parking along the highway in undesignated areas near the Park entrance is illegal and may result in a citation.
  • Come during the week! Beat the crowds and come on a weekday.
  • Book in advance.

 


 

6.  Plaskett Creek Campground:

Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek Campground is in an incredible location, just minutes from one of the largest and most popular beaches in Central California; Sand dollar beach.

The campground offers single-family sites as well as three group campsites for tent and RV camping. Each site is equipped with a table and campfire ring with a grill. Flush toilets, sinks, and drinking water are provided throughout the campground.

  • Exact Address: 69345 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA, 10 miles south of Lucia
  • Fee: $35 per night
  • Highlights: Sand Dollar Beach
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open from 2 June 2021

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Here is not a lot to do except walking down the road.
  • The tiny town of Gorda a few miles south has fuel, a cafe, and a small market.
  • Book in advance

 


 

7.  Hearst San Simeon State Park:

Best Campgrounds in Big Sur - Hearst San Simeon State Park

Hearst San Simeon State Park is one of the oldest units in the California State Park system. The coastal bluffs and promontories of the scenic park offer uninterrupted views of the ocean and rocky coastline.

The park includes the Santa Rosa Creek Nature Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Reserve, and the Pa-nu Cultural Reserve, which was established in 1990.

  • Exact Address: 500 San Simeon-Monterey Creek Rd, Cambria, CA 93428, USA
  • Fee: $35 per night Washburn
  • Highlights: Hearst San Simeon State Park has 13 picturesque beaches from Cambria to the Southern Big Sur Coast
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Day Use Parking Lots and San Simeon Creek and Washburn Campgrounds are open. Coastal Discovery Center is closed.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Bobcat1 Cambria is just 2 miles away. Sows Ear good eats for dinner. Best is the Sea Chest on Moonstone Beach Drive. Opens at 5:30 but goes early (at least an hour) and gets in line.
  • By reservation only. No walk-ups.

 


 

8.  Riverside Campground & Cabins:

Riverside Campground & Cabins

The Riverside Campground offers 34 sites for tents and RV’s along the Big Sur River on 16 acres surrounded by majestic Redwoods.

This is a private campground and is, therefore, a little more expensive than state park campgrounds; however, it comes with perks such as laundry, clean restrooms with hot showers, and its own grocery store with camping supplies.

  • Exact Address: 47020 CA-1, Big Sur, California, 27 miles south of Carmel
  • Fee: $75 per night
  • Highlights: Tubing down the river, Hot showers, Grocery store
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Here are no sewer hookups or a dump station, so this is not the best choice for RVs who need a full hook-up or to dump grey water.
  • For those without a tent or camper, you can also opt to stay at one of the 11 cabins and rooms on site, though this of course will be more expensive than camping.

 


 

9.  Fernwood Campground & Resort:

Fernwood Campground & Resort

Big Sur’s well-rounded option for accommodations, guests at Fernwood Campground and Resort have the classic options of tent camping or RV hookups available, along with a motel, forest cabins, tent cabins, and a glamping style “Adventure Tent.”

The adjoining restaurant and tavern are local hangouts for Big Sur’s few full-time residents, and there is also a general store stocked with essentials and camping supplies.

“Big Sur is a magical place and the Fernwood Resort is nestled in its Redwoods and along its river,” says adventurer CreateStoke on Campendium.”
  • Exact Address: 47200 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
  • Highlights:  The Buzzard’s Roost Trail for an up-close look at towering coastal redwoods, elusive river salamanders, sunny Sycamore Canyon, and those famous panoramic ocean views.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is Open

Tips for Visiting Here:

If you buy firewood you should lock it in your tent!

 


 

10.  Arroyo Seco Campground:

Arroyo Seco Campground - Campgrounds in Big Sur

How do you think your summer will go? Diving in a rocky bay, tubing down a gorge, climbing the sides of a ravine? Good news, you can do all of this and more when you stay at Arroyo Seco Campground. Options are a-plenty with modern and primitive sites available.

Note that amenities vary depending on the type of location. Nestled under the oak trees, this campsite offers an A + atmosphere for your post-adventure nap. When you wake up, enjoy the mountain air, and its good news said, John Muir!

  • Fee: By reservation only $125.00/night Additional vehicles – $10.00/vehicle.
  • Highlights: The River is a great temperature- feels amazing and cools you right off (especially with the crazy heat around this area)!
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Arroyo Seco Group Campground is open from June 2 by reservation only.

Tips for Visiting Here:

Dumped wastewater in Yanks RV park half hour away. Dogs are allowed everywhere. 2 PM check-in time for first-come, first-serve.

 


 

11.  Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Camping at one of two environmental campsites within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park means making reservations six months in advance so you can enjoy some of the most exquisite Bir Sur coastline views.

There are two campgrounds here both located on the western side of the Pacific Coast Highway. They are hike-in only and no vehicle access is permitted.

  • Exact Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, California, 39 miles south of Carmel
  •  Fee: $30 per night
  • Highlights: McWay Falls and its incredible ocean views
  • Tips for Visiting Here: Book 6 months in advance

Current Situation (Open/Close):

This park unit is partially open. Environmental campground (See Camping for more information), Waterfall Overlook Trail and Partington Cove Trail (See Trails for more information), day-use parking lot, Restrooms are open.

All trails east of Highway 1 remain closed due to damage from the Dolan Fire, and debris flows caused by heavy rains.

 


 

12.  Andrew Molera State Park:

Andrew Molera State Park

This hike-in tenting-only Big Sur campground offers campers 24 primitive sites, which you can only access after a short walk of 0.3 miles. So don’t pack more than you can comfortably carry on your back! With lots of trails to hike and ocean access, The Trail Camp at Andrew Molera State Park is sure to be loved.

  • Exact Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
  • Fee: $25 per night
  • Highlights: Creamery Meadow, Bluffs, and Panorama.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Andrew Molera campground remains closed due to prior flood damage.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • I recommend printing out directions because cellphone service drops here.
  • The entrance booth accepts credit cards, but it’s cash only when the attendant isn’t there.
  • The mornings are better to find a parking spot, especially during summer weekends.

 


 

13.  McWay Waterfall Trail:

Best Campgrounds in Big Sur - McWay Waterfall Trail

McWay Falls is a beautiful and remarkable waterfall dropping into an untouched cove on the California coast. McWay Falls is the star of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur.

McWay Falls is a 1.8 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail located near Big Sur, California that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from September until December.

  • Exact Address: California 93920, USA
  • Fee: $30 per night
  • Highlights: Very short trail to the Falls overlook viewpoint.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): McWay Falls Overlook Trail had to be partially closed due to dangerous trail erosion from previous storms.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • There is a small stair to access the trail, so it is not wheelchair accessible.
  • Driving along PCH was an amazing drive with stunning scenery!! Highly recommend stopping at every “vista point”

 


 

14.  Ewoldsen Trail:

Ewoldsen Trail

The Ewoldsen Trail is the quintessential Big Sur hike. In a mere 5 miles, this remarkable loop manages to pack in a bit of everything that makes the area’s backcountry great.

There are lush redwood groves, crystal-clear streams, a challenging climb up a picturesque and forbiddingly steep canyon, and spectacular ocean and mountain views.

The route is almost entirely wooded and has a surprising amount of redwoods. The trail is well maintained, although you have to keep an eye out for the occasional sprig of poison oak by the side of the trail.

  • Exact Address: California 93920, USA
  • Highlights:  A quarter-mile stroll on the nearby Waterfall Trail adds a view of a rocky cove and an iconic waterfall.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): From May 2021 this area is closed due to damage.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Much of the trail can also get very buggy in the springtime, especially near the top.
  • The small parking lot fills up quickly in the summer, but most visitors don’t stay long so with a little patience it’s not too difficult to find a spot.

 


 

15.  Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trail:

Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trail

The trails to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View are a perfect fit for hikers who like to multi-task. The versatile hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has a bit of everything.

See impressive redwood trees in a shaded canyon, examine colorful wildflowers on a sunny ridge, admire a charming waterfall, and gaze out from a vista point that looks all the way down the Big Sur River Valley to the Pacific Ocean.

  • Exact Address: California 93920, USA
  • Fee: $35 to $50 per night fee
  • Highlights: you can hike to the top, and then the trail will drop down into the canyon and drop you off at Pfeiffer Falls.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Pfeiffer Falls Trail is closed due to construction.  Valley View Trail is open.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • You can reach the start from day-use parking lots inside the park by taking a short walk on River Path or Nature Trail.
  • Dogs and bikes are not allowed on Pfeiffer Falls Trail and Valley View Trail.

 


 

16.  Limekiln Trails:

Best Campgrounds in Big Sur - Limekiln Trails

For pleasant walks along creeks in canyons under the shade of coastal redwoods, there’s nothing like Limekiln State Park in Big Sur. A trio of short walks in the park offers variety and great scenery on a 4.65-mile circular hike with a 75 m difference in altitude.

  • Tips for Visiting Here: Head to Lime Kiln in the morning, to avoid the crowds.
  • Exact Address: 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
  • Fee: The Day Use entrance fee is $10
  • Highlights: Redwood Forests.
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open.

 


 

17.  Andrew Molera Loop:

Andrew Molera Loop

Andrew Molera Loop is so varied, including mountain views, oak forests, redwoods, coastal bluffs, and beaches. Despite the 9 mile length and some short steep uphill climbs, it never became too strenuous, and was nothing but pleasant for the full 5 hours it took you, including a lunch break on a private, isolated beach.

  • Exact Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
  • Fee: $10.00 entry fee
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open.

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Make sure you check the website for closures/alerts.
  • A bridge has been removed so you need to do a water crossing with pretty chilly water up to the knee.

 


 

18.  Vicente Flat Trail:

Vicente Flat Trail

The Vicente Flat Trail offers a taste of the best that Big Sur has to offer, all in an overnight tour of just 5 miles each way. The trail begins across from the infamous Kirk Creek Campground, a motorist’s paradise (if you can snag one of the most coveted revelations! Here you will see a large wooden sign with the mileage to Vicente Flat Camp and beyond.

  • Exact Address: California 93920, USA
  • Highlights: Stunning coastal views. Easy water access, Ample campsites.
  • Situation (Open/Close): Trail is temporarily closed due to the Dolan Closure Order.

Tips for Visiting Here:

Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and only use existing campfire rings, as this area is sensitive to wildfires and often has restrictions in summer and fall (secure a permit online before your trip). Also, as the stream is the main source of drinking water for you and your fellow campers; be careful to use the bathroom at least 200 feet away.

 


 

19.  Cruickshank Trail:

Cruickshank Trail - Best Campgrounds in Big Sur

For backpackers and day hikers, Cruickshank Trail offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore the wilderness off Highway One on the beautiful Big Sur Coast. The single track starts by climbing to lofty ocean views and then heads inland along a canyon wall with relaxing pockets of oaks and redwoods toward a handful of trail camps

  • Exact Address: CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): It is open

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Backpackers can filter water from the nearby stream.
  • From the divine vantage, you can look down over the initial switchbacks on Cruickshank Trail leaving Highway

 


 

20.  Pfeiffer Beach:

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is famous as the “purple sand beach.”  Pfeiffer Beach is one of the top attractions in Big Sur. Getting to Pfeiffer Beach takes a bit of effort, but the superb scenery and serene ambiance are well worth the short detour from California Highway 1. You will fall in love with this beautiful spot, guaranteed!

  • Exact Address: Sycamore Canyon Road, Right off Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, United States
  • Fee: $ 12.00-day-use fee
  • Highlights: Beautiful Keyhole Arch, which sits just offshore at Pfeiffer Beach
  • Current Situation (Open/Close): Open

Tips for Visiting Here:

  • Do not expect to have cell phone reception in much of Big Sur. Download and/or print maps and directions before you enter Big Sur.
  • To be safe, bring enough cash to cover the admission fee!

 

FAQ’s

Can you camp for free in Big Sur?
Yes, you can, the Los Padres National Forest is home to Big Sur and one of the places of Big Sur that you are allowed to camp for free. Big Sur campgrounds can fill up months in advance, so car camping on public BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is a great backup or last-minute trick.
Is camping allowed in Big Sur?
You must camp in designated campgrounds. When traveling the Big Sur coast you can use the public restrooms in the State Parks. You are given enough time to enter the park and use the restroom at no charge.
Can I sleep in my car in Big Sur?
It’s only illegal to park overnight to sleep. If you’re not sleeping in your car, you should be fine. You just won’t be able to park within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to access the overlook trail.

 

Final Verdict:

These days, Big Sur is a year-round mecca for hikers, road-trippers, and backpackers looking to soak up some of those famous coastal vistas of impossibly blue surf. I hope this article helps you to select the best campground for camping in wonderful Big Sur.

 

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