Big Sur is one of the best places to visit in California, and it is full of amazing beaches and hiking trails. You’ll also find redwood trees galore, so if you want to get up close to the tallest trees in the world, then Big Sur is a must-visit spot. Big Sur is packed with nature and is an ideal destination for a holiday spent outdoors.
We’ve established you should definitely visit Big Sur, but what about going camping in Big Sur? What do you need to know, and where should you stay? Whether you love glamping, staying in an RV, or hike-in camping, Big Sur State Park has a lot of options. This Big Sur camping guide will cover all the best campgrounds, along with some extra essential details. Ready? Let’s get started.
Best Camping in Big Sur
Big Sur has many hotels and places to stay from luxury hotels to boutique accommodations, but it also has plenty of campgrounds to choose from. We breakdown the best Big Sur campground to suit every need.
1. Ventana Campground
Ventana Campground is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in Big Sur and we highly recommend staying here. We loved exploring the Big Sur coast from Ventana as it gave easy access to many of the top attractions. The campground is situated on 40 acres of redwood grove and is easily accessible off of the Cabrillo Highway. And the main draw? Ventana Campground has incredible glamping facilities. If you fancy a glamping experience, Ventana’s tent cabins are one of the best places to stay in Big Sur. The accommodation is safari-style and a romantic way to spend a night under the redwoods. See reviews on TripAdvisor
Ventana Campground has many amenities, including two bathhouses, hot showers, picnic tables, a fire ring, and proximity (walking distance) to cafes, restaurants, and gift shops. Guests have easy access to Big Sur and its community. Ventana Campground also has some more upscale facilities, such as swimming pools, fitness studios, and dining venues. You may also like: The Complete Guide to Visiting Redwood National Park
Big Sur Campgrounds: Hike-In Campsites
If you want a tent-only campground, hike-in campsites are a great option. These sites also offer tent camping that is accessible after just a short walk, unlike backcountry camping which requires long hikes to reach each site. Hike-in campsites are a fantastic compromise.
Hike-in campsites have so many benefits. You’ll be more secluded, have more wildlife sightings, and often stunning views of the Big Sur Coast. This section is dedicated entirely to hike-in camping opportunities. We’ll cover the top three hike-in campsites, perfect for camping in and around Big Sur State Park.
2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is actually a region rather than a campsite. It is located 12 miles south of Big Sur State Park. The park is renowned for its coastal scenery, with granite cliffs and dramatic ocean views, and forests of redwood trees that grow all the way to the cliff edges. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is truly a sight to behold and an excellent base from which to explore the coast.
The park features two hike-in environmental campsites on the west side of Highway 1. Saddle Rock and South Gardens Environmental Campgrounds are just a short walk from the Cabrillo Highway. Don’t worry about being marathon-fit, but be prepared to carry everything you bring, as there is no car access to either site.
The campsites feature fire rings, a picnic table, and restrooms. You will need to bring your own water and firewood; stop by at a water station or shops beforehand. Speaking of shops, because there are limited local shops, it is best to plan a shopping trip before entering Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
So, why stay here? In short, the fantastic scenery and location. From Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s campgrounds, you can spot migrating gray whales, hike stunning trails like Ewoldsen Trail, and check out waterfalls like Mcway Falls (more on that later). You’ll have a central location to explore the best of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and be close enough to experience all that Big Sur offers. Read: The Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary
3. Vicente Flat Camp
Vincente Flat Camp is a little more isolated and located at the junction of the Stone Ridge and Vincente Flat Trails. It is approximately five miles from Vicente Trailhead, so allow around two hours to reach the campground and pack accordingly since you’ll have to carry all your gear. The campground is set in an atmospheric forest canyon. It is only a short walk from the panoramas of the Californian coastline.
You’ll find a freshwater stream (pack a water filter) and a fire pit at the campground. However, don’t expect any other significant facilities. Vicente Flat Camp is ideal for those who want to ‘rough it’ a little, and it is a fun spot to test your wilderness limits.
So, why stay in Vicente Flat Camp? The adventure. If you want the thrill of a slightly longer hike-in experience, the campground is an exciting place to stay and one of the best walk-in campsites. You won’t find restrooms or even a picnic table or dump station. But it is the perfect campground to channel your inner Bear Grylls.
3. Andrew Molera Trail Camp
Andrew Molera State Park is a much more undeveloped state park located just north of Big Sur State Park. It is famous for its remote and diverse hiking and beach access. If you want a base just outside of Big Sur, Andrew Molera Trail Camp is a fantastic choice. Campers just park in the parking lot and then hike around 0.25 miles to reach the campground. It is a convenient hike-in campground and not as strenuous as reaching Vincente Flat.
The camp has fire pits, a food storage locker, picnic tables, water, and restrooms. You’ll have to do without a shower, but the campground’s amenities are handy for a few nights. The campground has just 22 standard tent sites and two hike-and-bike sites (24 tent sites in total), so make sure to book in advance.
Andrew Molera Trail Camp is fantastic if you want to stay off the beaten track and experience a less-developed part of the region. At the same time, the campground also offers some of the best facilities – a win-win if you ask us. You can explore nearby attractions like Highbridge Falls and Cooper Cabin or drive just ten minutes down the road. The choice is yours.
Big Sur Campgrounds: Car Camping and Glamping
Not so keen on hike-in campsites? Perhaps you want a spot with tent and RV sites. RV camping is a popular way to explore the US wilderness, and Big Sur has many fantastic locations where you can pull up for the night. RV and tent camping both have their benefits.
Of course, you may want more luxury than a basic tent or RV camping. In that case, keep your eyes peeled for the glamping campgrounds in this section. Some of these glamping sites even come with a hot tub or two.
This section will cover the best Big Sur campgrounds for RV camping and glamping. Let’s dive straight in. You may also like: Top 10 Best Places to Camp in California
4. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park South Camp
This Big Sur campground is one of the best on this list. It is located within the boundaries of Big Sur State Park – ideal if you want a central location. South Camp is a massive, spacious campground with over a hundred tent sites. It is easily accessed off Pfeiffer Big Sur Road and has plenty of amenities. Yet, it is also hugely popular with wildlife, and even deer wander onto the site. It doesn’t get much better for RV and tent camping.
You can eat breakfast at a picnic table after your morning shower, unwinding with a morning coffee made from the campground’s water supply. South Camp is Big Sur camping made easy – what’s not to love? Big Sur State Park South Camp is the best option for anyone wanting a central location inside the park and plenty of facilities and amenities for an easy camping experience. Read: 24 Of The Best Beaches in California
5. Prewitt Ridge Campground
Prewitt Ridge is one of the most stunning campsites around Big Sur. Set high upon a ridge, you’ll go to sleep and wake up overlooking one of the best views in the park. Prewitt Ridge has incredible views of Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean. For ocean-view tent campsites and RV camping, look no further.
Getting there is easy, and you just drive to the site on Prewitt Road. The track is a little rough in sections, so a 4WD is advisable. Just take your time though, and you’ll be fine. In terms of amenities, be prepared to rough it. Prewitt Ridge has no restrooms, showers, water, or dump station, so bring everything you need.
The best part about Prewitt Ridge Campground is, by far, the views. It is a little further from the center of Big Sur (allow around an hour and twenty minutes due to windy roads). Still, if you are planning a road trip, it is well worth basing yourself at Prewitt Ridge for a night.
6. Saddle Mountain Ranch, RV, and Campground
Saddle Mountain Ranch blends everything together – RV and tent camping and glamping. It is easily accessed off Carmel Valley Road and is just a forty-minute drive north of Big Sur. If you want to stay nearby Big Sur, Saddle Mountain Ranch is beautifully located in the serene Carmel Valley. You’ll spend your downtime amongst Monterey pines and redwoods. See availability and more reviews on TripAdvisor
Saddle Mountain Ranch has incredible facilities, including a large outdoor swimming pool. It also has heated showers, restrooms, wi-fi, and a playground. Whether you want glamping or RV camping, it is a fantastic luxury base and is conveniently located near Big Sur. Read more: Things to do in Carmel by the Sea, California
7. Arroyo Seco
Arroyo Seco is one of the best Big Sur campgrounds. Described as ‘semi rustic’, the campsite offers RV and tent camping and is easily accessed off Arroyo Seco Road. Arroyo Seco is located inland, and access is a little limited. Be prepared to drive nearly two hours since you have to drive all the way around the park to re-enter the east. It is a special spot though, and the serenity of Arroyo Seco will be worth it. The campground is surrounded by lakes, forests, and mountains – the perfect recipe for an escape to the great outdoors.
Each campsite in the campground has its own fire ring, grill, and picnic table. The campground also has accessible flush toilets, drinking water, and showers. Arroyo Seco has hike and beach access. It is located right next to Arroyo Seco Trailhead and The Lakes Beach (a small beach area on the shores of a freshwater lake). You can fish, swim, hike, and even go horseback riding when you aren’t exploring Big Sur.
Arroyo Seco is a fantastic place to stay in inland Big Sur State Park. You don’t have to miss out on water-side camping since The Lakes are right next to the campground.
8. Kirk Creek Campground
Kirk Creek Campground is around a fifty-minute drive from Big Sur. It is located off Cabrillo Highway, just south of Lucia. Kirk Creek Campground is a stunning spot with ocean views and direct beach access. Kirk Creek Campground should be at the top of your list if you want a campground for RV camping with ocean views.
Kirk Creek Campground has a mix of tent and RV camping spots. The campground has a fire ring, vault toilets, BBQ facilities, and firewood for sale. There’s no drinking water or showers, so keep that in mind when packing. The campground is best for those who want to be near a beach and surrounded by nature – it’s not uncommon to spot mountain lions and deer just outside the campground. See rates and availability on TripAdvisor
10. Riverside Campground and Cabins
Riverside Campground and Cabins is one of the best spots for RV camping and glamping. It is located just south of Big Sur, off the Cabrillo Highway. The campground offers rooms, cabins, and RV sites with electricity and water hookups. You can ‘glamp’ in style with beautiful wooden cabins featuring comfortable queen-sized beds and optional private decks. Otherwise, park your RV and settle down amongst all the campground amenities.
Riverside Campground and Cabins has fire pits, picnic tables, restrooms, hot showers, and laundry facilities. As its name suggests, you also have access to the river. You can take advantage of the campground’s tube rentals to float down the river – appreciating the scenery as you go. Right on the riverside, you also have unrivaled seasonal fishing to enjoy.
This campground is great if you want to be close to the river and the center of Big Sur. You aren’t far from the community atmosphere, shops, and hospitality venues. However, Riverside Campground and Cabins still have a secluded, peaceful feel. See rates and availability on TripAdvisor
11. Treebones Resort
Fancy a really upscale and unusual glamping experience? Treebones Resort is where to stay. Treebones Resort is located an hour south of Big Sur, near the hamlet of Gorda. The resort offers a selection of oceanfront yurts, where you camp in luxury with stunning views over the Pacific Ocean. Guests even receive a complimentary breakfast and yoga.
The facilities include an outdoor swimming pool with further ocean views and multiple on-site restaurants. Each yurt comes with complimentary wi-fi, and you can enjoy the range of resort activities that Treebones offers. Treebones is best for those who want the comfiest, most luxurious camping experience available. See more on TripAdvisor
12. Limekiln Campground
Limekiln State Park is a 45-minute drive south of Big Sur and is also situated along the Californian coast. Limekiln Campground is the park’s main accommodation option and offers tent and RV sites. Limekiln Campground is easily reached off the Cabrillo Highway and has a large parking area.
Facility-wise, the campground has restrooms and showers. It is basic but comfortable, and you are within driving distance of shops for emergency supplies. When it comes to nearby attractions, your options are even better. You can take one of the hiking trails to Limekiln Falls or Old Limekiln Ruins, almost directly from the campground. There’s even beach access.
Limekiln Campground is a spectacular place to stay. It is excellent if you want to be near a beach, have great hiking trails, and not be too far from Big Sur. Check out: 15 Best Hikes in California – Inspiration to Get Outdoors
13. Ponderosa Campground
Ponderosa Campground is situated right in the middle of the Los Padres National Forest amongst the mountains of Big Sur. It is around an hour and twenty-minute drive from the center of Big Sur. It is ideal for those who want to experience RV camping on a more mountainous side of the region.
Ponderosa Campground is passed by the Nacimiento River, providing swimming and freshwater opportunities. Drinking water is also provided (if you don’t have a filter), plus a dump station, vault toilets, and a fire ring at each site. Ponderosa Campground has everything you could need for a short stay, and it is the perfect base to wander, bike, or ride around the dramatic surrounding landscape.
14. Fernwood Campground and Resort
Fernwood Campground and Resort is the ultimate glamping stay in Big Sur. Situated in the heart of Big Sur Valley, you are just a twenty-minute walk or two-minute drive into the center of Big Sur. Fernwood features a mixture of cabins and canvas, safari-style ‘tent cabins’, and ‘adventure cabins’. If you want a glamping experience, we’d recommend the adventure cabins, essentially upgrades from standard canvas tent cabins. These options feature electricity, a warm bed, fresh linens, and heating – bliss.
Each cabin comes with its own fire ring and picnic table. Fernwood Campground and Resort also features a general store and espresso cafe. These are perfect on-site options for a leisurely morning rather than having to head into Big Sur. Fernwood is a convenient glamping option with an ideal location.
15. Plaskett Creek Campground
Plaskett Creek Campground is a beautiful RV camping option and is just a short walk from Sand Dollar Beach, the largest beach in Big Sur. It is just a fifty-minute drive from Big Sur and easily accessed off the Cabrillo Highway.
The campground is likened by many to a park, and it is a spacious, family-friendly place to stay in Big Sur. The campground has RV and tent sites, plus restrooms, picnic tables, and a fire ring in each individual campsite. Plaskett Creek Campground is an excellent choice for those wanting great facilities, lots of space, and accommodation near Sand Dollar Beach. It is full of open green space and right next to the ocean. Check rates on TripAdvisor
Big Sur FAQs
Now that we’ve covered the best places for camping in Big Sur State Park, we have some essential details for you. If you haven’t been camping before, it can feel a little daunting to prepare. And besides, even if you are a pro-camper, a bit of destination-specific information is always essential.
This section is everything you need to know about camping in Big Sur State Park.
What to pack for a Big Sur camping trip?
You can view our ultimate camping checklist here, but we’ll provide a quick brief on what to pack for a Big Sur camping trip.
First, if you are tent camping, you’ll need a waterproof three-season tent, ground sheet, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and all the tent-related emergency gear possible (think extra poles and a tent repair kit). You’ll also want a few luxuries like fold-up camping chairs, solar lanterns, and a camp table. After all, when you find a beautiful view in Big Sur you want to be able to sit outside comfortably to enjoy it.
Don’t forget your camping stove and cooking equipment either. Of course, depending on which campground you choose, you won’t need some equipment – so check your campground facilities ahead of time. 25 Of The Most Useful Camping Tips and Hacks
Kit-wise, you need a strong pair of hiking boots (plus a first aid kit with moleskin for blisters), quick dry layers, a raincoat, and a hat. A filter water bottle, flashlight, sunscreen, and bug spray will also come in handy.
Most importantly, remember your camping reservations and any necessary passes. It is vital to research what documents you need ahead of time and bring a paper version in case your phone dies.
What there is to do in Big Sur
So, once you’ve chosen an incredible campground and some hiking trails, what else is there to do in Big Sur? The answer to this is a lot. Don’t be fooled by the state park’s relatively small size. These are the best things to do in Big Sur – perfect additions to your camping itinerary. Read our full guide: The Ultimate Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary and The Best Viewpoints
New Camaldoli Hermitage
The New Camaldoli Hermitage is a Camaldolese Benedictine monastery perched on a mountainous vantage point overlooking the sea. If you enjoy religious attractions, visiting the monastery is one of the best things to do in Big Sur.
Hike Pfeiffer Falls Trail
Pfeiffer Falls Trail is the best short hike to see redwood trees up close. The route is less than two miles return and is nice and flat – making it an easy hike, suitable for all types of walkers. The largest redwood is called the Colonial Tree. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
See Bixby Bridge
Bixby Bridge is an iconic spot along Highway 101, and the dramatic canyon crossing stands 85 meters tall. Bixby Bridge is an impressive architectural attraction and makes for a striking photograph. We think the best view is from Castle Rock Viewpoint, but we’ll let you decide.
Drive the Big Sur Coast on Highway 101
The Big Sur coast is beautiful. That’s no secret. Highway 101 is one of the most popular US road trips and runs around 1,500 miles from San Diego to the Olympic National Park in Washington. If you fancy a road trip while visiting Big Sur, you can drive the stretch of the coastal highway from San Francisco to Big Sur. This is well combined with traveling to Big Sur anyway since the park is best accessed by flying into San Francisco and renting a car.
Swim at The Gorge
The Big Sur River is full of swimming spots, but none are as famous as the Big Sur River Gorge. The Gorge is known for its crystal-clear waters and calm water conditions. Be warned, the water can be freezing, so you might want a wetsuit if you visit in winter.
Visit Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach is one of the largest beaches in Big Sur. It gets its name from sand dollars – tiny sea urchins with a unique shell- their endoskeleton. The shell is left behind when the urchin dies, and many people collect them as souvenirs. Apart from the fact you can find shells, Sand Dollar Beach is magnificently beautiful. A Sand Dollar Beach day should be on everyone’s itinerary.
Go mountain biking
For adventure sports lovers, mountain biking in Big Sur is one of the most exciting things to do in the area. Bring your own bike, organize bike rentals, or book an organized mountain biking tour. You’ll be tackling challenging trails – egged on by the continuous promise of stunning views and fresh adrenaline.
Go horseback riding
Going horseback riding is an exciting way to appreciate the outdoors. We recommend going on a trail ride to experience Big Sur and its surrounding areas. Pebble Beach Equestrian Center is a popular option and offers a special picnic and beach ride.
Visit Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Sur State Historic Park is a tiny would-be-island connected to the mainland by a thin sandbar. It is home to Point Sur Lighthouse, which was built in 1889 and remained functional until 1974. You can visit the historical building, taking special moonlight tours if you are lucky.
Visit McWay Falls
McWay Falls is a 24-meter waterfall located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The waterfall is one of the most dramatic natural attractions near Big Sur State Park. During high tide, the water falls straight into the ocean. You just take a short, mile-long return hike along the cliffs to a scenic viewpoint to reach the waterfall.
Hopefully, you feel nice and prepared after reading this Big Sur camping guide. Big Sur State Park is a beautiful place to camp; it’s full of natural beauty and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and native flora. Your days will be filled with hiking, redwood and ocean scenery, and lots of fun outdoor activities. You are going to have a fantastic time.
Got a few more questions? Check out our article on the ultimate camping tips. You could even plan a massive California road trip – there are plenty of excellent camping spots in California.
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