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The Best Camping in Big Sur, California

Sheer cliffs. Crashing waves. Misty redwoods. Big Sur, California is a rugged stretch of stunning coastline on Highway One between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it’s home to some of the dreamiest campsites in California! Camping in Big Sur means setting up your tent on ocean cliffs and in redwood groves, next to babbling brooks and lazy rivers, and underneath bright stars and wheeling galaxies. So pack your swimsuit (and maybe a wetsuit) for the beach and your hiking boots for the trails, and read on to find tips for the perfect Big Sur camping trip and the best Big Sur campgrounds.

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Sheer cliffs. Crashing waves. Misty redwoods. Big Sur, California is a rugged stretch of stunning coastline on Highway One between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and it’s home to some of the dreamiest campsites in California! Camping in Big Sur means setting up your tent on ocean cliffs and in redwood groves, next to babbling brooks and lazy rivers, and underneath bright stars and wheeling galaxies.

Arguably the most famous stop along Highway One, Big Sur is known for many things: it’s the oldest and most historic stretch of the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, and its reputation is attached to creatives and artists. Folks like Jack London, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac,  Ansel Adams, and many many others have either lived or spent time in Big Sur. But it’s also one of the best places to camp and hike along the California coastline!

Whether you want to rough it on a backpacking overnight, keep it moderately rustic with a drive-in site, or go full-glamp with serious amenities, Big Sur has options. So pack your swimsuit (and maybe a wetsuit) for the beach and your hiking boots for the trails, and read on to find tips for the perfect Big Sur camping trip and the best Big Sur campgrounds.

Psst: Planning a trip down Highway One? We have loads of posts on our home state. Browse them all here or take a look at some of our favorites:

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Views from Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast in California.
“It’s the journey, not the destination” definitely applies to the gorgeous drive on Highway 1!

How to Get to Big Sur

Big Sur is beautiful, rugged, and isolated. Mountains and redwoods and valleys loom on to one side of Highway One, the ocean on the other. In fact, this area didn’t even receive electricity until the 1950’s!

But that isolation means it’s not the easiest destination to get to: the only way into Big Sur’s stunning landscape is via Highway One (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) which runs along the entire California Coast from north of San Diego to just south of the Oregon border.

If you’re planning your own camping trip, you’ll want to drive or rent a car. San Francisco is about 100 miles away, or about a 3-hour drive along Highway One. Los Angeles is about a 6-hour drive up the PCH.

There aren’t really any public transportation routes that will get you directly to Big Sur, but there are some guided trips that provide transportation, like this One Day Big Sur Trip from San Jose. A roundabout way to get to Big Sur is to take the Amtrak Starlight train to San Luis Obispo and then drive from there – it’s about 1.5 hours.

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Camping in Big Sur: Tips & FAQ’s

Big Sur has a wide variety of campgrounds for you to choose from ranging from rugged hike-ins to glamping. As long as you plan ahead (it can be hard to snag a spot!) and prepare, there aren’t a ton of extra considerations when camping in Big Sur.

What’s the weather like in Big Sur?

Big Sur stays pretty mild all year-round. High typical hover in the 60s and 70s, while lows range from the 40s to 50s. Most of the region’s rain comes in winter (December/January) while summer and fall are quite dry. 

All of that winter rain, while it brings color and life to Big Sur, can also lead to trouble: this area of the California coast is super susceptible to landslides. After particularly bad fire seasons, the charred ground can’t absorb as much moisture, and when these conditions occur, the mud starts to flow. 

A landslide will cut off access to Big Sur every few years, but don’t worry: it’s usually fixed within a few months. Highway closures along the Big Sur coast aren’t exactly rare — sections of road have been closed pretty regularly for decades. But if you’ll be visiting during the winter, it’s worth checking the weather, the road conditions, and the risk before planning your trip.

Best time of year to go camping in Big Sur?

In my opinion as a California local, the best time to go camping in Big Sur is in the spring, between February and April! (Yes: spring starts in Februrary here. Sometimes it starts as early as January!)

From February through March, Big Sur comes alive with gushing waterfalls, stunning greenery, and blooming wildflowers. It’s also a great time to see whales off the coast! In the winter, gray whales migrate south to warmer waters, and they’re frequently spotted off the coast in Big Sur — check out our California Whale Watching post to learn more.

Big Sur’s peak season, from June through August, sees less rain and bigger crowds. Though be aware: June also brings “June Gloom,” a foggy and cold California coastal microclimate (along with its cousin “May Gray”.)

While September and October have the warmest weather, it’s also California’s hot and dry fire season, so you’ll need to be extra careful with your campfires – and you may not actually be allowed to have them at all on high-risk days.

In the winter when temps drop and the rains come, be aware: landslides are fairly common in this area.

Are there bears in Big Sur?

While black bears are almost never seen in Big Sur, there have been a few spotted over the years. Take basic bear precautions, which include keeping food close at hand, making noise when you hike, and being aware of your surroundings.

Go camping a lot? Download The Dyrt app.

 Acting as a giant campsite search engine, The Dyrt has a huge amount of information available about both publicly and privately-owned campgrounds. In one place, you’ll find everything from campground amenity details to the weather forecast for your campground to detailed reviews, all constantly kept up-to-date by other campers.

Our favorite feature is the paid version of their mobile app, which helps you find camping from your vehicle even when you don’t have WiFi or cell services. The Dyrt Pro has downloadable maps, offline campground locating assistance, and even includes waived fees on some campground bookings.

If you go camping often, or will be camping somewhere like Big Sur that doesn’t have great cell reception, The Dyrt Pro is a must-have app.

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Ultimate Camping Checklist: 42 Car Camping Essentials

The sunset at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur looks like something out of Jurassic Park, but less terrifying, maybe.

Big Sur Campgrounds: Car Camping & Glamping

With 90 miles of coast and lots of nooks, crannies, and coves, Big Sur is home to plenty of campgrounds and backcountry sites. From the plush beds in Ventana Campground’s glamping tents to the remote redwood sites at Vicente Flat Campground, Big Sur’s got a range of options to satisfy any kind of camper. 

When planning your Big Sur camping trip, you’ll want to first decide if you want to car camp or get a hike-in site.

Car camping is pretty straightforward: you pack your car with all the camping supplies, coolers, and blankets you want, then you drive yourself right up to your campsite. This is definitely the easier choice — you won’t have to do as much detailed planning, and as long as your supplies makes it into your car, it’ll be available to you at the campsite. You also don’t need as much specialized gear, because (as mentioned above) you can throw in an air mattress, a cooler full of fresh food, and any other bulky items you want. 

Another big pro of car camping is access to amenities. While they depend on the site (and you’ll want to know ahead of time what your campground offers), drive-in campgrounds often have lovely things like bathrooms, picnic tables, firepits, and dishwashing sinks. Sometimes even showers!

Car-camping cons? You’ll probably have neighbors and a little bit of noise. You might also have trouble finding a site at the busier campgrounds, so plan early.

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Ventana Campground

Ventana Campground is part of the larger Ventana Big Sur Resort. It’s totally separate though, and offers a range of camping experiences from rustic to pretty swanky — meaning you can camp…or you can glamp. 

The campground is located in a beautiful redwood canyon about 2 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Individual campsites are situated among the redwoods and strung along the babbling Post Creek — this is one picturesque campground.

Things to Know

  • There isn’t any wildlife-proof food storage, so plan ahead to securely store your food.
  • This is a tent-only campground — no RVs, motor homes, trailers, or camper vans. 
  • The campground is located near amenities like cafes, restaurants, shops, general stores and a post office.
  • “Glamping” means you don’t need to bring all your camping supplies. You get to sleep in a luxurious tent cabin on a custom mattress — that’s glamorous alright.
  • Regular sites: $80 per night
  • Glamping sites: starting at $240 per night

Campground Amenities

  • Clean bathrooms 
  • Paid hot showers
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire rings
  • Water faucets
  • Firewood for purchase
  • Glamping sites only: towels, sink, Adirondack chairs, WiFi, lanterns, power outlets

How to Get There

From the north, drive 2 miles south past Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on Highway 1. From the south, you’ll drive about 9 miles north past Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on Highway 1. The campsite is on the east side of Highway 1.

What Makes it Great

In addition to the magical sunshine beams filtering in through the towering, misty redwoods, Ventana Campground is close to most of the “civilization” within Big Sur — meaning a few restaurants, gas stations, and a super-cute bakery are all nearby. So you can greet the day with coffee and an almond croissant from Big Sur Bakery!

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Fernwood Resort Campground

Fernwood Resort is a privately owned campground that takes camping in Big Sur up a level or three: they’ve got glamping tents, RV and tent campsites, and a motel. Not to mention a tavern, restaurant, general store, camping supplies, and events! You can enjoy a craft cocktail on the outside deck surrounded by towering redwoods before stumbling back to your tent – how magical is that?

The campsites are located along the gurgling Big Sur River alongside a meadow. There are two bath houses with hot showers, a dish-washing area and a laundry area. By camping standards, it’s pretty kush! Be sure to bring along a swimsuit and tube to enjoy splashing around in the river.

Keep an eye out for the rare albino redwood tree next to the check-in kiosk at the campground!

Things to Know

  • You can glamp in both tent cabins or adventure tents. “Adventure tents” have heaters, electricity, linens. Similar to tent cabins, but furnished! There are also fully furnished, standalone ca
  • Since this isn’t a public campground, you’ll need to reserve your site ahead of time online (or over the phone for group reservations).
  • The onsite restaurant – the Tavern – serves lunch and dinner and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
  • The General Store and Espresso Cafe has snacks, hot drinks, cold drinks, and really anything else you could need.
  • Buzzards Roost trail is a popular trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and is easily accessible from Fernwood Resort.
  • Campsites range from $70-100 per night

Campground Amenities

  • Bathhouses
  • Hot showers
  • Dishwashing area
  • Laundry facility
  • Picnic table
  • Fire ring
  • River access
  • On-site restaurant, coffee shop, and store

How to Get There

From the north, drive 12 miles south from the Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1. From the south, drive 9.5 miles north from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park on Highway 1. The campground and resort are on the west side of the highway.

What Makes it Great

Fernwood’s got everything you need — which is rare in a place as wild and remote as Big Sur. Camping supplies, a general store, and even an onsite tavern make this a fantastic place for those that like campgrounds with lots of amenities You’re definitely not roughing it here!

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Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek Campground is located on an oceanside bluff within Los Padres National Forest, offering ocean views from every campsite. The sites are gorgeous, overlooking the rocky outcroppings and sandy beaches along this isolated wilderness playground. The campground is also basically across the highway from Nacimiento Road, which leads to a scenic overlook (if the view from your campsite ever gets old!) and picnic area.

Things to Know

  • Reserve in advance at recreation.gov. 
  • This campground welcomes tent and RV camping, but there are no RV hookups.
  • Campsites cost $35 per night.

Campground Amenities

  • Picnic tables
  • Campfire ring with grill
  • Vault toilets
  • Scenic overlook
  • Access to rocky beach

How to Get There

From the north, drive south about 2 miles from Limekiln State Park. From the south, drive about 40 miles north from Hearst San Simeon State Park. The campground is on the west side of the highway.

What Makes it Great

Ocean views for dayssss! With every site comes a gorgeous view, so no need to stress about choosing the “best” site.

Also, if seeing whales is on your Big Sur bucket list, this is the campground for you. Psst: we have a whole guide to whale watching in California to help with that!

Ocean view in Pfeiffer Big Sur National Park.
What an awful view, why would anyone ever want to stay here? Said no one ever.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground is a big, popular campground on the Big Sur River. While it doesn’t have beach access, it’s close to tons of trails, and Pfeiffer Beach is only a mile away.

Big Sur River Gorge is also nearby — a granite-walled swimming hole along the Big Sur River. The gorge is directly accessible from a trail that begins in the campground. 

Things to Know

  • This campground offers RV and tent sites, but there are no RV hookups.
  • Price ranges from $35-50 per night, depending on which type of campsite you get. Riverfront sites are more expensive.
  • Make reservations in advance at ReserveCalifornia. 

Campground Amenities

  • Fire pit
  • Picnic table
  • Water
  • Toilets
  • Paid Showers

How to get there

From the north, drive about 6 miles south on Highway 1 from Andrew Molera State Park. From the south, drive about 10 miles north on Highway 1 from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The campground is on the east side of the highway.

What Makes it Great

Big Sur River Gorge is a highlight of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park — and this campground gives you direct access to it. On a hot day, relax in the pools and sunbathe on the rocks in this scenic river playground.

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Views of the ocean at Limekiln State Park in Big Sur, CA.
The ocean campgrounds at Limekiln State Park feel otherworldly.

Limekiln State Park Campground

Limekiln State Park offers ocean views, redwoods, and of course, Limekilns. So you know: standard Big Sur stuff.

Limekiln State Park got its name from these kilns, which were built at the base of a large limestone deposit. The kilns cooked the limestone to purify the lime, which was then shipped away to be used in the making of concrete. The kilns weren’t active for long, because the lime (and nearby redwood forest) was quickly depleted. Today, you can camp, fish, and hike in what used to be a booming lime and lumber operation.

If you’re camping in a “Redwood campsite,” you’ll sleep next to the babbling Limekiln Creek under a canopy of towering Redwoods. If you’re in an “ocean site,” you’ll have immediate access to the beach and can fall asleep to the soothing surf.

Things to Know

  • Limekiln State Park campground is split into two areas: the “Redwood Campsites” and “Ocean Campsites” — both areas offer their own highlights. 
  • The campground includes access to a small beach where Limekiln Creek empties into the Pacific.
  • You can access hiking trails from the inland end of the campground across Hare Creek.
  • Campsites cost $35 per night.
  • This campground offers tent and RV sites.

Campground Amenities

  • Beach access
  • Fire ring
  • Picnic table
  • Firewood for purchase
  • Restrooms with indoor plumbing
  • Showers
  • Drinking water

How to Get There

From the north, drive about 15 miles south on Highway 1 from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. From the south, drive about 7.5 miles north on Highway 1 from Sand Dollar Beach. The campground is on the inland side of the highway.

What Makes it Great

Either way the cookie crumbles, you’ll get some great natural features at Limekiln Campground. If you’re camping in a “Redwood campsite,” you’ll sleep next to the babbling Limekiln Creek — under a canopy of towering Redwoods. If you’re in an “ocean site,” you’ve got immediate access to the beach and can fall asleep to the soothing surf.

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View of the beach from the trails at Sand Dollar beach in Big Sur, CA.
Sand Dollar beach is a short walk from Plaskett Creek Campground and one of the most popular beaches in the area!

Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek Campground in Los Padres National Forest isn’t right on the water, but it’s a short walk to Sand Dollar Beach. That means that if you’re looking for a campsite near ideal surfing, fishing, and sunbathing opportunities, this might be the campground for you. The campsites are arranged across a sunny open field, and some sights even have ocean views.

Things to Know

  • Reserve in advance at recreation.gov. 
  • There are plenty of hiking trails accessible from Sand Dollar Beach.
  • Campsites cost $35 per night.

Campground Amenities

  • Beach access!
  • Drinking water
  • Restrooms with indoor plumbing
  • Grills
  • Picnic tables

How to Get There

From the north, drive about 7.5 miles south on Highway 1 from Limekiln State Park. From the south, drive about 35 miles north on Highway 1 from Hearst San Simeon State Park. The campground is on the east side of the highway, just south of the Sand Dollar Beach day use area.

What Makes it Great

Staying at this campground means you’re just a minute’s walk from Sand Dollar Beach – Big Sur’s biggest sandy stretch. This beach is a gorgeous crescent of white sand curling around the deep blue Pacific and, like the name suggests, it’s a perfect spot for beachcombing.

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Riverside Campground and Cabins

Riverside Campground and Cabins offers campsites and cabins near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park along the banks of the Big Sur Ricer. While it’s not beachside, you can access the beach and hiking trails within 10 minutes of the campground. But you’ll also be right next to the river for swimming, tubing, and fishing!

Things to Know

  • This campground offers tent and RV sites (with hookups). 
  • Prices range from $70-75 per night for tent sites.
  • Riverside Campground is close to the Big Sur Roadhouse and the Fernwood Tavern.

Campground Amenities

  • River access
  • Picnic tables
  • Fire pits
  • Shower facilities
  • Laundry facilities
  • Restrooms

How to Get There

From the north, drive about 3 miles south on Highway 1 from Andrew Molera State Park. From the south, drive about 1 mile north on Highway 1 from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The campground is on the west side of the highway.

What Makes it Great

This place has got it all — located near restaurants and other amenities, you’re close to anything you could need. The campground also sits along the Big Sur River, so you can swim, wade, relax, or tube without ever leaving camp.

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Camping in tents at night with views of the milky way in Big Sur, CA.
Ponderosa Campground is one of the best places to go stargazing in Big Sur, thanks to its distance from the coast as well as interfering city lights!

Ponderosa Campground

Ponderosa Campground is a bit of an off-the-beaten path place to pitch your tent in Big Sur. Ponderosa’s location about 14 miles from the coast makes it an excellent place for stargazing, so plan to take advantage of any clear nights.

This campground is tucked up into the mountains along the Nacimiento River, so there are plenty of opportunities for fishing and swimming. You’ve also got nearby access to miles of hiking trails in the surrounding Los Padres National Forest.

Things to Know

  • Reserve in advance at recreation.gov
  • This campground offers both tent and RV camping, but there are no RV hookups.
  • Campsites cost $25 per night

Campground Amenities

  • River access
  • Picnic table
  • Fire ring with grill
  • Vault toilets
  • Drinking water

How to Get There

You’ll definitely need to check road closures before you plan your drive to Ponderosa Campground. From Highway 1 just south of Limekiln State Park, the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road heads east into the mountains for about 14 miles before reaching the campground.

Landslides can and have closed this road, so check to make sure it’s open before you plan to drive in from the coast. Otherwise, you can get to the campground via Highway 101, taking the Jolon Road exit west. 

What Makes it Great

This campground’s distance from the ocean makes it a great place to stargaze on a clear night. Big Sur’s remote location makes it great for seeing the night sky, but if you’re too close to the ocean, the fog can interfere.

But far from the fog and city lights, this campground is a great option if you’re interested in seeing what the night sky actually looks like. Bring a telescope or binoculars if you have them, but stargazing with the naked eye is plenty special.

Big Sur Campgrounds: Hike-in Camping

Hike-in campsites are only accessible by foot. Some walk-in sites are a quick eighth of a mile jaunt, while some are a fully-fledged backpacking trip away. If a hike-in site is what you’re looking for, you’ll need to figure out a few extra details, like:

  • How long is the hike from the trailhead to the campsite?
  • How do I get from the trailhead to the campsite?
  • How am I going to get all my stuff from the trailhead to the campsite?

Walk-in sites typically have fewer, if any amenities, so you’ll need to plan for things like water purification and going to the bathroom outside.

While there is a lot to consider when planning to camp at a hike-in site, there are some perks, too: You’ll likely see way fewer people and enjoy a quieter site.

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Beautiful beach views at Julia Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur with a boat sailing in the horizon.
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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park features redwood forests, chaparral, and granite cliffs dropping into Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Oh, and there’s an 80-foot waterfall spilling right into the Pacific Ocean.

But unlike Big Sur’s other state parks, there are only 2 campsites. Yes, 2. And they book up wayyyy in advance.

Both sites are walk-in, meaning you can’t park your car directly at the campsite. It’s a very short walk though, so no need for backpacking-level preparation.

Considering the park’s spectacular features and the fact that there are only 2 campsites here, it’s tough to get a reservation. Check ReserveCalifornia about 6 months before your target dates to snag one!

Things to Know

  • These walk-in campsites are on the west (ocean) side of Highway 1, 1 mile south of McWay Cove. Parking is located off Highway 1.
  • Again, there are only two sites! They generally fill up 6 months in advance, so if you’re set on camping here, really plan ahead.
  • Campsites cost $30 per night.
  • Make reservations in advance at ReserveCalifornia. 

Campground Amenities

  • Picnic table
  • Fire ring
  • Trash
  • Pit toilet
  • Hello, McWay falls

How to Get There

From the north, drive about 12 miles south on Highway 1 from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. From the south, drive about 15 miles north on Highway 1 from Limekiln State Park. The campsites are located on the west side of the highway. Parking is just off the highway, and you’ll walk about an eighth of a mile along the dirt trail to the campsites.

What Makes it Great

Proximity to McWay Falls: the trailhead to view the falls is almost right across the street from the campsite. You’re also in one of the main parks. inBig Sur, so you have easy access to hiking trails!

Long grass on the coast at the beach in Big Sur, CA
While Vicente Flat is located in the redwoods, your hike to get there will be full of stunning views of the ocean!

Vicente Flat 

Vicente Flat is a hike-in campground that makes for a perfect overnight backpacking trip. The 5-mile hike to Vicente Flat begins across the street from Kirk Creek Campground and continues up the coastal cliffs over Highway One – with jaw-dropping coastal views the whole time – before diving into the mountains and redwoods! 

This campground sits in the Ventana Wilderness, a wilderness area within Los Padres National Forest. Because of its wilderness designation remote location, there aren’t any amenities to speak of — unless you count the fantastic views and gurgling stream (which we do)! Bring a bathroom kit to cathole your waste, and note that you’ll need a state campfire permit for all fire and stove usage.

Vicente Flat was our very first overnight backpacking trip, and the 10-mile round trip was the perfect introduction to backpacking. The campsite isn’t too rustic and it’s not difficult to find (you’re definitely a step above backcountry camping.) And although the hike to get to the campsite with a full pack on your back isn’t the easiest thing in the world, it’s also super doable for beginners who allow themselves plenty of time. And that’s coming from us, the two slowest hikers in the world!

Things to Know

  • The hike to Vicente Flat camp is about 5 miles each way, making for an easy overnight backpacking trip.
  • You’ll need to pack in everything for the night, though there is a “mostly reliable” water source running through camp. When the creek is unreliable, there’s also a year-round water source above Vicente Flat along the Stone Ridge trail. You’ll want to boil the water, or bring along water filtration like a Steri-Pen, Lifestraw, or potable water tablets. We recommend our Lifestraw water bottle – you can just scoop up the water and drink!
  • Check for any closures and fire/camp stove restrictions before heading into the backcountry. For any fires on federal land (like National Forest), you’ll need a permit.
  • There are several campsites spread out among the redwoods — pick a spot that looks like it’s already been used so you can minimize your impact in the wilderness!
  • Review Leave No Trace principles before heading out — backpacking requires a bit more forethought and preparation than your standard camping trip.

How to Get There

The trail to Vicente Flat begins across the street from the Kirk Creek Campground. The camp sits 5 miles in at the junction of the Kirk Creek Trail and Stone Ridge Trail. Along the way, you’ll pass tiny Espinosa Camp which has a couple of campsites, but definitely continue to Vicente Flat — we promise, it’s worth it.

What Makes it Great

While getting to this campsite requires a hike, a stroll along the coastal bluffs is an amazing way to experience Big Sur. Miley Cyrus is right — the climb is part of what makes camping here so incredible. Not to mention the (rare) solitude you achieve by choosing a harder-to-reach campsite!

More Places to go Camping in Big Sur

Here are a few more Big Sur campgrounds to take a look at:

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What Else is There to Do in Big Sur?

Big Sur is pretty isolated, so there isn’t much in terms of shopping, dining, or attractions. But there’s plenty to do in Big Sur: with 90 miles of gorgeous, rugged, coastline, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise!

Here are some of our favorite things to do while camping in Big Sur:

  • Pfeiffer Beach, south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, is a famous beach known for two unique features. One of those is Keyhole Arch, a natural arch emerging from the water that makes for incredible photography. The other is the purple sand found near the north end of this beach. The purple color comes from garnet in the cliffs and makes for some unique beach scenery.
  • For breakfast, wake up early and head to Big Sur Bakery to snag one of their incredible croissants before they run out! The food and coffee here is incredible, so even if you don’t get a croissant, don’t worry – anything you order will be wonderful.
  • One of the most influential artists to make their mark on Big Sur is Henry Miller, whose Memorial Library remains the cultural center of Big Sur and attracts artists from all over the world to give impromptu concerts. It’s well worth a stop!
  • Dive into the quirky history of Big Sur (literally) and head to the Esalen Institute to relax in the hot springs. Clothing, of course, is optional.
  • Big Sur is full of miles of trails winding through mountains and peeking at sweeping coastal vistas through redwood trees. To best enjoy Big Sur, we recommend lacing up your hiking boots and exploring on foot. The Partington Cove trail leads through a tree-lined canyon and a tunnel to a beautiful rocky beach. The Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trail is an easy 2-mile hike filled with waterfalls and sweeping vistas. For more details, head to our post about the best Northern California hikes.
  • Sand Dollar Beach is one of Big Sur’s best beaches: it’s popular for surfing, picnicking, and, like the name suggests, beachcombing.
  • Stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and to see the iconic McWay Falls, one of California’s two tide falls – waterfalls that spill directly into the ocean. Picture a graceful waterfall dropping 80 feet onto a white sand beach, surrounded by a rocky cove with the Pacific Ocean crashing onto the shore. Umm, yes please! There’s no hike needed to see the falls, which are perfectly in view right off the side of the highway.
  • If you’d like to test your faith in modern engineering (or just admire from afar), stop at the famous Bixby Bridge along Highway 1. Built in the 1930’s, this bridge spans the scenic Bixby Canyon along the continent’s edge. If photography is your thing (and once you see this bridge, it will be), there are plenty of overlooks to snap unbelievable photos of this bridge. Just don’t look down!

What to Pack for Camping in Big Sur

We have a comprehensive list of what to pack for a camping trip, but below we’ve included some specific suggestions for camping in Big Sur.

  • Layers: Big Sur gets cold at night when the fog settles in and the coastal breezes roll off the ocean. So regardless of the weather forecast – but especially if rain is predicted – pack some warm clothing, even if it seems hot. (And bring that clothing on your hikes as well!) A lightweight rain jacket is always a good idea, as is a packable down jacket or fleece jacket and a warm hat. We also sleep in merino wool leggings to stay warm at night.
  • Warm Sleeping Bag: Big Sur is usually around 40-50 degrees at night, so make sure you bring a sleeping bag rated to at least 40 degrees or lower (or in our case, under and over quilts since we are hammock campers.)
  • Water: Don’t underestimate the amount of water you’ll need. We recommend bringing a hydration daypack with 100oz of water for hikes.
  • Sun Protection: You’ll need plenty of environmentally-friendly sunscreen – reef safe if you’ll be going in the ocean! I also recommend these swim leggings for surfing or swimming – the Pacific Ocean is not warm.
  • Beach towel: this sand-repellant mat is perfect for sitting on the beach but not bringing sand back home to your tent!
  • Cooler: Our RTIC cooler is a beast. It fits several days worth of food and keeps it perfectly cold for as long as we need! It’s our go-to cooler for camping.
  • Swimwear: Many of the best campgrounds in Big Sur are near rivers or the ocean, where you can swim and play in the cool (ok, cold) water. Bring your swimsuit (these are my favorites), or if you’re a weenie like me, try these swim leggings and swim top for a tiny big of added warmth in the water.

We’ve got more suggestions on what to pack for camping in Big Sur in our detailed camping packing guide!

Want a Printable Packing Checklist? We want to make sure you don’t forget anything you need for a fun, safe camping trip. So we’ve created a FREE, printable version of our Camping Essentials packing list!

Just drop your email in the box below and we’ll send it straight to your inbox, along with a few insider tips to help you plan more outdoor adventures.

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Ultimate Camping Checklist: 42 Car Camping Essentials


Are you ready to pack your cooler and sleeping bag and head to a Big Sur campground? What’s your preference: redwoods or ocean views? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: Looking for more camping ideas? We have plenty to inspire your next camping trip (and one warning story)

Taking a trip down Highway One? Check out some of our other blog posts about the most stunning road trip in the world:

We also have a Highway One podcast episode! A humanist cult, a Danish hideaway, a gravitational anomaly, towering trees, a spoiled rich kid’s castle, clothing-optional hot springs, and the cutest (and weirdest) animals imaginable: in this episode, we cover everything you need to plan your trip up the California Coast – and all the weird history you never knew along the way.

Listen below or just click here! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.

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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources

Here are our favorite travel tips & resources for saving money and planning travel logistics! For more tips, check out our complete guide to trip planning.

  • Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Skyscanner or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly, vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO (they’ve got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record.) You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We’ve also used TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
  • Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it – visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local’s perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit. When we book a rental car, we use Kayak to compare rental companies and find the best deal.
  • Luggage Storage: Whenever we’re checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use Stasher or LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we’re running around. On Stasher, you can use the code PW10 for 10% off your booking!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!



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