Big Sur Camping: The Best Big Sur Campgrounds In 2024

Big Sur Camping: The Best Big Sur Campgrounds

Camping in Big Sur is truly magical. These are the best Big Sur campgrounds, complete with giant redwoods, ocean views and stunning sunsets! Use this Big Sur camping guide to plan your next trip!

Big Sur Camping

We have been camping in Big Sur a handful of times and it’s one of our all-time favorite places to camp. This stretch of coastline is truly magical and this area is home to some of the most gorgeous campgrounds.

We usually visit in either spring or fall as we like to avoid the summer crowds. Visiting during this time of year can mean gorgeous sunsets, uncrowded hikes, mild weather during the day and slightly lower temperatures at night. However, Big Sur is a great place to camp year round.

Big Sur Camping: The Best Big Sur Campgrounds

The Best Big Sur Campgrounds

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which only has two campsites, but sits on the bluff right above McWay Falls. There are plenty of hikes available in and around Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park including Pfeiffer Falls, a hike through giant redwoods to a 60-foot waterfall.

Camping fees at Pfeiffer Big Sur are $35-$50 per night.

How To Get There

Near mile marker 47.2 on Highway 1, the park is located 26 miles south of Carmel.

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Dogs are allowed
  • Has hiking trails
  • Day-use parking lots are available
  • Restrooms/showers
  • Nature Center
  • Can book up to six months in advance
  • Historical/Cultural site nearby
  • Great picnic areas
  • Regular exhibits and programs
  • Guided tours
  • Swimming access
  • Camp store
  • Drinking water available

Why We Love This Campground

We have camped at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park a few times and it has been an amazing experience each time. We love the giant redwoods, the river nearby and the fact that there are plenty of hikes available. The campground itself is also well-maintained and has all the amenities you could need.

I didn’t include Julia Pfeiffer Burns merely because it’s extremely tough to get a reservation at one of the two sites, so your best bet is to stay at Pfeiffer Big Sur if you want to be near McWay Falls. This waterfall is just a 15-20 minute drive from the campground.

Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach
Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach

Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek will always be one of our favorite campgrounds in Big Sur. It sits right on the bluff, overlooking the ocean. We lucked out and arrived just as another camper was packing up and snagged their site right along the cliff’s edge. Half of the sites are available for reservation and the other half are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Be prepared for little to no shade at this campground. I highly recommend bringing a pop up canopy.

Camping fees are $35 per night.

Kirk Creek Campground Camping Big Sur Sunset

How To Get There

From San Luis Obispo, take Highway 1 north for approximately 60 miles to the campground. From Monterey, take Highway 1 south for approximately 55 miles to the campground.

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Single-family sites for tent and RV camping
  • Each site is equipped with a table and campfire ring with a grill
  • Vault toilets are provided throughout the campground
  • Amazing views! Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at an elevation of about 100 feet
  • Accessible campsites, grills, pit toilets, and scenic overlook
  • Activities include wildlife viewing, water sports, hunting, hiking, fishing, and more.

Why We Love This Campground

I love that the Kirk Creek Campground sites are right on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There is a short walk to a rocky beach from the campground, or a short 5 min ride will take you to Sand Dollar Beach, the largest sandy beach in Big Sur. I highly recommend this campground if you’re looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to stay in Big Sur.

Big Sur Camping

Fernwood Resort

Our group camped at Fernwood Resort among the redwood trees. My only complaint about Fernwood (and other campgrounds in the redwoods) during the winter is that it is about ten degrees colder than a campground that gets full sun. The bonus to Fernwood is the restaurant and general store for those times when you don’t feel like cooking or if you forgot a few supplies.

Tent sites at Fernwood Resort start at $65 per night.

Fernwood Resort Camping Big Sur California

How To Get There

Fernwood Resort Big Sur

47200 Highway 1

Big Sur, CA 93920

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Choose from a range of accommodations: motel, cabin, tent cabin, adventure tent, camping, or RV camping
  •  Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit.
  • Many of the campsites are equipped with electricity and running water.
  • Two-bath houses with hot showers are available.
  • On-site tavern with delicious meal options
  • General store/cafe
  • Camping supply store on-site
  • Great local hikes

Why We Love This Campground

If you’re looking for a little something extra in a campground, then Fernwood Resort is the perfect spot. The campsites are spacious and have great amenities like picnic tables, fire pits, and electricity. Plus, you can’t beat the convenience of having a tavern and general store on-site!

Andrew Molera State Park

At this Big Sur Campground, Andrew Molera, all of the 24 campsites are hike in only, so this is not the ideal spot for car campers.

That being said, if you have the gear, it’s well worth the short hike to the campsites. They do provide a picnic table, fire pit with grill, and food storage bin at each campsite. There are also restrooms and garbage bins near the campsites, so you are not completely roughing it.

To find the park, look for mile marker 51.2 on Highway 1, about 21 miles south of Carmel. All sites are first-come, first-served.

How To Get There

Near mile marker 51.2 on Highway 1, the park is located 21 miles south of Carmel.

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Boating
  • Relatively undeveloped park with great bike and hiking trails
  • Picnic areas
  • Environmental learning/Visitor center
  • Exhibits and programs
  • Guided tours
  • Beach area
  • Swimming
  • Beautiful vista point
  • Nature & wildlife viewing
  • Windsurfing/Surfing
  • Restrooms
  • Drinking water available

Why We Love This Campground

If you are looking for a remote and nature-filled camping experience, Andrew Molera State Park is the perfect spot. With only 24 hike-in campsites this campground is a great option for those who want to stay close to the Big Sur action, but still want a quiet getaway.

Big Sur Camping - The Best Places to Camp

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park is situated in the redwoods, about 56 miles south of Carmel, and it offers 29 campsites located creekside, on the beachfront, and in the forest.

This park was once the site of a limekiln operation and just a short walk from your campsite, you can explore the limekiln ruins, in addition to hikes to the beach and Limekiln Falls.

Each campsite has a fire ring and a picnic table. All campsites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance and the cost is $35 per night.

How To Get There

The park is 56 miles south of Carmel, off Highway One; two miles south of Lucia

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Family and primitive campsites
  • RV Access
  • Fire ring and picnic table at each campsite
  • Awesome hiking trails
  • Fishing
  • Beach Area
  • Geocaching
  • Restrooms / Showers available on site (as well as outdoor showers)
  • Drinking water available

Why We Love This Campground

This campground is very close to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, so if you come here, make sure to check it out! The staff here is super friendly and will be happy to give you tips about what else to do in the area.

Read more: 20 Best Places to Visit in California During Winter

The Best Big Sur Campgrounds

Plaskett Creek Campground

Right across the street from Sand Dollar beach, Plaskett Creek campground offers plenty of shade, flush toilets and running water. There are 44 campsites nestled among large Monterey Pines and the campground is within walking distance to the Willet hiking trail.  

Each site is equipped with a campfire ring and picnic table. There are no hook-ups at this campground. Most campsites are relatively level and easy for those traveling with a campervan or travel trailer.

Camping fees are $35 per night.

How To Get There

From San Luis Obispo, travel north on Highway 1 for approximately 65 miles to the campground. From Monterey, travel south on Highway 1 for approximately 50 miles to the campground.

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

  • Single-family sites and 3 group campsites for tent and RV camping
  • Group sites can accommodate up to 40 people and 10 vehicles
  • Sand Dollar Beach, the largest sandy beach in the Big Sur area, is just south of the campground
  • Great area for surfing, fishing, swimming, exploring, and sunbathing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Hunting
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Accessible campsites, grills, and toilets
  • Drinking water available

Why We Love This Campground

If you want to get away from the crowded beaches and campgrounds in Big Sur, Plaskett Creek is the place for you. The campground is secluded and quiet, making it the perfect destination. It is easy to get lost in the lush greenery of Limekiln State Park, the Redwoods, and beautiful beaches here.

Big Sur Camping Guide: Best Places to Camp

Ventana Campground

Ventana is a tent only campground — so leave your travel trailer or camper van at home for this one! Even as a camper owner, I think there’s such a beautiful thing about tent camping and I still do my best to take tent camping trips every year.  

Centrally located in Big Sur, Ventana Campground is nestled in a redwood grove. All of their sites follow the existing contour of the canyon and creek without disturbing its natural beauty. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring. There is also a restaurant and showers on site. 

How To Get There

Ventana Campground

48123 Highway 1

Big Sur, CA 93920

View on Google Maps

Campground Amenities and Top Features

 Beautiful 40-acre redwood canyon with natural beauty preserved 

• Two modern bath houses with hot showers and restrooms 

• Picnic tables and fire rings for each campsite 

• Water faucets located nearby for easy access to water 

• Central location in the Big Sur community with nearby stores, restaurants, cafes, delis, gift shops, taverns, and a post office 

• Tent-only camping

• Ample parking is available for those who are just visiting the area  

• Great hiking

Why We Love This Campground

Visiting the Ventana Campground is an amazing experience. It’s a beautiful, well-maintained campground with plenty of activities to do. The grounds are kept in excellent condition by experienced staff members who are always friendly and helpful. Unless you’re looking for RV camping, this is a great option!

How To Get To Big Sur

Getting to Big Sur, California is an adventure all its own! The most popular and highly recommended route is via the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway One). This incredible drive takes travelers up the entire coast of California from north of San Diego all the way to just south of the Oregon border.

Big Sur is located between Carmel and San Simeon and it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the United States.

If you’re planning a camping trip, driving or renting a car is your best bet, because public transportation options are very limited.

San Francisco is only about 100 miles away, or 3 hours by car on Highway One. Los Angeles is a bit further — about 6 hours up the PCH.

Big Sur Coastline - How To Get To Big Sur

Packing List for Camping in Big Sur

We are big fans of packing light when camping and have put together a great kit, which is what we used when camping in Big Sur. Andrew Molera State Park is hike-in only, so you’ll definitely want to limit what you bring to this campground.

Camping Stove: We have done extensive research on the best and lightest backpacking gear. This backpacking stove is tiny and weighs next to nothing.

Cookware: We love this tiny cookware set because it’s extremely compact.

Sleeping Bags: This sleeping bag is extremely warm and it gets excellent reviews.

Tent: We love this lightweight Marmot 2-person tent.

Sleeping Pads: These ones are amazing!

Backpacks: If you are looking for a durable, light, and inexpensive backpack, we recommend the Teton Scout.

Portable Charger: We carry this portable charger to charge our phones.

For more packing tips, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist for Campers.

If you find yourself in Big Sur, we highly recommend taking a drive to Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. It’s one of the most beautiful places to travel in Central California. For more great places to camp in the United States, see our Havasu Falls travel tips, Yellowstone camping tips, and the best places to camp in California.

FAQ: Camping in Big Sur

Can you camp for free in Big Sur?

Some national parks allow visitors to camp for free along the forest service roads, but you must follow basic guidelines. Free camping in Big Sur is not as easy as it used to be, so be sure to do your research and don’t plan on just pitching a tent anywhere.

Where can I camp in Big Sur without reservations?

Some of the campgrounds in Big Sur do offer first-come-first-serve campsites. These include: Andrew Molera, Kirk Creek, Limekiln, and Plaskett Creek.

Do you need a bear canister in Big Sur?

Bear canisters are not required in Big Sur. Bear sightings are rare in Big Sur, although a few have been spotted over the years. The U.S. Forest service recommends staying bear-aware and practicing good food storage techniques.

How many days do you need to visit Big Sur?

I recommend at least 3 nights. This will give you enough time to explore some of the hikes and beaches along this stretch of coast.

When is the best time to camp in Big Sur?

You will generally find the best weather in Big Sur during the months of April to October. To avoid the summer crowds, I recommend visiting during the months of September and October.

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  1. Rusty Hunt says:

    Great info! Planning a cross-country trip on my motorcycle. I noticed Kirk Creek Campground doesn’t have showers, how about restroom or port-a-john?

  2. PinTours & Travel says:

    Great post, but I would disagree with taking a phone…this is where you want to disconnect from the world.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      We use our phones for more than just surfing the web and it’s always good to have a phone in case of emergency. You likely won’t have much service in this area so it’s usually set to airplane mode anyway. 🙂

      1. PinTours & Travel says:

        Most of your Garmin utilities are equipped with Emergency Beacons and tracking these days….but I hear you, take the phone for emergency only

  3. India Tour by Cabs says:

    This images are great, have to taken it all by yourself?

  4. trailers brisbane says:

    Until now Ican still remember the scenic look of the place.As if that was yesterday but that was a year ago.

  5. Emily Clark says:

    Is there a certain campsite you recommend in kirk creek or andrew molar? Friends and I are looking to go in the spring and we’d love to get the best campsite we can!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I honestly don’t even remember which site we stayed in. I think there were only two left when we got there. You can call and ask them which ones are the best. Have fun!

  6. one day i will go to big sur, and i will bring this list 🙂

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      It’s one of our favorite places to visit! I hope you make it there.

  7. Jaryd Krause says:

    This place is magical. Exceptional shots, well done

  8. Nomad Travel says:

    It looks like you found some good places to stop and enjoy nature. Keep sharing!

  9. I am not much of a camper, but I lived in CA for a while and I hate I never went to these locations. Great pictures. Wow, this is a very peaceful scene.

  10. Jenna Smith says:

    Thanks for the great info, I just booked a reservation at Kirk Creek for the end of April due to your writeup. We are coming out from Colorado and taking a big road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time. Any insider info is much appreciated.

    Thanks again!

  11. CMTravelAnd - Calogero Mira says:

    Camping and hiking in Big Sur? I like these photos.

  12. Luizze Oliveira says:

    From above places Kirk Creek Campground is very beautiful and best place for camping. Best and cool weather around this Kirk Creek Campground is very impressive. Thank you for sharing such a impressive information.

  13. Sherry Viray says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Big Sur, but never got the chance or at least, I’ve held myself back for one reason or another. I’m more motivated now by you guys. You two are such inspiration to get out and camp.

    1. Mailisha Chesney says:

      I agree! Thanks for the ideas. I, too, have yet to try out Big Sur (which is so nuts, since it’s clearly GORGEOUS and friends have talked it up for years!). Now that we have two little kids (that are finally big enough to take camping- yeay!) we’re even more motivated to get back to our previous camping lifestyle. I love the ideas you show-cased! Now, just to wait until the spring…

      1. Ordinary Traveler says:

        I’m glad to hear the post has inspired you to visit, @mailishachesney:disqus!

  14. Susan Mcguire says:

    Images are so amazing to watch. Are they photoshopped or just few photo effects ?

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks, Susan. I did HDR on a couple of these photos. That’s probably the effect you are noticing. Thanks for the comment and happy holidays!

  15. Gregory Berg says:

    My favorite campsite, view-wise, of all-time is located about 30 miles south of Big Sur: the Treebones Resorts. They’re known for their awesome yurts, but they have several spots available (5 I think) for tent camping, each with AMAZING views out towards the ocean. And their lodge/restaurant/deck bar is a great bonus!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I have heard of this place, but never stayed there. Thanks for the suggestion!

    2. Brandy Bell says:

      I’ll second the Treebones Resort Recommendation– loved checking out the photos of home though, makes me a bit homesick!

    3. Mailisha Chesney says:

      I saw an article on this place last month. Thanks for the rec!

  16. Suzzane Lobo says:

    One would love to just sit down whole day and watch the sea shores waves moving to and fro. Thanks Awesome pics

    1. Mailisha Chesney says:

      I know! Talk about “living in the moment,” eh? Easier to do when the moment is breath-taking! 8^)

  17. feonicamartinez says:

    the images are great! the seashore image is so stunning!

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks, Nica!

  18. The seashore images are beautiful. Big Sur is the loveliest seaside drive in North America.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      I agree. Although, I do love the view further north as well.


  19. Ruth Rieckehoff says:

    Thanks for the tips. I camped in Morro Bay during the summer and was thinking about doing the same in Big Sur. Now, I have a better idea of where to go.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      No problem! I’m sure you will love any of these campgrounds.