Big Sur, a hidden gem on the rocky coast of central California, is famous for its camping locations. It is a natural habitat for redwood trees and diverse wildlife. The beauty of Big Sur drives thousands of visitors to its doorstep each year. People consider Big Sur an untainted piece of land, making it an escape from the hustle and bustle of society. Thousands of people travel to Big Sur camping sites yearly to experience the area’s serenity.
Keep reading to learn about some of the best campgrounds to consider when going Big Sur camping.
Popular Activities in Big Sur
Popular activities in Big Sur include visiting its beautiful beaches, hiking the mountains, or enjoying some of the restaurants that make the best organic, locally sourced meals.
Located 150 miles from San Francisco, Big Sur lodging consists of rugged campgrounds to serene, glamorous resorts. It’s an ideal spot for a quick rest on the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Big Sur is made for tourists. A resort or campground can accommodate your needs and expectations, whatever your travel style.
1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the largest state parks in the U.S., covering over 1000 acres of land. Located in the heart of Big Sur, the park’s landscape includes many redwood trees, rivers, a fantastic coastline view, and a pristine view of the Santa Lucia mountains. In addition to its scenic environment, the campground has hiking trails, a lot of camping resources, and a nature center.
The park comprises about 200 camping spots that give a great view of the Big Sur River as it flows through the area. It’s an excellent destination for inexperienced and family campers, thanks to fully stocked supply stores and running water.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has a lodge at the park’s entrance where you can have a nice meal and buy food for later. Many guests like to follow the river trail through the redwood forest and hike down to Pfeiffer Falls Trail. Unfortunately, there is no beach or ocean access inside this park.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park accommodation ranges from tent sites, RV sites, cabin rentals, and hike-in sites. The hike-in locations are reserved for campers who hike into the area without a car. The cabin at Pfeiffer has a toilet, shower, and camping supplies for a more comfortable camping experience.
The total price for accommodations at the Pfeiffer State Park doesn’t cost much as rates range from $5- $75/night, depending on the campsite that fits your needs.
2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is considered to be a mini version of Pfeiffer State Park, but that doesn’t make it any less outstanding. The park features just two campsites; both are beautiful and give you the best of nature.
This is the perfect campground if you are ready to connect with nature and be off the grid. There is no running water, showers, toilets, or cell service. The lack of modern amenities is compensated by a magnificent view of the ocean and an 80 feet waterfall.
These campsites are rarely available because they regularly get booked to capacity. You must book a spot many months in advance if you intend to have fun at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The campsites are also walk-in or hike-in campsites, which means you can’t park a vehicle there – you must hike to the campground.
3. Big Sur Campground and Cabins
Big Sur Campground and Cabins is a private campsite between Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Andrew Molera State Park. It is a vast location with several spots for camping along the Big Sur River.
The camp offers tent sites, RV sites, camping cabins, and standard cabins. The cabins provided by the campground are one- and two-bedroom cabins with restrooms and sometimes a kitchen. There is onsite laundry, and the campground offers an amenities kit which includes: one bundle of wood, one bag of ice, two campground mugs (to keep), one flashlight (to keep), and complimentary use of inner tubes.
Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins have campsites around the towering redwood trees and along Big Sur River. The rates provided by Big Sur Campground and Cabins are for two visitors; it is essential to note that additional guests will incur a $5 or $20/nightly charge, depending on the type of accommodation booked.
Big Sur features an outdoor playground surrounded by captivating redwood trees. Other activities available at the campground include hiking, swimming, and river tubing.
The campground has a quiet time rule from 10 pm to 8 am, perfect for families with young children.
4. Fernwood Campground and Resort
Fernwood Campground and Resort offers a different camping experience as it is a privately owned campground with a family-friendly hotel resort. The Fernwood resort and campgrounds are only a 5- minute scenic drive away from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and the grounds are in the heart of the Big Sur valley.
It offers an excellent quality camping experience thanks to its campsites and wide range of accommodations, including adventure tents, forest cabins, tent cabins, RV camping, and a glamping motel. The resort has hot water, laundry, picnic tables, and even a fire pit. Additionally, there is a restaurant, bar, and general store where you can get almost anything you need, including organic meals and a strong drink. The rates range from $50-$125/ night, depending on availability and the requested accommodation.
Like many other Big Sur camping resorts, the campground is surrounded by redwood trees and offers scenic views from the comfort of your tent. The campsites are close to the Big Sur River, making it easy to go for a swim or rent a tube to float around in the river. You could also take a hike to explore the scenery and natural environment of Big Sur.
5. Andrew Molera Trail Camp
Andrew Molera Trail Camp is a campground in Andrew Molera State Park. It is on the northern part of the Big Sur coastline, 21 miles south of Carmel off Highway 1. The state park is an underdeveloped area, similar to when they discovered the site.
This beautiful campground has ocean access and excellent hiking trails where you can see a great view of Big Sur, including the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected marine area. Additionally, there are many things to do near the campground, such as biking, boating, wind sports, surfing, and wildlife viewing.
Andrew Molera Trail Camp is a hike-in site, meaning you can’t park your vehicles at the campsite. However, there is a parking lot 0.3 miles away.
The campground has 22 tent campsites with all the camping resources you need. They provide restrooms, storage lockers for your food, picnic tables, fire pits, and potable water.
The price to camp at Andrew Molera Trail Camp is $30/night and $5/night for visitors who hike or bike in and do not use the parking lot.
6. Ventana Campgrounds
Ventana Campgrounds are located 30 miles north of Carmel in a scenic 40-acre redwood canyon. This is a tent-only campground, so you can’t bring recreational vehicles or a trailer. The campground has gorgeous scenery surrounded by redwood trees and a creek.
Try glamping at the Ventana Campgrounds if you want the Big Sur camping experience with more modern amenities. Here, you’ll find traditional tent campground sites offering a glamping tent option, making the Big Sur camping experience more glamorous. These glamping tents have hardwood flooring, wireless internet, beds with plush mattresses, and heated blankets.
Camping at Ventana Campgrounds is quite affordable, at $80 per night, with restroom access.
People looking for a more luxurious experience than the glamping tents should check out the Alila Ventana Big Sur Resort, the sister property to the Ventana Campgrounds. This resort offers a spa, luxury suites, and luxury amenities while being surrounded by the stunning nature of Big Sur. It has a price tag of over $2,000/night.
When to Visit Big Sur
While Big Sur is impressive year-round, the best time to visit is in the fall.
Big Sur in the fall is similar to visiting in the summer, except without the large crowds and the addition of beautiful fall foliage. If you can bear the winter cold, king tides raise sea levels to over seven feet above sea level that time of year.
Additionally, you can catch glimpses of Gray whales migrating from December to April.
Tips for Big Sur Camping
Big Sur camping requires that you camp on a designated campsite. While it may seem tempting to pitch your tent on the side of Highway 1, it is illegal to do so and may result in a $1000 fine.
The campgrounds at Big Sur usually fill up six months in advance. Experts suggest you secure your reservation early to visit some of these campgrounds. While some campgrounds in Big Sur offer their sites on a first-come, first-served basis, many require online reservations. You can reserve a campsite for most state and national parks like Big Sur online.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.