8 Best Places to Go Camping in Big Sur — Stunning Ocean and Forest Views Included

Enjoy coastal views, buffet breakfasts, and tent and RV sites among the redwoods.

If you've been to Big Sur, the landscape is likely etched in your mind — rugged coastline shrouded in mist and elephant seals sunning themselves on the beach. And if you've never been, this isn't the sort of place you want to miss, especially if you have a penchant for stunning coastal drives (hello, Highway 1) that lead to picturesque campsites near beaches and hiking trails.

This special stretch of the California coast, between Carmel and San Simeon, runs through the northernmost section of Los Padres National Forest. As you might imagine, the camping in Big Sur is plentiful and spectacular.

Severe weather in early 2023 damaged sections of Highway 1, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, and multiple other routes, cutting off access to some campsites while repairs are underway. Check each campground's website for its operating status. You can find the latest information on road closures on the official Caltrans website.

What to Know Before Planning a Camping Trip in Big Sur

In Big Sur, there are campgrounds in the state parks and the national forest, as well as privately-owned campgrounds that can accommodate every style — from hike-in tent spots to yurts and cabins. Just remember that you can only spend the night at a designated campground, and camping along Highway 1 or Nacimiento-Fergusson Road (which connects the coast to the Salinas Valley) is illegal.

Most of Big Sur's campgrounds have online booking systems that allow you to secure a spot well in advance, but some offer only a handful of first-come, first-served campsites. Amenities and styles vary from campground to campground, so make sure to research the available facilities (bathrooms, showers, electricity and water hookups, etc.).

And finally, respect any wildlife you encounter, manage your campfire responsibly, and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Redwoods inside Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Brian Baer/Courtesy of California State Parks

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has a whopping 189 tent and RV sites at its campground alongside the Big Sur River, but you'll have to plan ahead to nab one. Each campsite has parking, a fire pit, and a picnic table, and the campground provides hot showers and toilets. There are no RV hookups, and dogs — though allowed — must be leashed.

Camping reservations can be made online or by phone, but often fill up six months in advance, even in the winter. If you're a last-minute camper, keep in mind that campsites cannot be reserved online or by phone within 48 hours of your arrival, but cancellations occasionally make sites available for walk-ups.

Treebones Resort

Treebones Resort is best known for its glamping yurts, which have electricity, running water, cozy beds, and decks overlooking the ocean. But those looking for a more rustic overnight stay can book one of the bring-your-own tent sites, which have picnic tables and access to water. Just keep in mind that campfires and dogs are not allowed here. You can reserve your site (or yurt) online. Every booking includes full access to the resort — pool, hot tub, showers, and a buffet breakfast.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

The entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Lisa Corson/AFAR Media/Courtesy of SeeMonterey.com

Camping in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is extremely limited — there are only two campsites. But the park is so stunning (think granite cliffs, waterfalls, and panoramic ocean views), we'd be remiss to leave it off this list.

The two campsites are pretty simple, featuring just a fire ring, a picnic table, and access to pit toilets. They're located right off Highway 1, and to get to them, you'll need to park and carry your camping gear (cars and dogs are not permitted). To snag one of these coveted spots, book far in advance (reservations usually fill up six months prior).

Kirk Creek Campground

Campers on Nacimiento Fergusson road above Highway 1

Peter Blottman Photography/Getty Images

Set within the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, Kirk Creek Campground is one of those Big Sur camping spots with spectacular views, thanks to its location on a 100-foot high bluff overlooking the Pacific. There are 40 tent and RV sites, most of which are bookable online (two campsites are first-come, first-served). Kirk Creek is a bit remote, so make sure to fill up your water jugs beforehand. The campground has vault toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and firewood available for purchase. Leashed dogs are also allowed.

Big Sur Campground & Cabins

Cabins at the Big Sur Campground and Cabins
Cory Dawson/Courtesy of Big Sur Campground and Cabins

This family-focused campground has strict quiet hours starting at 10 p.m., a playground, a camp store, and both tent and RV camping sites at the base of towering redwoods. Tent sites have access to a bathhouse with hot showers, while RV spots have water, electricity, and access to a dump station. For an upscale Big Sur camping experience, reserve a cabin, some of which have fully equipped kitchens and fireplaces along with private bathrooms.

Reservations can be made online, but keep in mind that sites fill up quickly, and there's a two-night minimum for Friday or Saturday check-ins. (Bonus: The Big Sur River runs through the property, and you can rent tubes at the camp store for an afternoon float.)

Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek Campground, set within Los Padres National Forest, has 44 tent and RV sites an easy walk from Sand Dollar Beach and the Willet hiking trail. Plus they come with picnic tables, parking, and access to toilets and water. If you're looking for a last-minute campsite, there are two that are available on a first-come, first-served basis — but there are no guarantees. To be safe, reserve a site in advance.

Fernwood Resort

A cabin at Fernwood Campground & Resort
Courtesy of Fernwood Campground & Resort

Fernwood Resort is adjacent to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and offers a bit of everything when it comes to camping. You can pitch your own tent, overnight in your RV (hookups are provided), or book a glamping tent, cabin, or motel room. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring, some have water and electricity, and the resort provides hot showers, laundry facilities, and even a dishwashing station. Fernwood also has a tavern and a rare albino redwood that you won't want to miss.

The property takes reservations one year in advance, but cancellations can open up sites for day-of arrivals. (There's no guarantee, but if you're looking for a last-minute spot, call the campground at 831-667-2422.)

Riverside Campground & Cabins

A cabin at Riverside Campground & Cabins
Courtesy of Riverside Campground & Cabins

The towering redwoods at Riverside Campground & Cabins provide both shade and a hefty dose of nature, but the property offers plenty of creature comforts as well. Each of the 34 campsites has a picnic table and a fire pit, and hot showers, laundry, and clean bathrooms are all nearby. RV campers will find electric and water hookups (though no sewer or dump station). The dog-friendly camp also has swimming, tubing, and catch-and-release fishing on the Big Sur River.

For a more upscale overnight, book one of the 12 cabins — some with decks, outdoor fireplaces, and refrigerators. Reservations for both campsites and cabins can be made online.

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