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

Planning a Big Sur camping trip? These California campgrounds offer perks like coastal views, free breakfast, and tent and RV sites at the base of redwoods.

If you've been to Big Sur before, the landscape is likely etched in your mind — rugged coastline shrouded in mist and elephant seals sunning themselves on beaches. 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 situated near beaches and hiking trails.

This special stretch of California coastline falls between Carmel and San Simeon, and is surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, so, as you might imagine, the camping in Big Sur is plentiful and spectacular.

Big Sur Camping Tips

In Big Sur, there are state park and national forest campsites, as well as privately owned campgrounds that can accommodate every style — from hike-in tent spots to yurts and cabins. Just remember that you must stay on a designated campground and pitching a tent along Highway 1 — no matter how tempting — is illegal, as is camping alongside the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, which cuts through the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Salinas Valley.

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

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

There are a whopping 189 tent and RV sites situated alongside the Big Sur River at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 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 — which are 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.

Treebones Resort

Treebones Resort is best known for their glamping-style yurts, which have decks overlooking the ocean, electricity, running water, and cozy beds. But those looking for a more rustic overnight stay can book a walk-in tent site (you'll need to lug your stuff from your car), 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) in advance online. All bookings include full access to the resort — pool, hot tub, showers, and complimentary breakfast for two.

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 views), we'd be remiss to leave it off this list. The two campsites are located right off Highway 1 on the Pacific coast, and to access 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

Set within the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, Kirk Creek Campground is one of those Big Sur locations with spectacular views, thanks to its location on an open bluff, around 100 feet above sea level. There are 40 tent and RV sites, most of which are bookable online in advance (two campsites are first-come, first-served). Camping here is a bit more remote, so make sure to fill up your water jugs beforehand. The campground has toilets, picnic tables, a fire ring, 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 redwood trees. Tent sites have hot showers, while RV spots have water, electricity, and access to a dump station. For an upscale camping experience, reserve a cabin, some of which have fully equipped kitchens and fireplaces.

Reservations can be made online year-round, but keep in mind that sites fill up quickly, and at certain times of the year, there's a two-night minimum. (Bonus: A river runs through the property and you can rent tubes at the camping store for an afternoon river float.)

Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek Campground has 44 campsites (most bookable online in advance) set within the Los Padres National Forest. The campground's mix of tent and RV sites are an easy walk to 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 bookable 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 (electricity and water are provided), or book a glamping tent, cabin, or motel room. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring, as well as access to hot showers and laundry; some have water and electricity. Fernwood also has a restaurant and tavern and a famous albino redwood tree that you won't want to miss.

The property accepts reservations one year in advance online, but also blocks out a few sites for day-of arrivals. (There's no guarantee, but if you're looking for a last-minute spot, give them a call at 831-667-2422.)

Riverside Campground & Cabins

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

In addition to direct Big Sur River access, Riverside Campground & Cabins is surrounded by towering redwoods, providing campers with plenty of shade and a hefty dose of nature. The campground's 34 tent and RV sites have picnic tables and fire pits, plus access to hot showers, laundry, and clean bathrooms. RV campers will find electric and water hookups, but no sewer or dump station. The dog-friendly property also has catch-and-release fishing and Big Sur River tubing and swimming.

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

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