In March 2017, a series of landslides damaged the surrounding foundation of the “Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge,” causing it to fracture. This caused 30 miles of Highway 1 in Big Sur to close, which affected residents and Big Sur camping visitors in this ruggedly scenic haven.
After seven months of construction, the bridge was reopened in October 2017 to the delight of many people who cherish this area for its unique terrain and biodiversity.
Big Sur is located on California’s central coast between the cities of Monterey and San Luis Obispo. The combination of the Pacific Ocean’s cerulean blue waters, charming beaches, craggy ridges, and rolling hills makes this one of the most postcard-perfect destinations in the state.
Big Sur Camping Options
Loding in Big Sur can be tricky. The hairpin turns of Highway 1 don’t offer much time or space to look for campsites or motels on the go. So it’s helpful to do some planning before you set out.
Visitors that come from far and wide have the opportunity to wake up in campsites with the sweet sounds of the forest and the ocean in their ears. Here are some of the most popular options:
Pfieffer Big Sur State Park
Pfieffer Big Sur State Park has fire pits, picnic tables, drinkable water, toilets, and showers available at each camp site.
“This was a fantastic campground for a family. Hikes within short walking distance and within bike or short car ride to general store and lodge. Coin showers and bathrooms were very clean.” — The Dyrt camper Kathy M.Camp Here
Kirk Creek Campground
Anyone who wants to wake up to a view of the Pacific Ocean should snag a spot at Kirk Creek Campground, renowned for its oceanside location and short distance to the beach. These Big Sur camping sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire pits, and toilets.
“There is a short hike along a stream that takes you down to the rocky beach. The trail is surrounded by lush vegetation and you’ll pass a few redwoods too. Hours at this site will melt away months of civilization stress. I highly recommend making the trip to this scenic and delightful site.” — The Dyrt camper Michael S.Camp Here
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Backpackers that are lucky enough to snag one of the two spots at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park will be able to sleep on the bluff directly above McWay Falls (which is still accessible from the larger Big Sur State Park campground).
There are only two campsites here, and reservations are snagged as soon as they become available. You can make reservations six months in advance on the first of the month, starting at 8am PST.
Reservations can be made at Reserve California.
“You will be mesmerized by the majestic mountains, beautiful blue ocean and the redwoods. The sites are booked 6-8 months in advance. The best part is being so secluded and Sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, at night it is a Navy color dark with bright stars over the ocean. Tons of hiking trails, animal life and waterfalls. Spotty to No cell on the PCH service, so download a map for offline use or bring one.” — The Dyrt CamperCamp Here
Andrew Molera State Park
Hike-in sites* can be found at Andrew Molera State Park, which has plenty of trails, fire pits, drinking water, and restrooms.
“It’s a little bit of a walk to the campsite, but there’s lots of wind open space and a neighboring trail that leads to the beach. You feel a little more secluded at this campground because it’s further from the road as less crowded than others.” — The Dyrt camper Alexa S.Camp Here
*Hike-in sites at Andrew Molera State Park are closed as of March, 2018. Check here for updates.
Big Sur Campground and Cabins
This family campground with cabins and tent sites is located along Big Sur River, in the redwoods forest. Cabins offer a touch of rustic luxury to your already picture-perfect Big Sur camping trip.Camp Here
What to See and Do in Big Sur
Stare up at Red Woods
People immediately associate Big Sur with the ocean, but Big Sur is a region that also consists of forest — and not just any forest.
One of the special qualities of this area is the abundance of moisture in the natural environment. This has fostered suitable conditions for the growth of coniferous forests and the impressive coastal redwood tree. Redwood trees are known for their fibrous red bark, remarkable heights, and primarily exist on the west coast.
Visit McWay Falls
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An eighty-foot chute of water falls directly on the sand, making for a stunning and unique waterfall experience. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls is a popular stop for Big Sur camping fans. The trail to the falls is a quick half-mile, and you can view it from above or purchase a ticket to get up close.
Explore Tide Pools at Partington Cove
The trail off a hairpin turn on Highway 1 is easy to miss, but if you find it — six miles south of Nepenthe restaurant and 2 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer State Park — you’ll be glad you did. The water is bright aqua and waves crash along rocks in this picturesque setting.
Enjoy a Photo Op at Bixby Bridge
You’ve seen this bridge in photos, with the glow of a sunset turning it orange. Seeing it for yourself will not disappoint. Currently you can only reach Bixby Bridge from the north, but if you’re driving south on Highway 1, you’ll see several turnouts where you can admire this striking architecture, stretching across steep, sandy cliffs.
Ride a Horse on the Beach
Don’t shy away from activities on your Big Sur camping trip! Molera Horseback Tours offer rides through Andrew Molera State Park. As of the publication of this article (March, ’18) several trails in Andrew Molera State Park are still closed, due to heavy winter flooding. But there are limited rides available, and more are opening soon.
If horseback riding on a beach sounds dreamy, then Big Sur is the place to do it.
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