Big Sur is one of California's most iconic destinations! This magnificent stretch of coastline is a world-wide attraction and at the top of many folk’s bucket lists to travel. But to really appreciate the area, one really must embrace the outdoors and plan a camping trip when coming to this special place.
Big Sur is blessed with four beautiful state parks that protect the area’s stunning beaches and magnificent redwood forests. Imagine gazing up at the stars through a canopy of redwoods while breathing in the salty fresh air from your tent or camping chair… The only catch? Everyone else is dreaming of doing the same thing!
Fortunately the state parks offer plenty of campgrounds but with so many to choose from, how do you decide which one you want to stay at? Well we have provided a complete wrap up of the best campgrounds in Big Sur listed from south to north to help you decide which campground is the right one for you. Each campground listed below has a description of their facilities, highlights, nearby attractions and nightly rates which should be a deciding factor in where you want to stay.
Making campground reservations & free camping
Scroll through the list below to see the top 8 campgrounds and click through the links to be taken to the campgrounds reservation systems and for more information. Keep in mind that state park campgrounds do fill up months in advance so be sure to make your reservation well in advance! Sites at state park campgrounds are released 6 months in advance. There are a number of private campgrounds in the area too however they are much more expensive but can be easier to get a reservation with. To learn more about first-come first-served campgrounds or free camping in Big Sur, scroll to the bottom of this page.
Best Campgrounds In Big Sur
Kirk Creek Campground
Kirk Creek Campground is located on a 100 foot bluff with epic views of Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean. Every campsite comes with an ocean view making this campground hard to beat as the best campground in the Big Sur area.
The campground is within walking distance of several scenic trails that lead into the Los Padres National Forest and there is even a short trail from camp that will take you to a gorgeous rocky beach. More hiking and mountain biking trails are within a short drive away along with popular Sand Dollar Beach which is great for swimming, sun bathing and surfing.
The Kirk Creek Campground offers tent and RV sites however there are no hook-ups available. Each site includes a picnic table and campfire ring with grill for frying up those burgers or tofu dogs. Just remember to bring your own water as there is no water available at this campground.
Fee: $35 per night
Location: 4 miles south of Lucia
Tips: Book in advance
Highlights: Ocean views from every campsite
Limekiln State Park
Limekiln State Park offers a 24-site campground with various sites nestled in a shaded redwood grove along Limekiln Creek or more exposed spots in the sun with ocean views at the bottom of Limekiln Canyon.
There is access to a small beach and some short hiking trails up Limekiln Canyon to Hare Creek, Limekiln Falls and the historic lime kilns. You can also hike far out into the wilderness via Cone Peak Road / Stone Ridge Trail.
The campsites come with picnic tables, fire pits, and pedestal barbecue grills. There are also picnic tables by the beach at the bottom of the canyon. The sites in the redwoods are small so only RV campers are allowed up to 24 feet and trailers with a maximum length of 15 feet at the ocean sites. There is no dump station or hook-ups at the park. This campground is ideal for tent camping or van camping.
Fee: $35 per night
Location: 2 miles south of Lucia
Tips: Book in advance
Highlights: Redwoods, Limekiln Falls, Limekilns
Plaskett Creek Campground
Plaskett Creek Campground has an awesome location just minutes from one of the largest and most popular beaches in Central California; Sand Dollar Beach. Like most campgrounds in Big Sur, there is never a lack of hiking trails to explore nearby and Plaskett Creek is no exception. A variety of trails exist along Sand Dollar Beach which lead to bluffs that overlook the ocean and coves in the area.
The campground has a park-like setting under a scattered canopy of Monterey Pine and Cypress trees and Cedar trees provide a fragrant aroma. All sites are grassy and the campground is situated in the Los Padres National Forest.
The campground offers single-family sites as well as three group campsites for tent and RV camping. Each site is equipped with a table and campfire ring with grill. Flush toilets, sinks and drinking water are provided throughout the campground.
Fee: $35 per night
Location: 10 miles south of Lucia
Tips: Book in advance
Highlights: Sand Dollar Beach
Ventana Campground is situated in a magnificent 40 acre redwood canyon only 30 miles south from Carmel. Every site includes a parking space, a campfire ring with grill, a picnic table and enough room for at least two tents. There are several clean restroom facilities with showers and a general store that sells firewood should you run out. If you feel like having a night off from cooking camp food you can head up the hill to the Ventana Resort for a meal or a cocktail.
The redwood trees keep this campground relatively cool and shady throughout the day so pack a light sweater in case you get cold. As night falls rug up next to the fire and look up through the trees to see glimpses of the moon and stars. Note: Ventana Campground is on the high end of the scale in terms of prices!
Fee: $85 per night
Location: 30 miles south of Carmel
Tips: Tent & Campervans only
Highlights: 40 acre Redwood Canyon, Restaurants nearby
Riverside Campgrounds & Cabins
The Riverside Campground offers 34 sites for tents and RV's along the Big Sur River on 16 acres surrounded by majestic Redwoods. This is a private campground and is therefore a little more expensive than state park campgrounds, however it comes with perks such as laundry, clean restrooms with hot showers, and it’s own grocery store with camping supplies.
Each campsite has picnic tables and a fire pit and you can expect electricity and water hook-ups for your RV. There are also several restaurants nearby.
Fee: $75 per night
Location: 27 miles south of Carmel
Tips: Bring fishing rods
Highlights: Tubing down the river, Hot showers, Grocery store
Big Sur Campgrounds & Cabins
Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins is another private campground and has more of a park-like setting than the state park campgrounds mentioned above so again you can expect expensive nightly rates. This campground accommodates tent sites and also welcomes you and your RV or trailer up to 40 feet in length. A fire pit and picnic table are provided at each site and you'll find a bath house with hot showers here.
The Big Sur Campground has a variety of fun activities for the entire family; you can enjoy an afternoon of swimming in the river or take advantage of their inner tube rentals and float down the river, toss in a fishing line, or make use of their basketball and volleyball courts.
Pitch your tent among the tall Redwood trees and enjoy camping in one of the most beautiful settings along the Big Sur Coast! For fun you can swim or hop into an inner-tube and float down the river. You can also toss a fishing line in the river in the hopes of taking dinner back to the camp. You'll also find beach access and miles of spectacular hiking trails just a few minutes drive away.
Fee: $65-80 per night
Location: 26 miles south of Carmel
Highlights: Tubing, Volleyball & basketball courts, Hot showers
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Campground is extremely popular for its proximity to iconic McWay Falls and it’s incredible ocean views. There are two campgrounds here both located on the western side of the Pacific Coast Highway. They are hike-in only and no vehicle access is permitted. Picnic tables and fire pits are provided but there is no water or garbage bins so remember to pack out.
Fee: $30 per night
Location: 39 miles south of Carmel
Tips: Book 6 months in advance
Highlights: McWay Falls
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur Campgrounds has more than 180 campsites near the Big Sur River and can accommodate trailers up to 27 feet long and RVs up to 32 feet. There is a dump station and some sites have water taps, but no other hookups. It has several sites for tents only. There are hot showers and restroom facilities.
This is a popular campground and books out months in advance so reserve your spot as early as possible, even in winter! You can access Pfeiffer Beach down a windy road that begins near the state park and there are plenty of other attractions close-by including redwood groves, waterfalls and hiking trails.
Fee: $35-50 per night
Location: 28 miles south of Carmel
Tips: Book in advance
Highlights: Pfeiffer Beach
WALK-IN ONLY TENT SITES
There are several walk-in, tent only campgrounds in the Big Sur area. For these campsites no reservations are necessary.
There are 24 primitive sites at this campground. It is hike-in only access about 0.3 miles from the parking area. The campsites are situated in an open meadow with a maximum of 4 people per site. No reservations are required - first come first served only.
This primitive campground is located eight miles inland and to get there you need to drive up a narrow road. There are only 12 spaces for tent camping only. *Closed indefinitely - check their website for updates
Prewitt Ridge is located in the Los Padres National Forest and allows free dispersed camping. This campground provides unbelievable views from the mountain top of the spectacular coastline and sometimes clouds below. There are no facilities at all or any water sources nearby. Getting up to the campground is a challenge up a long, rough and windy road.
You would assume it would be hard to find free places to camp at Big Sur considering the popularity of the area but there are a few spots you can either pitch a tent or sleep in your campervan if you know where to look.
Because national parks do allow free camping along their forest service roads, all you need to do is scout out whether there are any parks that are managed by Forest Services. At Big Sur, the Los Padres National Forest stretches almost the entire length of the Big Sur coastline so it is here where you need to scout for free camping spots. You can try Los Burros Road, Plaskett Ridge Road, and Nacimiento-Ferguson Road but remember to search for and claim your spot early otherwise you might not get lucky.