This route, however, is one of the best road trips in California. Note: Be aware that there is TONS of poison oak in the area. This city offers a lifestyle for anyone. Here are some of the biggest threats to your safety that immediately come to mind: Posion oak… rattlesnakes… ticks… Staying safe in America’s nature can be a lot more than most people bargain for. A stay here has the potential to be peaceful, but with the number of campsites, you should have realistic expectations of the campground vibe/noise/human traffic. Springtime is a beautiful period to experience Big Sur. To start packing for your camping trip to Big Sur, you can by browsing our Camping Packing Master Checklist. Almost without exception, if it is free Big Sur campsites you seek, then you are going to have to get off Highway 1. Please prepare for difficult passes, brush, or water damage. For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is yet another totally magical Big Sur camping destination. Big Sur Trailmap provides accurate trail and camp locations based on local knowledge (GPS'd), plus locally-known "use trails", seasonal water sources, waterfalls, and other features in Big Sur state parks and wilderness areas. Once it opens though, it is a hike not to be missed! Whether you’re free camping in Big Sur or at a paid campground, you’re going to want to keep this info in mind. One of the most common (and beloved) Big Sur activities is hiking. Below are some of my favorite backcountry Big Sur camping spots…. For most paid campsites, booking your campsite in advance is 100% necessary. Here are some of my favorite hotels in Big Sur: There you have it, friends. The North Coast Trail hike to Cook Spring Camp is less committing than Sykes. The ridgeline trail begins along the north flank of Cone Peak and follows a craggy ridge with sweeping views of the coast and mountains. Note: Users have reported that due to wildfire damage, portions of this trail are not being maintained and may not be accessible for all users. The view of the coastline from the outdoor deck is … “Find out how YOU can support the site. With an abundance of hiking trails, state parks, gorgeous landscapes and spectacular viewpoints, hoofing it uphill is truly worth it in Big Sur! This is … Skip to main content. We wanted a trail less traveled, ( especially during Covid ) and one we’ve never been on. Big Sur Hiking Trails & Local Tips. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Plus, they’re light which is perfect for hiking and camping in Big Sur’s backcountry! There is no shortcut to get into and out of Big Sur by car. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough. There are few places in the world where you can stroll through untamed redwood forests, tackle burly mountains, and stare longingly at the great Pacific Ocean all in one place (and often from the comfort of your car). Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. On a sunny day, few things in life are better than sitting between two pine trees overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Be respectful to the environment, locals, and fellow campers. Subscribe: http://bit.ly/2s0KJ64Instagram: @lane.one.runShoes: http://bit.ly/2NtJfKXLightweight Stove: https://amzn.to/2OvAgJr Experiencing the beauty of Big Sur is truly epic. Always use caution when crossing streams, and simply don’t risk it if you are in doubt. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Andrew Molera State Park. Hiking up the final switchbacks, the expansive views over the Ventana Wilderness and the dramatic Pacific coastline are literally dizzying. The hike to its summit is the most dramatic by far in the Big Sur area. Creek crossings found on the hike can be difficult if the water flow happens to be particularly fierce. Remember to: But most of all, be good to Big Sur; be a responsible traveler. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world's wild places and spaces. It also became one of the most popular, but for good reason. The landscapes are dreamy as hell and will leave you very much “wowed” by the day’s end. Most of all, have the time of your life and experience as many Big Sur camping spots as possible! There are some pieces of gear that are absolutely essential to staying comfortable, safe, and happy in the backcountry whilst experiencing camping in Big Sur for yourself. If you like to surf, there are a few decent breaks accessed within Andrew Molera. Pfeiffer Falls and the Valley View Overlook are probably the most popular hikes in area and the one that any ranger or frequent visitor would suggest. Limekiln campground contains 24 sites which must be reserved ahead of time. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. There is a water spring at the camp that should be flowing any time of year, however, packing a filtered water bottle for hiking is always a recommendation, even in highly-developed nations. The best camping option is probably Lone Pine Camp, though you can wild camp in many other places should you choose to. To be specific, it is technically considered free camping in Big Sur when the camping takes place next to Highway 1, which isn’t really tolerated anymore. As one local put it to me: “Big Sur is blown out. On the Central California coast, a magical, sparsely populated land of waterfalls, rugged mountains, redwood trees, stunning beaches, and blazing sunsets has been attracting people of all walks for decades. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you do choose to make a fire, never leave your fire unattended. You might turn up on a Tuesday in late February only to find masses of people at every turn. Ventana Wilderness: Cone Peak Trail. Every time I have gone to Big Sur in the off-season – I have visited at all times of the year) – there has never been a consistent pattern of when it’s busy and when it’s not. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash. However, the sad truth is that Big Sur has changed quite dramatically over the years. ALWAYS clean up your burn-out pile and make sure there are no leaves, grass, wood or other dried out materials left behind. The fact is, there are lots of places to park and pitch your backpacking tent, and the higher you go up the road, the better the views are of the sea. Good luck, amigos! AR bottles are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter whether you’re camping at a Big Sur campground or in the backcountry. In recent years, I have spend a lot of time exploring Big Sur’s beaches, mountains, canyons, and rivers hunting for the best Big Sur camping spots. I hope this track opens soon! Don’t be afraid to walk a bit into the bush in search of the best tent sites. We’re drawing to the end of the Big Sur camping guide now but before we do, I’m throwing some delicious travel tips at you. A picnic option is offered on all hikes. The campsites are magical, though for $30/night I have a hard time justifying camping at Julia Pfefier at all. Most likely there will be other people camping up there as well. 2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. Big Sur is a bucket list destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, and winter is the perfect time to plan a trip. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The Big Sur backcountry offers a bounty of hiking trails and wilderness backpacking T he Ventana Wilderness owes its name to a dramatic mountain peak known as Ventana Double Cone. You are not entitled to camp wherever the hell you want. This trail is extremely popular on weekends and holidays when many backpackers are drawn to Sykes Hot Springs, a strenous 10-mile (6-7 hour) one-way hike. This ultimate guide to camping Big Sur is the result of my experiences getting to know this beautiful and wild stretch of coast. The 70-mile+ of coastline that makes up the Big Sur region runs between Carmel Highlands in the north and San Simeon in the south. Below, I cover the best free spots for camping in Big Sur that can be accessed by car…. Overnight camping options include staying at the Arroyo Seco campground or the primitive Last Chance Falls campground. Keep that in mind when choosing a place to camp. #4 - Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail [CLOSED]. After the Big Sur mudslides in 2017 that forced road closures further south on Highway 1, camping was made illegal along Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. The official word from the Forest Service was that the camping along the road is forbidden until August 19th, 2020. The Plaskett Ridge Road located in southern Big Sur is great for those with a 4×4 vehicle. If you do intend to camp off a forest service road (which I will cover in a minute), ALWAYS be smart about where and how you go to the toilet (with no toilets). PIT STOP: Stop and have lunch at Nepenthe's south of Big Sur. With so many people visiting Big Sur each year, the associated abuses involved with high numbers of people have made it quite difficult to find free camping spots along Highway 1. When one first pictures the Big Sur iconic coastline, it's often images … If you do somehow manage a reservation, hopefully, you will get to see some whales, dolphins, or other amazing sea creatures! A group of my friends met up for Rob's birthday for a scenic backpacking trip on the California Coast. In the summer, you must leave early if you want to get your pick of campsites once you arrive at Sykes Hot Springs. Big Sur, CA is one of the prettiest locations along the California coast. So, if you park and walk into the bush more than 300 feet, in theory, this is allowed. Get out there and experience it for yourself. Big Sur is a hell of a dreamy place – certainly one of  the most magical places in the USA to visit – and there are a lot of cool camping opportunities to be found here. Andrew Molera State Park is the only state park campground that is first come/first served, meaning you can’t reserve a place. Even of those who do, fewer still do so with the intention to camp overnight. This out and back trek is like two hikes in one, reaching a waterfall in a canyon of redwoods and a vista point overlooking the Big Sur River Valley. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (not to be confused with Julia Pfieffer State Park) offers up all of the best aspects of Big Sur. Cone Peak rises dramatically from the Pacific Ocean and offers great views of the Lucian Range. There are numerous forest service roads running through or adjacent national forest land owned by the government that offer the best free camping spots in Big Sur. If you come in season (end of summer), you can pick wild blackberries to your heart’s content. Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? McWay Waterfall Trail. River Loop Trail: 4 mile loop. Sanitation and rubbish issues are a big problem on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. On the Central California coast, a magical, sparsely populated land of waterfalls, rugged mountains, redwood trees, stunning beaches, and blazing sunsets has been attracting people of all walks for decades. There are a numerous amount of waterfalls to see throughout the Santa Lucia Creek Gorge. There are PLENTY of awesome hammock spots in Big Sur and along its beaches. Before we talk about all the best places to camp in Big Sur, let’s answer the burning question…. Enjoy this multi-day backpacking trip from Highway 1 to this scenic peak. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Beaches. If you have realistic expectations of what Big Sur has become, in addition to possessing the motivation to get off the beaten path, you’ll have an amazing time exploring and camping in Big Sur. Also, there is no ocean/beach access from within the park. In my opinion, the best Big Sur campgrounds involves a trek or hike. BIG SUR STATION: Located at 47555 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920.Big Sur Station is the information center for the Big Sur area. Pssssst! The Plaskett Ridge Road is far more rugged than the Nacimiento-Ferguson road, thus it does not see the same amount of traffic. Like most of the US, the area is just not really set up for independent, budget travellers so you need to improvise a bit in order to get things done. From San Francisco, northern Big Sur is roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive. The easiest start is from Bottcher’s Gap. For what is arguably the finest weekend of backpacking along the entire California coast, plan to spend 3 days on the 23-mile Pine Ridge Trail, which meanders through groves of 300-foot redwood trees and fern-lined canyons. Upon checking the availability schedule, I found both campsites are fully booked for the next six months. Campsites for 1 car and tent costs $35/night. The park contains four lime kilns from an 1887–1890 lime-calcining operation. Big Sur has many great destinations, but Sykes Hot Springs is definitely near the top of the list for anyone who has been there. The trailhead is located at the Big Sur Station. Artists, hippies, surfers, hikers, beach bums, burnouts, and every shade of tourist ventures to this land… that land is called Big Sur. They aren’t super large, about 8 feet in diameter. There are several ways to hike Cone Peak, and the descriptions can be a … Urinate at least 70 steps from water sources. With oceanfront views and plenty of hiking trails nearby, Kirk Creek is a Big Sur camping favorite of mine, and one of the best spots if you want to camp on a Big Sur cliffside. Big Sur is blessed with four beautiful state parks, and each has something special on offer. If you are tired of staring at the inside of your tent night after night, you can book a hotel for a night or two. Any time of the year you could find people camping along this road. Stay toasty warm on the road. The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Likewise, the opposite could be true. To arrive, take Highway 1 south from Carmel for roughly 20 miles. The area is fiercely protected by a local community that has managed to retain its original charm through quaint campgrounds, roadside coffee shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. What you’re going to want to take is going to very much depend on your style. The water temperature seems to consistently be at or near 100° F. This place is the essence of what makes Big Sur camping so magical. Located a few miles south of the tiny town of Lucia, the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road is a windy, steep road dotted with a variety of small “campsites”. 154. If you’re moving at a steady pace, the hike should take you no more than 4-5 hours (with frequent stops to enjoy the waterfalls). If you do camp I think it best to depart the campsite at first light. Start at the Cone Peak Trailhead and pick up on this trail at the base of the cone peak summit trail. Tip: Try to get a campsite with a fire ring and picnic table! #10 - Cone Peak Loop via Highway 1 [CLOSED], Pico Blanco via Coast Road and Little Sur Trail, Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail [CLOSED], Salmon Creek Trail, Cruickshank Trail, and Buckeye Trail Loop [CLOSED]. Jeffrey Schaffer's Hiking the Big Sur Country: The Ventana Wilderness ($15.95, Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227) is an excellent resource. Kirk Creek is certainly one of the best places to camp in Big Sur. Our favourite travel backpack is the Aer Travel Pack 2. The trailhead is located a quarter-mile up the road from the gift shop at Pfeiffer Big Sur … Big Sur Guides and Hiking. Big Sur is home to more than just gorgeous beaches: you can explore the Santa Maria mountain range with breathtaking views of the coast. It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers [that’s you!]. From within these state parks, one can experience the quintessential Big Sur Coast, epic day hikes, redwoods, waterfalls, and, of course, some of the best Big Sur campgrounds imaginable. Of course, not having to make reservations has its benefits and its pitfalls. Last Chance Falls is a truly magical waterfall—arguably one of the best backcountry waterfalls in all of Big Sur. This is the most detailed guide to hiking and backpacking in Big Sur. This epic Big Sur camping guide will show you the best places to camp in Big Sur. It is roughly 9-10 miles to the Skyes campground, and limited climbing after the first 2 hours (which can be steep at times, and tiring in the direct sun). Note: The Forest Service order says you can’t camp within 300 feet of the road. Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS! There are only two goddamn campsites! Every awesome place has its downsides though. Check out our EPIC review of the best down jackets for backpackers in 2021! There are several ascents and descents, with little to no shade from the sun. Because the hike is rather short, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hike in with plenty of water on-hand too. “My friends and I had driven up to Big … Legends relate that at one time the unique notch at the mountain’s top was roofed over by a rock bridge. Note: Cone Peak Rd (road leading to trailhead) is currently closed until further notice due to the Mill Fire Closure Order. Plus current wilderness and state park trail conditions. The falls are, however, very seasonal. The only catch? It is possible to hike into Big Sur via crossing the Santa Lucia mountain, but it isn’t common. This trail offers the opportunity to take a dip in the Big Sur river. For up to date information, see the wilderness page here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=10973, #9 - Cone Peak to Surprise Falls [CLOSED]. Home » North America » USA » EPIC Big Sur Camping Guide • Best Places and Hikes in 2021. There are plenty of awesome day hikes, secluded beaches, and jaw-dropping views (especially at sunset). #3 of 22 Outdoor Activities in Big Sur. The hot spring pools sit perched above the river. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to hit the road (or the trail) in search of your perfect Big Sur camping spot. June 2020 – Note: The Trail campground at Andrew Molera is closed and has been for some time. Making a Big Sur camping trip or two is without a doubt the best way to take it all in. This hike leads to Cook Spring Camp, a rather primitive backcountry camp under a stand of sugar cone pine trees. LOST AND FOUND: 831-667-1112 SPECIAL EVENTS, SCHOOL GROUPS: BigSurEvents@parks.ca.gov 831-667-0507 FILM PERMITS (MOTION and STILL): BigSurFilm@parks.ca.gov 831-667-0507 CELL PHONES: Cell phone service is extremely limited in Big Sur. One night backpacking trip to Big Sur, California. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered. In some places, you can get away with car or van camping in Big Sur, but it is never a 100% guarantee that police or national park service officers won’t come knocking on your car window in the middle of the night. I will post an update when the campground opens, but as of now, it isn’t possible to camp here. The weather at Goat Camp was perfect and we all slept without a tent under the stars. Give some thought to this and how you’d like your Big Sur camping adventure served. Certainly, in the winter there tend to be fewer people on the roads. Artists, hippies, surfers, hikers, beach bums, burnouts, and every shade of tourist ventures to this land… that land is called Big Sur. The Ventana Wilderness does experience drought and the last thing you want is for the spring to be dry when you arrive. For more ideas on the essentials for outdoor adventures, check out our jumbo-sized roundup of the best gear to take backpacking. Learn what Leave No Trace Principles are and use them! Los Burros Road is another classic free Big Sur camping area that offers great views and peaceful camping. Hikers wishing to access the beach, Creamery Meadow, Ridge, Bluffs, Panorama and Spring trails must wade across the Big Sur River. In fact, I would keep RV’s off of all of the free Big Sur camping spots I cover. Salmon Creek Trail One of the most popular short hikes for locals, Salmon Creek Falls is just a quarter-mile round-trip hike from Highway 1. The pools can accommodate several adults (perfect for couples). Sweeping views of the Big Sur valley. Do your part to help keep Big Sur’s camping places awesome for the next group of travelers. Obviously, the summer is crazy busy up and down the coast. 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