12 Top-Rated Campgrounds near Big Sur & Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Jul 5, 2019

The best way to experience the sheer mountain cliffs and dramatic ocean of Big Sur is to spend the night camping in the redwood forests and along the surrounding ocean bluffs. Spanning nearly 90 miles of Highway 1 between Hearst Castle and Carmel-by-the-Sea, campgrounds on the Big Sur coast are in high demand. Luring other notable visitors like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac throughout the years, Big Sur attracts millions of tourists each year—many of whom are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV.

State properties like Limekiln State Park feature modern campgrounds complete with flushing toilets and coin-operated showers. Campsites in California State Parks can be reserved six months in advance, with most campsites along the Big Sur coast booked months ahead of time. Make no mistake, however, between postcard beaches and massive redwood groves, campgrounds like the one at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to connect with nature.

Outside the state parks, commercial campgrounds in the area can also be booked ahead of time. Some commercial campgrounds, like Ventana Campground, offer unique "glamping" opportunities to ease the experience of roughing it. Other campgrounds are available through the United States Forest Service, which oversees the surrounding Los Padres National Forest, and these often provide more affordable options to camp along the Big Sur coast.

Find the top places to stay in the wilderness with our list of the best campgrounds near Big Sur/Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Campground in the redwoods of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park encompasses over 1,000 acres, including redwood forests, scenic rivers, and stunning viewpoints of the coastline. At the heart of the Big Sur coast, Pfeiffer Big Sur is centrally located among the many top attractions of Big Sur, including Pfeiffer Beach and the Henry Miller Memorial Library, as well as local grocery stores and restaurants. The state park features nearly 200 campsites along the meandering Big Sur River, which flows through the park, with sites to accommodate both tents and RVs.

This is a great home base for exploring other coastal attractions nearby—days can be spent exploring the trails and landscape of Pfeiffer Big Sur. The half-mile River Trail follows the riverbank as it flows adjacent to a towering redwood grove. For a longer hike within the park, the Buzzard's Roost trail is a three-mile loop that exposes great views of the ocean.

Cabins are available to rent at Pfeiffer Big Sur, and every overnight camper has access to flushing toilets and coin-operated showers.

Address: Pfeiffer Big Sur Road, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29832

2. Ventana Campground

Ventana Campground | Basheer Tome / photo modified

Within a coastal redwood canyon at the heart of the Big Sur coast, this privately owned campground is exclusively for tent camping. Offering over 60 campsites that blend into the natural environment, Ventana Campground also offers 15 luxurious glamping sites, featuring stone fireplaces, a safari-style canvas tent, and a comfortable glamping mattress pad.

Alongside immersion into a redwood forest, Ventana Campground is located very close to other amenities, including restaurants, the ocean, and the Henry Miller Memorial Library.

Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: http://www.ventanacamping.com/

3. Kirk Creek Campground

Kirk Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Atop an ocean bluff on the west side of Highway 1, every site at Kirk Creek Campground features dramatic ocean views. Popular for sunset and sunrise enthusiasts, the stunning views of this Forest Service campground are available for tents and recreational vehicles under 30 feet long. Vault toilets are dispersed throughout the 40 sites available at Kirk Creek Campground, and alongside great views, recreational opportunities nearby include a short drive to Sand Dollar Beach and access points into the Ventana Wilderness.

Address: CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=10910

4. Big Sur Campground & Cabins

Big Sur Campground & Cabins | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

At the heart of the Big Sur coast, halfway between Andrew Molera and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Parks, this family-friendly campground offers nearly 100 spots next to the Big Sur River. An outdoor playground surrounded by redwoods is popular with both parents and kids at the campground, as is the large swimming pool that branches from the river. Offering space for tents and RVs, Big Sur Campground also features one- and two-bedroom camping cabins with private bathrooms.

Easy to sleep in at night and filled with activity throughout the day, Big Sur Campground enforces their quiet time of 10pm to 8am with a gentle but strict touch. Inner tubes are available to rent through the campground, and flushing toilets and showers are free to use for all overnight guests. For beach access and one of the most stunning places to catch the sunset in Big Sur, the world-famous Pfeiffer Beach is only a five-mile drive away.

Address: 47000 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: http://www.bigsurcamp.com/

5. Limekiln State Park

Stream flowing through Limekiln State Park

Near the community of Lucia on the Big Sur coast, Limekiln State Park offers a bit of everything this rugged edge of the country has to offer. Redwood grove hiking trails, scenic waterfall viewpoints, access to the Ventana Wilderness, and panoramic ocean vistas can all be experienced in a day at Limekiln State Park. Modern history is also on display with four lime kiln artifacts accessed by hiking trails.

Encompassing over 700 acres, Limekiln State Park has 24 campsites available with proximity to showers and flushing toilets.

Address: 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=577

6. Plaskett Creek Campground

Sand Dollar Beach near Plaskett Creek Campground

Operated by the Los Padres National Forest, the Plaskett Creek Campground features 44 sites on the east side of Highway 1. The breaking surf of the nearby ocean is heard from most campsites, and all registered campers have access to flushing toilets and water spigots. Best suited for tent camping and small camping trailers, the real appeal of Plaskett Creek Campground is its proximity to Sand Dollar Beach, the largest beach in Big Sur and one of the most popular for fishing, swimming, and surfing.

Address: 69345 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/lpnf/recarea/?recid=10913

7. Hearst San Simeon State Park

San Simeon State Park elephant seal rookery | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a more affordable campground close to Big Sur, Hearst San Simeon is located less than 20 miles south of Ragged Point, also known as the Gateway to Big Sur. Hearst San Simeon features two campgrounds with over 200 sites available for tents and RVs. The San Simeon Creek Campground has 115 sites close to the ocean, with flushing toilets and coin-operated showers available.

The Washburn Campground is one mile inland and is considered primitive with only pit toilets available—making it one of the most affordable campgrounds on this part of the coast.

Seasonal opportunities to see hundreds of elephant seals are found on the coastal portions of the state park. The fantastic Hearst Castle is also a short drive from the campgrounds, providing a look into one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in California.

Address: 500 San Simeon-Monterey Creek Road, Cambria, California

Official site: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=590

8. Riverside Campground & Cabins

Big Sur River in the fall

In the central region of the Big Sur coast, this commercial camping facility offers tent camping, RV parking, and cabin dwelling. On the banks of the Big Sur River, this modern campground features hot showers, flushing toilets, and 16 acres of redwood forest to explore. Relaxing is one of the most popular activities at Riverside Campground, as the Big Sur River gently babbles next to the campsites. Riverside Campground facilitates winter camping with heated cabins and full hookups for RVs.

Address: 47020 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.riversidecampground.com/

9. Fernwood Campground & Resort

Pfeiffer Beach near Fernwood Campground & Resort | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Pfeiffer Beach, Fernwood Campground & Resort features options to spend the night surrounded by redwoods and the Big Sur River. Centrally located along the Big Sur Coast, Fernwood offers tent and RV campsites, forest cabins, and canvas tents, as well as a motel with 12 standard rooms. A general store, restaurant, and laundry facility are also found at Fernwood, and two large bath houses are shared by camping guests.

Address: 47200 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.fernwoodbigsur.com/

10. Arroyo Seco Campground

Arroyo Seco Campground | Joe Lachoff / photo modified

Operated by the Los Padres National Forest, Arroyo Seco is a mountainous campground most easily accessed from Highway 101, on the opposite side of the Santa Lucia Mountains from the ocean. At 1,200-feet elevation, the campground accommodates dry camping for tents and RVs, and provides campers with pit toilets and coin-operated showers.

The nearby Arroyo Seco River is popular for fishing and swimming, and the surrounding Ventana Wilderness is ripe for day-use and multi-day exploring.

11. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Best known for day-use activities like coastal canyon hiking trails and amazing overlooks of an 80-foot waterfall plummeting into the ocean (McWay Falls), Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has exactly two primitive campsites available. Visitors should consider themselves lucky to stay at these tent-only, walk-in campsites, which are highly coveted and reservable online up to six months in advance.

Located on the opposite side of Highway 1 from the day-use area, the two environment campsites at Julia Pfeiffer Burns offer panoramic views, pit toilets, and a coastal solitude found at few other campgrounds in Big Sur. Alongside personal gear, campers need to carry in all the water and firewood they need for the night on the almost half-mile hike to the sites. Reservations are strictly enforced at these popular campsites, and overnight guests need to check in at the entrance kiosk before occupying their site.

Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=578

12. Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera Beach

On the northern Big Sur coastline, Andrew Molera State Park is laced with hiking trails and ocean access. Winter storms and severe flooding has shuttered the Trail Camp at Andrew Molera as of spring of 2019, though cleanup efforts are actively underway to reopen the 17 sites. Much of Andrew Molera State Park is still open to the public, including the one-mile trail that crosses the Big Sur River and accesses a quiet ocean coast.

Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, California

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=582

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