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

Written by Brad Lane
Updated May 26, 2022

Camping is the best way to experience the sheer mountain cliffs and dramatic ocean of Big Sur on the Central California coast. Redwood forests, ambling creeks, and ocean bluffs host these stellar campgrounds, spanning nearly 90 miles of Highway 1 between Hearst Castle and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Big Sur attracts millions of tourists each year–many of whom are looking to pitch a tent or park an RV, making campgrounds on the Big Sur coast in high demand. Campsites in California State Parks can be reserved six months in advance, and most campsites along the Big Sur coast book months ahead of time. This popularity is well warranted, though, and 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 are also reservable ahead of time. Some commercial campgrounds, like Ventana Campground, offer unique "glamping" opportunities to ease the experience of roughing it.

Other campgrounds in Big Sur are available through the United States Forest Service, which oversees the surrounding Los Padres National Forest These primitive campgrounds often provide more affordable options to camp along the Big Sur coast.

Find the top places to stay where the mountain meets the sea with our list of the best campgrounds near Big Sur/Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Campground in the redwoods of 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 at the heart of the Big Sur coast. This vast landscape includes redwood forests, scenic rivers, and stunning viewpoints of the coastline. And it's often a definitive stop on a Big Sur vacation thanks to its several scenic hiking trails, visitor resources, and surplus of campgrounds.

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. Cabins are available to rent at Pfeiffer Big Sur, and every overnight camper has access to flushing toilets and coin-operated showers. General camping supplies and hot meals are available at the Big Sur Lodge near the park's entrance.

Days are 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. The River Trail also connects to the Pfeifer Falls Trail, continuing through a lush forest. For a longer hike within the park, the Buzzard's Roost Trail is a three-mile loop that exposes great views of the ocean.

Pfeiffer Falls Trail
Pfeiffer Falls Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Pfeiffer Big Sur is a great home base for exploring other coastal attractions nearby. It's 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.

Address: Pfeiffer Big Sur Road, Big Sur, California

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

2. Ventana Campground

Ventana Campground
Ventana Campground | Basheer Tome / photo modified

This privately owned campground is within a coastal redwood canyon at the heart of the Big Sur coast. It's exclusively for tent camping and offers over 60 campsites that blend into the natural environment. Ventana 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
Kirk Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Within Los Padres National Forest, every site at Kirk Creek Campground features dramatic ocean views. The campground sits atop an ocean bluff on the west side of Highway 1 and is 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 the 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
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. It has space for tents and RVs and features one- and two-bedroom camping cabins with private bathrooms.

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. Inner tubes are also available to rent for soaking in the Big Sur River. 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.

Flushing toilets and showers are free to use for all overnight guests. Big Sur Campground enforces their quiet time of 10pm to 8am with a gentle but strict touch, making it easy to sleep through the night.

Address: 47000 CA-1, Big Sur, California

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

5. Redwood Sites, Limekiln State Park

Redwood sites, Limekiln State Park
Redwood sites, Limekiln State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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, and panoramic ocean vistas are experienced in a day at Limekiln State Park. The park also lends access to the Ventana Wilderness

The park has 24 campsites available, split in half by ocean sites and redwood sites. The two separate camp areas aren't far from one another, but each offers a unique visiting experience. The redwood sites tend to run a bit cooler and with a deeper stillness compared to the waves lapping near the ocean sites. The redwood sites have their own restroom facility with flushing toilets and coin-operated showers.

A big appeal of the dozen redwood sites at Limekiln State Park is the quick access to the park's redwood hiking trails. This proximity includes the half-mile Limekiln Trail that navigates across a series of wooden bridges before encountering four lime kiln artifacts.

Address: 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, California

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

6. Ocean Sites, Limekiln State Park

Ocean sites at Limekiln State Park
Ocean sites at Limekiln State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Of the 24 sites available at Limekiln State Park, half are available extremely close to the shore. The scenic Limekiln Creek Bridge stretches above the 12 ocean sites at Limekiln, lending entry to an incredibly beautiful and rugged ocean scene.

The 12 ocean sites are a bit close together, but you can't beat the location. It's a 30-second walk to the ocean, where a rocky amphitheater puts on quite the show come high tide. The sites aren't suited for RVs or trailers, and thanks to their tight spaces, they're perfect for small rigs like camper vans.

The ocean sites also tout one of the hottest showers on the coast. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and access to flushing restrooms.

7. Plaskett Creek Campground

Sand Dollar Beach near Plaskett Creek Campground
Sand Dollar Beach near Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek Campground is operated by Los Padres National Forest and features 44 sites on the east side of Highway 1. It's best suited for tent camping and small camping trailers. The breaking surf of the nearby ocean is audible from most campsites, and all registered campers have access to flushing toilets and water spigots.

The proximity to Sand Dollar Beach is the real appeal of Plaskett Creek Campground. Sand Dollar is one of the largest beaches in Big Sur and 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

8. San Simeon Creek Campground, Hearst San Simeon State Park

San Simeon State Park elephant seal rookery
Piedra Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For more camping options close to Big Sur, Hearst San Simeon State Park is less than 20 miles south of Ragged Point – also known as the Gateway to Big Sur. It's a popular state park for several reasons, including its array of administered beaches along the coast. It's also home to the world-famous Hearst Castle, providing a look into one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in California.

Hearst San Simeon features two campgrounds with over 200 sites available for tents and RVs. The San Simeon Creek Campground has over 130 sites closest to the ocean, with flushing toilets and coin-operated showers nearby. No electrical hookups are available. A short trail from the west side of the campground leads underneath the PCH to the beach.

Less than five miles north of the campground, seasonal opportunities to see hundreds of elephant seals are found on the coastal portions of the state park. One of the best viewing points is at the Piedra Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, where hundreds of these massive mammals frequent the shoreline.

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

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

9. Washburn Campground, Hearst San Simeon State Park

The Washburn Campground at Hearst San Simeon State Park is one of the most affordable places to camp near Big Sur. The approximately 68 sites available sit a mile inland from the ocean and the other campground at the park, San Simeon Creek Campground.

As of 2022, overnight rates at Washburn Campground are $20 per night, compared to $35 dollars typically found at state parks along the Big Sur coast. This lower price also makes it the most affordable place to stay when spending the night on a weekend trip to the nearby Hearst Castle.

The Washburn Campground is considered primitive, with only vault toilets and potable water available. Sites accommodate both tents and RVs and are relatively well spread out. Washburn doesn't tend to book out as quickly as other campgrounds, also making it a more viable option for a last-minute trip.

10. Riverside Campground & Cabins

Big Sur River in the fall
Big Sur River in the fall

This commercial camping facility offers tent camping, RV parking, and cabin dwelling on the banks of the Big Sur River, in the central Big Sur region. It's a modern campground with hot showers, flushing toilets, and 16 acres of redwood forest to explore. Over 30 standard sites are available, alongside a dozen cabins.

Relaxing is one of the most popular activities at Riverside Campground, as the Big Sur River gently babbles next to the campsites. And the campground is a popular spot for winter camping with heated cabins and full hookups for RVs.

Address: 47020 CA-1, Big Sur, California

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

11. Fernwood Campground & Resort

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

Fernwood Campground & Resort features options to spend the night surrounded by redwoods and the Big Sur River. This private campground is centrally located along the Big Sur Coast, just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Pfeiffer Beach.

The resort has tent and RV campsites, forest cabins, and canvas tents. There's also a motel with 12 standard rooms. A general store, restaurant, and laundry facility are also onsite. Two large bath houses are shared by camping guests.

Address: 47200 CA-1, Big Sur, California

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

12. Arroyo Seco Campground

Arroyo Seco Campground
Arroyo Seco Campground | Joe Lachoff / photo modified

Arroyo Seco is a forest service campground most easily accessed from Highway 101, on the opposite side of the Santa Lucia Mountains from the ocean. Los Padres National Forest operates the campground, providing a rustic and semi-rustic camping loop. The semi-rustic loop includes flushing restrooms and coin-operated showers.

The campground is at 1,200-feet in elevation with lush shrubbery and oak trees all around. 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.

13. Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera Beach
Andrew Molera Beach

Andrew Molera State Park is on the northern Big Sur coastline, laced with hiking trails and ocean access. It's also home to a popular Trail Camp, which requires a short walk to reach. Twenty-two standard sites are available, complete with picnic tables and fire rings. The sites are approximately a quarter-mile from the parking area.

The hike-in sites at Andrew Molera State Park must be reserved ahead of time. And sites can't be reserved within 48 hours of arrival. Like all state park campgrounds, sites are available six months in advance.

Every overnight guest at the Trail Camp has access to flushing restrooms and potable water, as well as individual food storage lockers.

Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, California

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

14. Ponderosa Campground

This Forest Service campground is high in the mountains of Big Sur. It's accessible with a 13-mile drive east from the Kirk Creek Campground closer to Highway 1. The drive is not accessible to RVs over 35 feet in length.

Twenty-one campsites are available at Ponderosa Campground, 19 of which are reservable. The sites are scattered along the Nacimiento River and several shade-producing trees. Most sites include paved parking areas, but no electric hookups are available.

15. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

McWay Falls at 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 coastal solitude found at few other campgrounds in Big Sur. Campers must carry in all the water, firewood, and gear 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

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