Big Sur camping epitomizes the rugged California coastline with towering redwoods and roaring surf.
Perfectly positioned on Highway 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway) between Monterey and San Simeon, Big Sur is tucked against the backdrop of the Santa Lucia Range. Privately owned Big Sur campgrounds and cottages dot the land, while coveted state park spots suit all camping styles, from walk-in tent sites with fire rings and RV hookups to tent cabins with hot showers. Pitch your tent under Redwood trees in an old-growth forest, or sleep beside the Big Sur River. Crown jewels include the 80-foot McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park's own 60-foot cascade. Book early, as the best Big Sur camping can book up six months in advance.
Pfeiffer Falls is just one of the many gems to discover at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, ideal for a day hike or evening stroll through Redwood groves and river gorges. Pfeiffer Beach offers a sheltered cove known for its tide pools—well worth the 2-mile windy drive down. Nearby Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to McWay Falls, best viewed from the McWay Falls Overlook Trail. The best Big Sur camping includes 174 sites at Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground or two secluded, walk-in campsites at Julia Pfeiffer Burns Campground.
There's no car or RV camping at Andrew Molera State Park, but it’s a short trek to the 24 walk-in tent camping sites in an open meadow at the Andrew Molera Trail Camp. This Big Sur campground is well situated for exploring miles of hiking trails. Set off on the Bluffs and Panorama Trail or the Andrew Molera Beach Trail for beach access and views on the Big Sur coast.
Within Los Padres National Forest, this federally protected wilderness includes some 200 miles of trails. Hikers will encounter a varied terrain, from riparian creeks to the steep, rocky ridges of the Santa Lucia mountains. Backpackers heading into the backcountry are rewarded with miles-high views. Be prepared if you decide to explore the terrain and be sure to observe any fire restrictions.
Take a side trip into this scenic area, with Monterey Bay and Carmel-by-the-Sea offering Pacific ocean views for coastal campers just 15 miles from the inland Carmel Valley. Stop for wine tasting at a variety of tasting rooms, head to Garland Ranch Regional Park’s many hiking trails, from oak woodlands to ridge trails with views of the Monterey Peninsula, or hit the horseshoe-shaped bay’s Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Considered the gateway to the Big Sur area, this coastal village is home to Hearst Castle, the Piedras Blancas Light Station, and a rookery where you'll find colonies of northern elephant seals year-round. San Simeon beaches are popular for picnics, while fishing is possible from the pier.