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Can You Camp in Big Sur? What You Need to Know

Can You Camp in Big Sur? What You Need to Know

One of the most dramatic and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in the country is the Big Sur region in California. The area has many small towns and villages with a steady stream of tourists visiting year-round. If you want to experience all the area offers, you’ll need to stay for several days. There are many hotels and Airbnbs in Big Sur for a more luxurious experience. But can you camp in Big Sur?

Today, we’ll share all you need to know about camping in Big Sur and where you can legally set up camp! Let’s get started!

Big Sur is Famous for its Natural Beauty for a Reason

Big Sur has a reputation for incredible views. It’s easy to enjoy and take them in, whether driving along California’s Route 1 coastal highway or exploring one of the six state parks in the region. The area’s natural beauty highlights the coastal cliffs, but thick groves of redwoods, oaks, and pines also fill the space. When visiting, expect to find blooming wildflowers dotting the coastal grasslands with vibrant colors and rolling waves crashing along the coastal cliffs. The stunning natural beauty is easy to enjoy during any season of the year.

An Adventure Driving Down Big Sur | MOTM Vlog 85

Where is Big Sur?

Big Sur sits along the central portion of California’s Pacific Coast. It’s halfway between Pismo Beach and San Francisco. This area is a primary stop on California’s 656-mile scenic drive along Highway 1.

While there are no specific boundaries for the Big Sur region, people generally describe it as the 71-mile stretch between Malpaso Creek and San Carpóforo Creek. The area sometimes feels very remote but is home to about 1,800 to 2,000 residents. If you’re visiting San Francisco, it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Big Sur, but the views cause the time to fly by quickly.

Pro Tip: Spend the night snoozing at any of these 7 Best Places for Pismo Beach Camping.

Scenic view of Big Sur, California
The impressive California Coast is the perfect destination for a camping trip.

What is Special About Big Sur?

The Big Sur region is unique because residents and agencies have fought to protect it. Decades ago, John Pfeiffer sold 700 acres to the State of California instead of a land developer who wanted to construct a sub-division.

This saved the natural beauty of the area, which makes it possible for more than seven million visitors to enjoy the views today. Finding a comparable spot with such dramatic landscapes and natural beauty is nearly impossible.

Big Sur is the perfect spot for residents of many Californian cities to escape the hustle and bustle. Many visit to seek peace and tranquility. There are even wellness retreat centers where visitors can focus on self-care while in the area.

Whether you book a spot at one of the retreat centers or just want to cruise along with the windows down to enjoy the fresh air of Big Sur, it’s easy to leave the region feeling refreshed.

Woman with tent pitched along Big Sur.
Camping in Big Sur is best from September to November.

What’s the Best Time to Camp At Big Sur?

There’s never a wrong time to visit Big Sur, but the region’s peak tourist season runs from April to October. However, the summer months are slightly busier as families take road trips and vacations.

If you want to experience Big Sur with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, September to November is an excellent time to visit. However, the Pacific Ocean is chilly all year and rarely gets above 70 degrees. Don’t expect to take a dip unless you plan to pack a thick wetsuit or don’t mind swimming in chilly water.

Is Camping Allowed in Big Sur?

There are several private and state-owned campgrounds in Big Sur. However, camping in California state parks can be tricky as the parks fill up during peak season. Reservations go almost as fast as they become available. You’ll likely need to book campsites at least six months in advance.

Big Sur is in the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest, which has ten campgrounds, two group campgrounds, and dispersed camping options.

However, the area frequently experiences weather-related closures. You need to contact the Monterey Ranger District at (831) 242-0619 to confirm availability and access.

Pro Tip: Want to snooze in the sand? We uncovered 10 Options Where You Can Go Beach Camping in California.

Highway 1 view along Big Sur
Avoid camping on Highway 1 and instead stay at a private campground.

How Much Does It Cost to Camp at Big Sur?

Don’t expect to find budget-friendly pricing on anything in Big Sur. Those priceless views aren’t cheap. If you’re staying in one of the state park campgrounds, expect to pay $35 to $50 per night and $65 to $100+ per night at private campgrounds. However, this can be a relatively inexpensive way to stay in the area compared to the cost of other overnight accommodations.

Can You Park Overnight on Highway 1?

California’s Highway 1 was once full of premier overnight parking spots, but unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. You can find many sites still listed on outdated websites as available for overnight parking, but that isn’t the case any longer. Don’t take something as truth because you read it on the internet.

There have been reports of law enforcement cracking down on parking overnight along the highway. These tickets typically cost much more than any cheap hotel. If you’re planning to spend several days exploring the Pacific Coast Highway, plan accordingly and reserve campsites or hotel rooms.

Tent pitched for dispersed camping along California Coast.
Give dispersed camping a try when exploring Big Sur, California.

Best Big Sur Camping Options

There are some excellent Big Sur camping options if you want to stay in the wilderness. Let’s look at a few you might consider for your next Big Sur adventure.

Big Sur Campground & Cabins

Address: 47000 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Amenities: Big Sur Campground & Cabins offers something for almost anyone. You’ll find a playground with swings, slides, and climbing structures for kids to burn off energy.

There are also yoga, meditation, and other wellness activities. Also, inner tubes are available for guests to float in the nearby river. You can grab anything you may need during your trip from the camp store and catch up on that laundry pile at the on-site coin laundry. 

RV sites can accommodate trailers and motorhomes up to 40 feet long and come with a picnic table, fire pit, water, and electric hookups. There is a dump station for guests to dump their tanks during their stay.

Pet-Friendly: Pets are welcome at campsites, but not in the cabins. There is a $5 per pet nightly fee for all guests with pets.

Why You’ll Love It: The park is 11 acres of Big Sur wilderness. Campsites sit among massive redwoods and along the banks of the Big Sur River. It’s a 60+ year-old campground home to many happy campers exploring Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10 – Enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Big Sur by floating the river!

Camping At Big Sur Campground & Cabins With Kids Review

Riverside Campground & Cabins

Address: 47020 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Amenities: There are 12 RV sites and 22 tent sites at Riverside Campground & Cabins. RVs up to 34 feet in length can squeeze into one of these sites. Each site has a fire pit and picnic table, and you can pick up gifts, groceries, or camping supplies at the camp store.

RV Campsites provide 20 amp electric service and water at the site. However, there are no sewer connections or dump stations in the campground. Tent sites are rustic sites with no electricity or water. There are hot showers for guests that cost $0.25 per three minutes. So ensure you bring your quarters!

Pet-Friendly: The campground is pet-friendly, but pet fees are $30 plus tax per pet nightly for guests in cabins and rooms. Those guests with pets staying in tent or RV sites will have a $5 per pet per night fee.

Why You’ll Love It: Riverside Campground & Cabins offers various rooms, cabins, and campsites. They have 34 campsites and 11 cabins spread over 10 acres for camping along the Big Sur River. The campground has a mixed forest with Maple, Oak, Laurel, Poplar, and Coastal Redwood trees.

If you’re camping in an RV, you’ll be on or near the river, and if you’re in a tent, you can camp among their mighty redwoods. Guests use the river for swimming, wading, tubing, and soaking.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 8/10 – This is an excellent campground if you love nature sounds and quiet. However, between pet fees and paid showers, it can make you feel like you’re getting nickel and dimed. This can be a fantastic place to stay if you avoid these fees.

Riverside Campground & Cabins in Big Sur, California ... RV and Tent Sites

Fernwood Resort

Address: 47200 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Amenities: The campground has two bathhouses, a dishwashing area, and a laundry facility. Most campsites have water, electricity, a picnic table, and a fire ring. The campground has a dump station but charges $20 to use it. Some of their sites are on the Big Sur River and provide a natural camping space. You can float in the river or enjoy some time at the yoga stage and grass area.

Pet-Friendly: There is a $5 per pet nightly fee. Pets must remain on a leash, and you cannot leave them unattended. The park allows dogs at the grill, but guests must eat on the back deck.

Why You’ll Love It: The campground was established in 1932 and sits in the heart of Big Sur Valley. Whether looking for a hike, beach exploration, or horseback riding, it’s all easily accessible.

The park has a rare albino redwood tree next to the check-in kiosk. You’ll have quick and easy access to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park when you stay here.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10 – This campground’s location attracts the most guests. It’s a small campground with a prime location. You can camp on the river and be among the trees.

Pro Tip: After exploring Big Sur, head out on an epic adventure to one of these 7 Best National Parks in California.

Glamping in Adventure Tent @ Fernwood Resort | Marecar Anne

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Address: Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920

Amenities: There are 189 RV and tent sites on or near the Big Sur River. There are many activities and programs on weekends during peak camping season at Big Sur.

These sites are dry camping, so there are no hookups at any of the sites, even RV campsites. There are freshwater connections and showers throughout the campground. The campground has a free dump station for guests but charges $10 for non-guests. 

Pet-Friendly: The park is pet-friendly, but dogs must always remain on leashes. Guests cannot bring their dogs on trails within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Why You’ll Love It: There are many trails throughout the park. You’ll find everything from .5-mile round trip trails to a nearby 23-mile one-way trail. If you want to experience Big Sur, this is one of the best places to stay.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10 – Why camp near the state park when you can camp inside it? However, ensure you give yourself plenty of time to snag a reservation as they go very quickly.


Enjoy Epic Coastal Views While Camping in Big Sur

A visit to Big Sur will be full of epic memories you’ll never forget. Staying in one of the campgrounds in Big Sur can allow you several days to explore the coast and relax among the natural landscapes. Few places offer so much for visitors to see and do simply by driving or walking around the area. Stay back from the edges and keep your eyes on the road when navigating Highway 1.

Where will you stay when you visit Big Sur? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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