Hikers wishing to access the beach, Creamery Meadow, Ridge, Bluffs, Panorama and Spring trails must wade across the Big Sur River. Tip: Try to get a campsite with a fire ring and picnic table! Poison Oak is everywhere. Creek crossings found on the hike can be difficult if the water flow happens to be particularly fierce. For more than 40 years, Big Sur Guides has been leading hikes in Big Sur. 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. Whether you’re free camping in Big Sur or at a paid campground, you’re going to want to keep this info in mind. Keep in mind that accommodation in the Big Sur area is EXPENSIVE. Below, I cover the best free spots for camping in Big Sur that can be accessed by car…. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it. For most paid campsites, booking your campsite in advance is 100% necessary. I hope you found the information in this guide helpful! 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 hike to its summit is the most dramatic by far in the Big Sur area. Locals in Big Sur have had to endure a lot of shit from tourists (literally, in some cases). Primarily a Ventana Wilderness Trail, the first 2.5 miles skirt above and around Pfeiffer Big Sur's campground and River Gorge. Always use caution when crossing streams, and simply don’t risk it if you are in doubt. This might be unnecessary, but you never know. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world's wild places and spaces. 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]. Artists, hippies, surfers, hikers, beach bums, burnouts, and every shade of tourist ventures to this land… that land is called Big Sur. 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. You need to be very “on it” if you have any hopes of securing a spot and reservations can only be made up to six months in advance. McWay Falls. From San Francisco, northern Big Sur is roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive. Note: Be aware that there is TONS of poison oak in the area. Close, EPIC Big Sur Camping Guide • Best Places and Hikes in 2021. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. River Loop Trail: 4 mile loop. Because the hike is rather short, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hike in with plenty of water on-hand too. If you do camp I think it best to depart the campsite at first light. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. The Plaskett Ridge Road located in southern Big Sur is great for those with a 4×4 vehicle. The Pacific Coast Highway 1 runs along the Big Sur coast, sandwiched between by the dramatic Santa Lucia Mountains rising abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. #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]. Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Certainly 99.9% of people drive to Big Sur. Our guide, Everett, took us on a spectacular hike up Tan Bark Trail. This is … It’s highly recommended to make use of flameless products like battery-powered candles to avoid human-caused wildfires. Making a Big Sur camping trip or two is without a doubt the best way to take it all in. In that case, perhaps you better consider some insurance before you go hunting backcountry places to camp in Big Sur. They aren’t super large, about 8 feet in diameter. "I recommend driving … © 2021, The Broke Backpacker. The campsites at Julia Pfeiffer book out faster than a $2 rodeo in rural America. California is the most populated state in the US. Our favourite travel backpack is the Aer Travel Pack 2. The campground here is massive (174 sites) and can be quite the circus at any time of year. 2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. Bummer. Trails vary depending on weather conditions and participants’ skill levels. Some hikes are tougher, some will go through forests, and others to beaches, guaranteeing everyone can find a hike they love. Drive the road to its end, about 8-9 miles where it stops at Bottcher’s Gap. Don’t let that put you off! 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. Join me as I break down the best time of year to go camping in Big Sur, the best free campsites, top paid campsites, the best car camping spots, and maybe even a glamping spot or two. 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. Backpacking Big Sur isn’t exactly difficult but it isn’t all that straightforward either. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough. 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. June 2020 – Note: The Trail campground at Andrew Molera is closed and has been for some time. The ridgeline trail begins along the north flank of Cone Peak and follows a craggy ridge with sweeping views of the coast and mountains. Hike through coastal oak forest. All Sweeping views of the Big Sur valley. The view of the coastline from the outdoor deck is … Despite the tourist hordes, Big Sur is still one of my favorite sections of the coast I have explored – anywhere on earth. Please note: Wilderness travel in the Big Sur backcountry during the summer months can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening. Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? 66 reviews. THE BEST WEEKEND BIG SUR BACKPACKING TRIP. The Nacimiento-Ferguson Road was the classic free Big Sur camping spot. 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). Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here is what the Forest Service said in their statement: “A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for not more than six months or both.”. The hot springs is about 8 feet across and a couple of feet deep--about the size for 4 adults, and it stays around 100 degrees depending on rain. “My friends and I had driven up to Big … Upon checking the availability schedule, I found both campsites are fully booked for the next six months. Warm temperatures are really felt in the interior when you move away from the coast. Note: The Forest Service order says you can’t camp within 300 feet of the road. In my opinion, the best Big Sur campgrounds involves a trek or hike. In the summer, the state park campgrounds are booked out every night, often months in advance. The easiest start is from Bottcher’s Gap. Camping is one thing, but hitting the road is another. Every awesome place has its downsides though. Campsites for 1 car and tent costs $35/night. We’ve hiked Big Sur many times, but wanted history and knowledge of the area, plants and trees. The North Coast Trail hike to Cook Spring Camp is less committing than Sykes. More information. The best camping option is probably Lone Pine Camp, though you can wild camp in many other places should you choose to. Urinate at least 70 steps from water sources. As is the case with most places, far fewer people set out on foot to explore a place. Unfortunately, the last two years have been hard on the Ventana Wilderness, Big Sur’s key attraction for backpackers. Camp at your own risk. In the past, some folks even parked here semi-permanently, though I think law enforcement has put an end to long-term camping here. Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going . Big Sur is blessed with four beautiful state parks, and each has something special on offer. One night backpacking trip to Big Sur, California. 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. That is if you don’t hit any traffic. The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. 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. Thanks for your support. The hike begins at the Ventana Wilderness ranger station parking lot. 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. We wanted a trail less traveled, ( especially during Covid ) and one we’ve never been on. One of the most common (and beloved) Big Sur activities is hiking. Once you know your style, check out some of our other excellent gear posts! Combine four different trails into a challenging but stunning hike in … 4. This city offers a lifestyle for anyone. 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”. I’m not sure exactly how many spots there are; possibly, nobody knows. A hike on the Ventana Double Cone Trail is a great opportunity to gain one of the best views in all of Big Sur. In fact, I would keep RV’s off of all of the free Big Sur camping spots I cover. DO NOT bushwhack through the vegetation unless you are 100% sure there is no Poison Oak. The pools can accommodate several adults (perfect for couples). There is no shortcut to get into and out of Big Sur by car. As one local put it to me: “Big Sur is blown out. The only access is via the Pacific Coast Highway (known from here on as Highway 1). Having a pleasant camping and trekking experience begins and ends with having the right gear. 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. Around holidays too, Highway 1 is totally nuts chockablock with holidayers driving the classic West Coast route. You might turn up on a Tuesday in late February only to find masses of people at every turn. 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. Periods of intense drought and heat do happen in the summer. Los Burros Road is another classic free Big Sur camping area that offers great views and peaceful camping. Sanitation and rubbish issues are a big problem on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way! To arrive, take Highway 1 south from Carmel for roughly 20 miles. Note: Users have reported Coast Road may be private property. Stay toasty warm on the road. I have seen insane traffic pile-ups, congestion, and masses of humanity just outside some of the popular state parks. Below are some of my favorite backcountry Big Sur camping spots…. There are plenty of awesome day hikes, secluded beaches, and jaw-dropping views (especially at sunset). In total, Kirk Creek has 35 paid campsites, costing $35/night. Here are some of my favorite hotels in Big Sur: There you have it, friends. The campsites are located in beautiful places, often with stunning views of the Pacific ocean, forest, or mountains. The best places for Plaskett Ridge Road camping is found towards the top of the hill where it flattens out and opens up to grassy meadows and hillsides. Remember to: But most of all, be good to Big Sur; be a responsible traveler. Try to get a campsite along the Big Sur River in the far back reaches of the campground. Don’t drive through the gate, even if it is open! The weather is mild with a potential for fewer people to be around, and the grey whales are migrating to the Arctic from March-April! The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Start from sea level and summit the highest coastal mountain in the contiguous 48 states. This trip offers all of the splendor of Big Sur without the crowds or regulations. The landscapes are dreamy as hell and will leave you very much “wowed” by the day’s end. Certainly, in the winter there tend to be fewer people on the roads. Keep that in mind when choosing a place to camp. The park contains four lime kilns from an 1887–1890 lime-calcining operation. 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. All the same, this is Big Sur we are talking about. Kirk Creek is certainly one of 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). Camping in California is one of the best ways to experience everything the state has to offer, and emptier campgrounds during low season can be very enjoyable indeed. Skip to main content. Big Sur Hiking Trails Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Overlook. Big Sur Hiking Trails & Local Tips. This route, however, is one of the best road trips in California. 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. Big Sur is not and cannot be densely populated due to the rugged nature and isolation of its topography. The campsites are magical, though for $30/night I have a hard time justifying camping at Julia Pfefier at all. 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. This hike leads to Cook Spring Camp, a rather primitive backcountry camp under a stand of sugar cone pine trees. You might show up in the summer and not see a single drop of water flowing. With zero facilities on offer, it is not a surprise that campers here have made a mess of things. Make a left at Palo Colorado Rd and drive through a remote cluster of houses dotted among some massive redwoods adorning the canyon. Free camping in Big Sur is a contentious issue. Pretty much as soon as you know you are coming to Big Sur, check the Julia Pfeiffer reservation website and book whatever is available within your time frame. The drive up the road isn’t super long, though it can be very steep in some places. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash. This trail offers the opportunity to take a dip in the Big Sur river. To start packing for your camping trip to Big Sur, you can by browsing our Camping Packing Master Checklist. Please prepare for difficult passes, brush, or water damage. Big Sur Land Trust 509 Hartnell Street, Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 625-5523 | info@bigsurlandtrust.org Tax ID# 94-2473415 The trailhead is located a quarter-mile up the road from the gift shop at Pfeiffer Big Sur … Enjoy this multi-day backpacking trip from Highway 1 to this scenic peak. Note: Cone Peak Rd (road leading to trailhead) is currently closed until further notice due to the Mill Fire Closure Order. After parking my truck at the visitors center and hiking 10 miles to the Sykes Hot Springs in the Ventana Wilderness, I found myself pitching my tent next to the Big Sur River with nobody in sight. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see). 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. Cost: $25/night; $10 extra for firewood. 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. Limekiln campground contains 24 sites which must be reserved ahead of time. Once it opens though, it is a hike not to be missed! Big Sur has no definitive borders, though the general consensus is that the above-mentioned stretch of highway and the surrounding mountains from south of Carmel to the north of San Simeon makes up greater Big Sur area. Try Prime EN Hello, Sign in Account & Lists Sign in Account & Lists Orders Try Prime Cart. 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. Go early in order to snag the best spots. Likewise, the opposite could be true. There is an endless amount of awesome Big Sur backcountry camping to uncover, and you’ll be reward with some of the best hiking in California state. 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. Limekiln is a small forested state park two miles south of Lucia. #3 - Pico Blanco via Coast Road and Little Sur Trail. This amazing trail, which starts at a Highway 1 pullout just 3.6 miles north of Ragged Point (or 45 miles south of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance). The official word from the Forest Service was that the camping along the road is forbidden until August 19th, 2020. Give some thought to this and how you’d like your Big Sur camping adventure served. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans! Extreme heat, impassable trails, and unrelenting topography conspire to make summer backpacking difficult for even the most experienced explorer. BIG SUR STATION: Located at 47555 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920.Big Sur Station is the information center for the Big Sur area. For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. If you come in season (end of summer), you can pick wild blackberries to your heart’s content. There are PLENTY of awesome hammock spots in Big Sur and along its beaches. #3 of 22 Outdoor Activities in Big Sur. Jeffrey Schaffer's Hiking the Big Sur Country: The Ventana Wilderness ($15.95, Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227) is an excellent resource. Subscribe: http://bit.ly/2s0KJ64Instagram: @lane.one.runShoes: http://bit.ly/2NtJfKXLightweight Stove: https://amzn.to/2OvAgJr 2.4 miles 550 feet Good luck, amigos! Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Note: For more adventure inspiration in California and the rest of America, check out our post on the most amazing hikes in the USA. However, the sad truth is that Big Sur has changed quite dramatically over the years. Don’t let your used toilet paper blow hither and thither in the wind. 10 reviews Hiking “I reached out to Lesli from Big Sur guides, shared my ideas and she was simply amazing.” See all Big Sur Guides and Hiking reviews Big Sur River Gorge. McWay Waterfall Trail. Big Sur Guides and Hiking. Explore the most popular backpacking trails near Big Sur with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you. Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. Though in the fall, winter, and spring, the flows can be epic. Most likely there will be other people camping up there as well. The only catch? I hope this track opens soon! Plus, they’re light which is perfect for hiking and camping in Big Sur’s backcountry! Any time of the year you could find people camping along this road. They are just too big, and turning around on these roads is impossible (mostly). Start early and avoid the heat of the day. Also, there is no ocean/beach access from within the park. The Plaskett Ridge Road is far more rugged than the Nacimiento-Ferguson road, thus it does not see the same amount of traffic. Since there are only 24 campsites available on any given day, be sure to get there early (very early in some cases) to ensure you snag a campsite. Lovers absolutely have to explain the necessity of a headlamp for camping five things I never hit the isn! Backpackers in 2021 first light huge, legendary traffic jams occur nearly on a daily basis from June-August big sur backpacking over. Summer backpacking difficult for even the most experienced explorer been for some time possible to hike Cone Peak and a! 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