The breathtaking wilderness and amazing views make for the perfect place to hike, backpack, camp, and so more! The high season stretches from April to October, but Big Sur is gorgeous all year-round, so no matter when you visit you’re always in for a treat.
Just keep in mind that Big Sur is wildly popular on the weekends, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds then it’s best to visit during the week. Several national parks allow visitors to camp for free along the forest service roads, provided you follow basic guidelines. In Big Sur, Los Padres National Forest stretches through the entire region and has countless great spots where you can pitch a tent. With some surrounded by gorgeous forest and others boasting stunning ocean views, here are some of the best tent & RV camping options you’ll find in Big Sur.
Set in a beautiful meadow, Andrew Molera State Park offers 24 campsites available on a first-come first-serve basis for a maximum of four people per site. This area is relatively undeveloped, but has picnic tables, fire pits, food storage & garbage bins, and restrooms, so you won’t be completely roughing it. Offering standard and premium riverfront sites, this crazy popular campsite is often fully-booked. Each campsite comes with parking, a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table, while showers, toilets, and a dump station are only a short walk away. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is immensely popular for its ocean views and 80-foot waterfall, making its campsite a hot commodity. A picnic table, fire ring, and pit toilets are the only thing provided by the campground, so make sure to bring water, wood, and something to pack out your trash.
Visitors typically reserve these campsites six months in advance to experience the best of tent camping in Big Sur in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Like most other sites, camping reservations in Big Sur for Limekiln State Park open six months in advance and often sell out quickly.
Beach access and scenic trails are nearby, securing Kirk Creek as one of the best places to camp in Big Sur.
Bring a tent or RV, but bear in mind while there are vault toilets, no water, dump station, or hookups are on-site. Take your pick of a yurt, a grand (and autonomous) tent, a human-size nest, or a twig hut. Resort amenities include complimentary buffet breakfast, pool, hot tub, showers, and restrooms.
This intimate venue prioritizes a quiet and peaceful atmosphere so all guests can appreciate the best of Big Sur camping. For guests staying at the campground and doing tent or RV camping in Big Sur, many sites have water, electricity, a picnic table, and a fire ring, while also having access to two bath houses with showers, a laundry facility, and a dishwashing facility. Fernwood Resort Bar & Grill has a variety of delicious choices for lunch and dinner, and there’s also an espresso cafe on-site.
If you’re not into backcountry camping in Big Sur but still want to experience the awesome scenery or fun activities, we suggest you stay in nearby Monterey or Carmel. Carmel River Inn is a slice of paradise at the entrance of the Big Sur coast. Choose from their country-style inn rooms or their unique cottages as the quiet surroundings are the perfect place to refresh for your next adventure.
Whether you’re into outdoor activities or shopping and wine tasting, Carmel River Inn puts you in the perfect location to have the trip of a lifetime. Spectacular ocean views set the tone for a relaxing and luxurious stay at Tickle Pink Inn. Complimentary amenities are around every corner as guests enjoy a bottle of champagne on ice, an evening wine and cheese reception, movie rentals, breakfast, and much more. All rooms and suites offer striking ocean or cove views and a private furnished balcony.
Along with free breakfast, other complimentary amenities are guided nature walks, stargazing, the use of Lexus vehicles, and more. The award-winning spa offers countless services to ensure rejuvenation, and guests can also choose to wind down in two infinity spas, a heated swimming pool, or the fitness center.
While some people just pass through for the scenery, true nature lovers absolutely have to go hiking in Big Sur. Only 0.64 miles long, you’ll get southern and northern views of the coast on this out-and-back hike.
The trail ranges from easy to hard, and you’ll see everything from the redwood forest to canyon and ocean views. The 4.5-mile trail has an elevation gain of 1,600 feet, and whether you hike the whole loop or only some of it, you’ll still get some great views.
The highly recommended Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trail is a moderate hike that can be done by those of all ages. For a bit more of a challenge, hike through gorgeous oak trees to the overlook bench for picturesque views of the Big Sur River Gorge.
It’s an out-and-back hike, but you can also take a short walk to the coast to get some views of the scenic rocky beach. You’re guaranteed to get a good workout, with amazing coastal bluff views, if you hike the Andrew Molera Loop.
The 8.8-mile trail has an elevation gain of 1,100 feet, and its switchbacks will yield perfect views of Point Sur and its lighthouse.
Giving you access to a number of remote beaches, if you’re up for a challenge then Andrew Molera Loop is the ideal hike.
The first couple miles require a steep uphill trek alongside the mountains as you climb the coastal ridge, but eventually it will level out. With a total elevation gain around 1,800 feet, the hike may be hard on the lungs, but it’s easy on the eyes.
Redwood groves and streams decorate this rocky and steep trail that culminates at the spectacular Sykes Hot Springs. The elevation tops out around 1,700 feet, and you’ll arrive at the hot springs around mile marker 10.
The strenuous up-and-back hike starts hikers off among switchbacks before opening up to a mainly straight trail on the canyon over Villa Creek. Over the six-mile adventure tree and plant life as well as creek, ocean, and mountain views are on display. The true reward comes at the end where Villa Creek Camp is home to several small waterfalls and pools. Scenic coastal horseback riding tours are offered in the historic Andrew Molera State Park.
Big Sur’s beauty is undeniable as you ride through meadows, streams, secluded beaches, and redwood groves. This nonprofit arts center, bookstore, and performance venue was once home to author Henry Miller.
Nowadays, the library is known to host a variety of community events including book signings and lectures. Pfeiffer Beach is the perfect place to relax, swim, or build a purple sand castle.
There are a number of state parks in Big Sur where you can do countless things like check out wildlife, chill on the beach, and have a picnic. A great example is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which has everything from beautiful wildlife to tide pools to an 80-foot waterfall.
A great way to feed your shopping habit is by taking home souvenirs from this unforgettable experience. They may be on a trail or hiding behind a rock, so be sure to watch your step and don’t put your hand anywhere you can’t see clearly. Encounters with mountain lions in Big Sur are rare, but it is their natural habitat so seeing one isn’t out of the question. Black bears are spotted occasionally, and typically the same rules apply for them as they do for mountain lions.
The increased efficiency and convenience of many camping stoves make it super simple to take your chef skills from home to Big Sur. Even though the weather in Big Sur is pretty great all year-round, temperatures can get very chilly at night.
Depending on your camping style, consider buying a larger tent than necessary to give you extra storage space. You’ll probably be wearing it for hours at a time, so make sure it’s comfortable, high quality, and can hold everything you need. Even though pretty much every cell phone has a flashlight, a headlamp will make it much easier to navigate through the darkness.
Some camping flashlights even transform into lanterns, making them great for providing continued light.
Cut down on plastic and bring a reusable water bottle with you on your Big Sur camping trip. If you buy new hiking shoes before your trip, make sure you spend time breaking them in before you get to Big Sur.
This cliffside restaurant offers dramatic views, delicious food, and a wine list with over 400 selections. Once you pair their famous roast chicken dinner or ambrosia burger with a glass of their fine wine, you’re guaranteed to want to come back for more.
If you’re a guest at the Post Ranch Inn you’ll get a free buffet breakfast, but if not then you should definitely make reservations ASAP for their lunch or dinner. Dishes are simple yet hearty, and include everything from spicy seafood saffron paella to grilled grass-fed filet mignon.
Before you leave you absolutely must try one of their scrumptious desserts – we recommend the flourless brownie with hot fudge or the lemon ice cream pie! If sandwiches aren’t your thing, they have a variety of other goodies available, including calzones, chicken, and salads.
If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg but still want delicious food, Big Sur Deli is the place for you. No matter what your travel style or personality, get ready to fall in love with Big Sur!