Discover the Adventure
Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds

US Forest Service Campgrounds

Big Sur Forest Service campgrounds are on U.S. National Forest Service property, but are operated by Parks Management Company for the Forest Service.

These campgrounds range from eight camping sites to forty-four; from ocean views to thirteen miles inland; and from sea level to 2100 feet. The range of amenities varies as well, but each campground has its own charm!

For even more remote and isolated camping in Big Sur, backpack into the Ventana Wilderness, most of which is accessible only on foot.

According the GORP (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages) website, "The Ventana Wilderness contains 167,323 acres straddling the Santa Lucia Mountain Range approximately 120 miles south of San Francisco and 90 miles north of San Luis Obispo. The wilderness is entirely within Monterey County and the Los Padres National Forest."

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Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds:
Bottchers Gap Campground

Bottchers Gap is one of the smaller campgrounds in the Big Sur area, and it's located about eight miles inland, along the Palo Colorado Road.

It's open all year, and there are no reservations required - it's strictly first-come, first served.

You'll find twelve campsites set among the madrones and the oaks at about 2100 feet elevation.

Each campsite is equipped with a fire ring, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill.

Most of the sites are walk-ins (sorry, no RVs) from a common parking lot.

There's no potable water here, so pack your drinking water in with you, although there may be bottled water available from the campground manager. The facilities are of the outhouse variety.

The draw here is:

  • No crowds
  • Excellent hiking
  • Wonderful views of the Ventana Double Cones of the Santa Lucia Mountains
  • And you're camping in the woods!

Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds:
Kirk Creek Campground

Campground Ocean View; © Kevin ConnorsCampground Ocean View; © Kevin Connors

Kirk Creek Campground is situated on a bluff about 100 feet above the ocean.

The bluff is scattered with Monterey Pines, and the views are spectacular!

It's open all year, and in fact, the best time to come is October to May.

The weather is usually mild then, and there are fewer people. Reservations are required.

You'll find thirty-four campsites (RVs are allowed, but there are no hook-ups), and each site has a fire ring, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. There are water spigots, flush toilets, and sinks in the restrooms at this campground.

Why camp at this Forest Service Campground?

  • Whale watching from November to February as the Gray Whales migrate south to Baja
  • Spectacular coastal views
  • A trail to the beach
  • The Vicente Flats trailhead, which leads into the Ventana Wilderness

Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds:
Nacimiento Campground

Nacimiento Campground is the smallest of the Big Sur Forest Service campgrounds. It's eleven miles inland on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road and is located along the Nacimiento River - a mountain trout stream - under a canopy of oaks. It's open year-round, no reservations required - first-come, first served.

There are eight campsites at Nacimiento (RVs not recommended), and each campsite is equipped with a fire ring, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. There's no drinking water.

The charms of Nacimiento:

  • A trout stream
  • Peace and quiet - few people!
  • Camping in the forest

Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds:
Plaskett Creek Campground

Plaskett Creek is the largest of the Big Sur Forest Service campgrounds.

It's in a large meadow with pine trees scattered through the grounds, located on the east side of Highway 1, just south of Sand Dollar Beach.

It's open year-round (come from November to March and try to spot the migrating Gray Whales).

There are first-come first served sites, but you can also make reservations.

You'll find forty-four campsites here (RVs are allowed); all campsites have a fire ring, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. There's drinkable water, flush toilets, and sinks in the restrooms.

Things to enjoy about Plaskett:

  • Whale watching, November to March
  • Nearby Sand Dollar Beach
  • Nearby hiking trails with amazing views, waterfalls, and Redwoods

Big Sur Forest Service Campgrounds:
Ponderosa Campground

Ponderosa Campground is a family campground with campsites also nestled along the Nacimiento River trout stream under the trees. Take the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road to County Road G-14, about thirteen miles east of Highway 1.

Ponderosa is open year-round and is first-come, first served, although you can make reservations six months in advance for May 1st to September 30th.

There are twenty-three sites (unfortunately, RVs are not advised),
and each campsite has a fire ring, a picnic table, and a pedestal grill. It's advisable to keep your food secured here as the raccoons are rather pesky about getting into your supplies! There is drinkable water available from Spring Break to Thanksgiving.

The draw at this Big Sur Forest Service campground:

  • The Nacimiento River with its trout fishing and places for a cool dip
  • Camping in the forest
  • Hiking opportunities
  • And nearby Mission San Antonio, with its museum, chapel, Indian graveyard, and aqueducts

Looking for other Big Sur Camping options?

  • Big Sur Backcountry Camping
    There are approximately 237 miles of hiking trails in the Santa Lucia Mountains. That equates to LOTS of opportunity for backcountry primitive camping!

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