For one of the quintessential camping experiences in Big Sur, pack your tent and head to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The park is nestled in a verdant valley with campsites laid out beneath oak and redwood trees and along the banks of the charming Big Sur River. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park resides in the heart of Big Sur and the campground is surrounded by outdoor fun, both inside and outside the park.
The campground in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is sprawling, with 189 sites and plenty of space for tents and RVs. Each site comes with a picnic table and a fire ring with high walls. Wood gathering is not allowed, but firewood can be purchased at the park entrance. Drinking water spigots are located throughout the campground, along with bathrooms with flush toilets, showers, and dishwashing sinks.
The campground has an interesting two-tiered pricing system. Riverfront sites area $50 per night and all other standard and tent sites are $35 per night. Before you shell out fifty bucks for a premium river site, know that all river sites are not created equally. Some are right along the river and quite lovely, but others are more river-adjacent with no river views and only paths down to the water through brush and poison oak. On the other hand, many of the $35 sites are quite desirable, set in sunny fields or in the shadows of grand redwood trees. River access is a breeze from many of the river sites, but even if you don’t have a river site, you can still access the leisurely-flowing water at numerous points throughout the campground, including the Big Sur River Gorge Trail.
In addition to the 189 standard and tent sites, the park has two large group sites and a designated camping area for hikers and bikers who do not have vehicles. If you’re on a cycling trip along Highway One, this is a great place to stop and camp amongst the redwoods. All other sties have room for one or two vehicles and the campground supports RVS up to 32 feet long.
The size of the campground may increase in the future as areas of the park recover from wildfire damage (most of the campground was unharmed).
Dogs are allowed on leashes in the campground, but dogs do not seem to be allowed on trails in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park except for the River Path and Warden’s Path.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park should not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, another California State Park eleven miles to the south.
On hot summer days, relief is always close at hand. Just find a deep spot in the Big Sur River and take a dip in the cold, clear water flowing through the campground. For more fun, head upstream to Big Sur River Gorge where there are pools to swim through and rocks to jump off.
No doubt the campground in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great place to relax. When you’re not sitting around a camp fire roasting marshmallows, there are plenty of hiking opportunities to enjoy. For an easy starter, take the Nature Trail – River Path Loop, gaining knowledge of the area’s plants and animals on the way to see a unique redwood called the Proboscis. Take a slightly longer hike to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View to see more of the park, including a small waterfall and a grand vista.
Beachgoers will be in paradise too. The phenomenal Pfeiffer Beach is just outside the park (3 miles away) and is practically a must-stop for campers. For additional accommodations in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, check out the Big Sur Lodge. If you need to pick up additional camping supplies like food and beverages, there is a general store at the Big Sur Lodge.
Once you have paid to camp at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, you should be able to enter other California State Park for no additional charge on the days that you are camping, including nearby Andrew Molera State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Limekiln State Park (Limekiln State Park’s entry booth and campground are operated by Parks Management Company through a concession with California State Parks and unfortunately their employees may dispute your right to enter with another start park fee).
Bad News: As of April 2017, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is closed until further notice because of damage from winter storms and impact from the 2016 Soberanes Fire. Visit the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park webpage for current information.
To get to the campground: From the south, drive up Highway One to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance, located on the east side of the road, 11 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and 2.9 miles north of Nepenth Restaurant. From the north, drive 4.4 miles south of Andrew Molera State Park and 0.7 miles past Fernwood Resort to reach the park entrance. There are signs for the lodge and the state park at the intersection with Pfeiffer Big Sur Road. Drive up the road through an intersection for the lodge and cabin sites to reach the entry station for the campground and day use parking lots in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Campground address: 47225 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Campground coordinates: 36.25100, -121.78345 (36° 15′ 3.6″N 121° 47′ 0.41″W)
Use the map below to view the campground and get directions:
|Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View|
This 2.4-mile hike is like two hikes in one, reaching a waterfall in a canyon of redwoods and a vista point overlooking the Big Sur River Valley.
|Nature Trail – River Path Loop|
This easy 0.55-mile loop explores woodlands along the Big Sur River and a redwood grove that includes the unique and impressive Proboscis Tree. The loop can be combined with the trail to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View for a 3-mile trek.
|Big Sur River Gorge|
This half-mile off-trail hike ventures up the Big Sur River on a water-wading boulder-hopping adventure to a crystal clear pool that’s a gorgeous Big Sur swimming hole.
This short walk reaches an absolutely stunning beach that’s a classic feature of the Big Sur landscape.
|Ridge Trail – Panorama Trail – Bluff Trail Loop|
This 8.7-mile loop in Andrew Molera State Park crosses a coastal ridge, bluff, and beach that are packed with amazing Big Sur views.
This 0.6-mile hike looks out on a stunning Big Sur waterfall that pours 80 feet right on to the beach.
This 0.9-mile hike heads inland up McWay Creek past a picnic area in a redwood grove to a lovely little waterfall.
This 1.5 mile hike visits a cove and a secluded beach along the scenic Big Sur coast. The cove is accessed through a tunnel.
|Hare Creek Trail, Limekiln Trail, and Falls Trail|
This 2.65-mile hike in Limekiln State Park explores a trio of trails along lovely streams in redwood-lined canyons, reaching Limekiln Falls and historic lime kilns.
|Sand Dollar Beach|
This stunning hike of half a mile or more reaches two scenic overlooks as it descends to a long beach on the Big Sur coast.
|Jade Cove and Plaskett Rock Point|
This 1.5-mile hike along an ocean bluff visits a prominent peninsula and a small cove.
|Pacific Valley Bluff Trail|
This short out and back hike extends from Highway One to an ocean bluff with fantastic views of the Big Sur Coast.
|Salmon Creek Falls|
This short hike visits a fine 120-foot waterfall near the start of Salmon Creek Trail.
This hike of 6.5 miles or more reaches incredibly ocean vistas and trail camps in the Silver Peak Wilderness. Connect Cruickshank Trail and Buckeye Trail for an excellent shuttle hike of 8.25 miles or more.
This hike into Silver Peak Wilderness starts with bold ocean views and crosses redwood groves to reach Upper Cruickshank Camp at a junction with Buckeye Trail, 5 miles round trip from Highway One.
|More Central Coast Hikes|
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
|Andrew Molera State Park Trail Camp|
This trail camp is easy to reach (just a short walk in) with campsites in a meadow along the Big Sur River near Molera Beach.
|Limekiln State Park Campground|
This small Big Sur campground at the bottom of Limekiln Canyon has sites along a creek through a redwood grove and near the ocean, with access to trails up Limekiln Canyon.
|Kirk Creek Campground|
This outstanding 33-site campground in Los Padres National Forest has enormous ocean views from a bluff along the Big Sur coast.
|Plaskett Creek Campground|
This 45-site campground in Los Padres National Forest is positioned across Highway One from Sand Dollar Beach and Plaskett Rock Point on the coast of Big Sur.