California’s Big Sur Coast offers roughly 90 miles of scenic views along Highway 1 between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. Stretching from Carmel-by-the Sea in the north down to Hearst Castle in San Simeon to the south, the Big Sur area is an ideal place to explore in your van. The following guide provides the information needed to plan a memorable trip along California’s Golden Coast.
Where to Camp in Big Sur
• Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, located along the Big Sur River, offers campsites for RVs, although no RV hook-ups are available. The campsites offer convenient access to hiking trails and Big Sur River Gorge, where you can cool off in a swimming hole.
• Limekiln State Park Campground
Limekiln State Park, located roughly near the midpoint of Big Sur, offers campsites with beautiful surroundings, including limestone deposits, Limekiln Creek, and more. Campers can stay in the Redwood Campsites under towering trees or the Ocean Campsites, which provide beach access.
• Ponderosa Campground
Ponderosa Campground, located along the Nacimiento River in Los Padres National Forest, provides a more rustic RV campsite tucked away in the mountains. Campers can enjoy stargazing, fishing, hiking, and other activities while staying here.
• Fernwood Resort Campground
Fernwood Resort Campground, located just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, offers a campsite with several amenities, including a general store and on-site restaurant. Campers have access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities in the area.
• Plaskett Creek Campground
Plaskett Creek Campground, located roughly 5 minutes north of Gorda, offers a great spot to stay with easy access to Sand Dollar Beach for fishing, surfing, and other water activities. The campgrounds, surrounded by Monterey pines, are also near scenic hiking trails.
Where to Eat in Big Sur
• Big Sur Bakery
Big Sur Bakery, located near Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground, offers a slow-paced dining option for those looking for fresh-baked pizza, breads, and other dishes. Enjoy oysters or trout for dinner, or have a roast beef sandwich or grilled cheese for lunch. Big Sur Bakery also serves breakfast.
• Deetjen’s Restaurant
Deetjen’s Restaurant, located close to Henry Miller Memorial Library, serves locally sourced seafood from Monterey Bay, as well as hearty meals for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant’s cottage-like setting and redwood bar provide a cozy ambience.
• Big Sur Roadhouse
Big Sur Roadhouse, located just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, offers an outdoor patio and a modern-rustic interior filled with abstract paintings. The restaurant has a seasonal menu filled with California cuisine for those looking for breakfast or lunch along this stretch of Highway 1.
Nepenthe, located near Hawthorn Gallery and Henry Miller Memorial Library, offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from its dining terrace. This family-owned restaurant serves steak, burgers, and other savory dishes, as well as delicious desserts.
Coast, located close to scenic Seal Beach Overlook, provides a picnic-inspired menu to choose from, as well as an on-site fine art gallery. Grab a salad or sourdough pizza for lunch, and stock up on picnic provisions and baked goods.
Where to Hike
• McWay Waterfall Trail
Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the McWay Waterfall Trail is roughly a half-mile long. This fairly easy trail offers close-up views of 80-foot tall McWay Waterfall, as well as views of canyons, the Pacific Ocean, and redwoods.
• Tan Bark Trail
Tan Bark Trail, located near Partington Cove, is a challenging hiking trail that’s about 5.6 miles long. The trail winds through woodlands filled with redwood trees, tanbark oak trees, boulders, and rocky outcroppings.
• Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
The Pacific Valley Bluff Trail provides an easy hiking trail that’s 1.6 miles long. Located north of the Hamlet of Gorda, the trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, wildflowers, beaches, and bluffs.
• Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails
Located roughly 10 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails provide beautiful views of wildflowers, redwood trees, waterfalls, and more. The trails are moderate in places and more strenuous in others.
• Vicente Flat Trail
Vicente Flat Trail, located a few miles south of Lucia, ranges from 4 to 10 miles long, depending on how far hikers want to go. The trail offers views of the ocean, canyons, hillsides, and wildflowers. Some areas of the trail are steep and narrow.
Beaches to Visit
• Mill Creek Picnic Area Beach
Located in Los Padres National Forest, Mill Creek Picnic Area Beach includes an area made of boulders and a small cove. A grassy area offers a good place for picnics and barbecues. Visitors can go fishing and explore tide pools in the area.
• Andrew Molera State Park Beach
Andrew Molera State Park Beach provides both rocky and sandy terrain, along with driftwood, meadows, and nearby redwood groves to explore. Visitors can go surfing near the Big Sur Rivermouth or go beach combing to look for treasures or unusual items in the sand.
• Garrapata Beach
Located around 10 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea in the northern part of Big Sur, Garrapata Beach offers impressive views of the Pacific Ocean. The beach has a small sandy area and a few miles of waterfront park, as well as a sandy cove and nearby Garrapata Creek.
• Kirk Creek Campground Beach
Kirk Creek Campground Beach, located in Los Padres National Forest near the Vicente Flat Trail, is a rocky beach where visitors can go fishing while enjoying picturesque views. A nearby trail leads to a sandy beach area to explore.
• Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach, located roughly halfway between Big Sur Station and Cambria in Los Padres National Forest, is a great place for surfing and having picnics. Visitors can also go fishing and beach combing.
Notable Attractions in Big Sur
• Henry Miller Memorial Library
Henry Miller Memorial Library celebrates the life of writer and artist Henry Miller. The library, located near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, has a large collection of books to explore and purchase, as well as events to attend, including music and poetry.
• Bixby Bridge
The Bixby Bridge, located north of Andrew Molera State Park, is an iconic sight in the Big Sur area. Built along a steep canyon wall, the bridge offers multiple turnouts for visitors to take in the surrounding views while snapping pictures.
• Point Sur Lightstation
The Point Sur Lightstation, located in Point Sur State Historic Park close to Bixby Bridge, dates back to 1889. Visitors can take guided walking tours of the historic lighthouse that are around 3 hours long, while enjoying views of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
• Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle in San Simeon offers a chance to tour a historic estate built between 1919 and 1947. The castle has several tours available, including upstairs suites tours, grand rooms tours, evening tours, and cottage and kitchen tours.
• Coastal Discovery Center
The Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay provides a great opportunity to learn more about marine and coastal wildlife in the area. The center features interactive exhibits on rocky tide pools, seabirds, northern elephant seals, and more.
If you need to find a reliable van for your Big Sur trip, visit Rec Van today. We can help you choose the best adventure mobile for camping.