How to camp in Big Sur, CA for free

Camping in big sur
Big Sur is definitely one of California’s ‘must sees’. Which also means to a lot of tourist and tourist traps. I wanted to experience Big Sur without the luxury ocean front facing hotel and this is how I did. Here is a guide to free camping in Big Sur, CA.We decided to beat the LA traffic and travel at night…and it was the smartest decision ever since we barely saw any cars in the road! It was great! We left on Thanksgiving night around 8 PM from LA and got to our first stop around Midnight.

Where we camped:

Since all campgrounds in Big Sur were fully booked, I had to get creative and think of new solutions. I found out that in California you can camp anywhere in a National Forest road without any permit for free! This means you have plenty of side road options on Highway 1 to pull over to and call home.

Thanks to Tony’s Jeep, we decided to put the seats down and make the back area into our bedroom! I loved it and in my opinion it was way more comfortable than sleeping in a tent. We took comforters and blankets with us and set ourselves up a comfy spot to fall sleep.
The map below shows where we stopped the first night. Although the road leads to a resort, no one came to bother us as to why we’ve stopped there.

P.S. There is no cellphone signal while you’re driving along the coast on Highway 1 so make sure to save this map before you leave.

On the second night, since we traveled more up north, we found a spot in Carmel to stay at overnight. Again, no one came here to bother us. We did not even see a single car pass us by on this road. Keep in mind as you went up higher on this road there were signs that this road belonged to a private property at the end but the beginning of the road had no signs and that’s where we stayed.

If you rather not camp, there are also beautiful resorts/hotel to stay at while visiting Big Sur. Of course, they all come with a heavy price tag given the location! Some of the options are Treebones ResortHyatt Carmel HighlandsVentana Inn.

If you like to book campgrounds in advance, some of my suggestions are Limeklin CampgroundKirk Creek Campground.

The fact that we had be on the lookout to find a great spot to stop at overnight make the trip that much more fun. No set plans, just going with the flow…

A must stop while in Big Sur is the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. That’s where you can catch views of McWay Falls, a gorgeous waterfall that comes from the side of a cliff and goes straight into the ocean. It was magical! Once you see signs for the park, you can park you’ll see cars parked along side the road. We parked the car there and continued on the path that leads to McWay Falls. It’s only a short easy walk to the lookout point in this picture.

There is plenty of hikes around the area to do or you can just stop at every turn and gaze at the gorgeous views of the mountains and the ocean… you can’t possibly get tired of it!

Here are a few other pictures from our trip.

If you liked this post, please comment below and let me know!


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