Camping in Central California

Kathleen Roberts
Experience the splendor.

Camping in central California is a terrific way to experience the wonders of the natural world. You will see things in central California that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Even just one camping trip here will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Natural Beauty

One big attraction for visitors to central California is the natural beauty found there. Big Sur is the ultimate vacation for campers and hikers who travel to see an eclectic collection of geographic wonders.

The ocean offers incredible opportunities to view humpback whales, gray whales, elephant seals and more. Scuba divers camping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can even enjoy the underwater reserve which was established in 1970. Experienced divers must obtain a permit to explore the wonders of this underwater park.

Located 37 miles south of Carmel on scenic Highway 1, Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park also features a breathtaking 80 foot waterfall and an enchanting redwood canyon picnic area near the park entrance with oddly shaped redwood trees to spark your imagination.

Camping here is a bit primitive; there is no water or toilets unless you make the trek back to the park's entrance. There are only two campsites available for visitors located about one third of a mile from the entrance. However, each site can have up to eight people. Sites include a table, cupboard, fire pit and charcoal stand, but be sure to check for current fire restrictions before putting these to use. Prices are reasonable at $14 during the in season and $11 during the off season. A small price indeed when you consider the amazing memories you will leave with.

Other Activities

Taking in the natural wonders of the central California landscape isn't the only attraction to camping in central California. Andrew Molera State Park is an excellent place to camp while you enjoy activities such as biking, hiking or horseback riding any of the 20 scenic trails.

Located 20 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, this park offers almost 5000 acres for your enjoyment. Hike miles of trails that will take you through beaches of driftwood, dreamy meadows and awe-inspiring hilltops.

Camping is permitted at any of 24 rustic campsites that are available on a first come first served basis. Each site has a limit of four people at the modest fee of $7 per night. Restrooms are available.

Basics for Camping in Central California

There are many great places for camping in central California from private campgrounds with all the amenities to primitive environmental campsites in state parks that offer an outhouse and a table at best. The Big Sur Chamber of Commerce has a helpful list of great campsites, both state parks and private parks, for you to choose from.

State Parks

Not all state parks offer campsites on a first come first served basis. Parks that require reservations fill up far in advance so your best bet is to reserve at least seven months in advance of your trip. More information on State Park reservations and fees can be found on the California State Park web site.

Packing

Be sure to determine how primitive your chosen campsite is before you plan your trip so you are sure to include everything you need on your camping list. Often the more rustic sites will require that you bring your own water. Other sites will have hot showers and restrooms for your convenience.

A sleeping cot or mat is a good idea to keep you comfortably off the ground as temperatures fluctuate at night. Also, you will want a variety of clothing that you can layer. This will allow you to adjust throughout the day depending on if you are hiking on the warm beach or in the cool mountains. Rain is always a possibility as well, so be prepared.

Leave Only your Footprints

As always, be a responsible camper. Leave your campsite as clean as you found it or better. Be mindful of the wildlife as well as the diverse plant life. Respect your fellow campers and the campers that will follow after you. Use common sense and the incredible beauty of California's central coast will provide an awesome camping experience for many generations to come.

Camping in Central California