Tag Archives: big sur

McWay Falls

mcwayfalls

The super scenic Central Coast of California is home to numerous waterfalls, but this one on the Big Sur coast is, by far, the most well-known.

Since I camped out and slept on the cliff featured above, I thought I ought to create a post about it.

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park is where the most photographed waterfall is located. The creek falls off of a cliff into a secluded cove, on a sandy beach just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean.

After visiting this place more than once, I knew I had to keep coming back. I even found this waterfall photo used as graphic marketing for Mexican Riveria cruises, by Costco.

But it’s not located in Mexico, nor Baja.
McWay is Big Sur!

specialview

 

hiker

One sunny autumn day, I called my camping pals to join me on our pre-planned camping trip to the majestic Big Sur coastline. Not just any camping spot or campground, but the two rare, hike-in campsites – located above McWay Falls. The camp reservations had been made months in advance and I was eager to leave the smog basin of L.A.

One by one, all my friends backed out of their commitment to camp that weekend. Too busy at work, a wedding or other plans interfered, home improvements, or the typical lame excuses that city folks always use not to travel locally.

…only 2 camp sites exist here, perched on a forested cliff, overlooking a private sandy cove w/ a gorgeous waterfall

I thoroughly explained to them the spectacular scenery, the unique location, the advanced reservations and fees, and the carpooling options. But not one person could go, so I went anyway.

All alone; which may have been the start of me craving to camp solo (way back in 1995).

The California State Park system has named these as environmental camps, where you must haul your gear – a half mile, on foot, in order to reach these special campsites. Picnic tables and campfire rings are provided, along w/ one vault toilet. Although a real bathroom w/ flush toilets is within walking distance, over at the main paved parking lot.

California049.JPG

INACCESSIBLE:

The picturesque sandy cove is off limits to all = campers, hikers and climbers. New fencing and signs warn visitors not to enter the small beach cove area. Sheer, steep cliffs w/ erosion are unstable and dangerous; and you may have a citation awaiting you, on your climb back up.

Accessing the cliff edges or private cove is dangerous and difficult, and totally off limits. If you wanna die trying, that’s up to you.

OVERNIGHT TIPS:

Reservations are needed to camp at this location. Contact California State Parks for booking this spot.

The ocean sounds of crashing waves on rocks is very, very loud. located just below (100 feet) the ideal camp sites. Bring ear plugs for sleeping.

Leave food and cooking to the tailgate. Parking in the paved, forested parking lot, and not transporting food, ice chest and cookware back and forth is the lazy way. Since I was camping alone and the parking lot was secluded and full of vegetation, I decided to try minimal food at camp. Worked well for me.

Blackberry bushes are abundant around parking lot.

PANCAKES ANYONE?

Danger looms around this State Park entrance, as Coast Highway 1 drivers tend to speed by at 55 mph, on a big shady curve. Be very careful crossing the road at this location and listen for traffic before you walk.

camp

TRAILS & DAY VISITORS:

Swarms of tourists stop at this location, just to walk out, photograph and view this waterfall. Many pay top dollar (day use) to park and then stay less than an hour. The tunnel trail goes past a pelton wheel and then underneath the highway – skirting along the north shore of the cove. The State Park gate closes at sunset, so very few people will be found roaming around after sundown.

Just hiking around this park, plus the back and forth to camp and car will feel like you’ve walked many miles. There is a redwood canyon and creek hike located in the inland portion of the State Park. Mountain peaks here reach to about 3000′ elevation.

AUG 2020 UPDATE: WILDFIRES burning most of this State Park and Limekiln State Park. Not sure how  the cove looks now, or if it was affected, but expect the hills to be black, up above the highway.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

calsp52801 CA State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
831-667-1112

View aerial photographs 

If there is a single most popular image of Big Sur, it is probably of the 80 foot falls seen from this trail as McWay Creek cascades onto the sandy shore. hikinginbigsur.com/hikes_mcwayfalls.html

pinetree

Even though I spent the warm weekend alone, camping on a waterfall cliff and hiking redwoods forests, I enjoyed myself and the seclusion. I did meet 2 surfers traveling in a vintage VW bus and they joined me for my tailgate dinner one evening. On  the last night, the weather turned windy and a storm came in, so the next morning I was happy to leave. So, for all the camping pals that backed out at the last minute, this 2020 post is for you.

McWay Falls...again!

McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA

Sunset at McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

see also –

Tent Cabins in California

tent cabin rentals
Merced Lake is one remote destination along the High Sierra Camp Loop, Yosemite Wilderness.

Tent Cabins & Yurt Rentals
around California

Tent cabins are made up of wooden floors, canvas walls & a canvas roof – a combination between a tent & a rustic cabin. Most have sleeping cots for beds; some have heaters, wood burning stoves or electrical outlets. A shared community bathroom is often close by.

Yurts are round versions of this same concept, with a wooden floor, real beds and usually nicer decor. Often these places request that you bring your own bed linens and towels, but each resort is different, so check the web links for detailed info.

Hike-in locations in the wilderness, rural river resorts or an easy drive to campground right off the freeway. These popular lodging accommodation are often marketed as GLAMPING, as in Glamour Camping – for the (luxury loving) princess who likes to try out nature – in a very controlled setting. Just watch out for mountain lions and bears.

Below are unique places in California that offer tent cabins, tree houses and yurt rentals.

 

Big Basin Redwoods Tent Cabins
Boulder Creek, CAhiker
408-338-8860
Santa Cruz mountains
WILDFIRE 2020
CLOSED INDEFINITELY

Cachuma Lake County Park
Yurt Rentals & Campground
Lake Cachuma, CA
805-568-2460
Santa Barbara Mountainscanoe

Costanoa Coastal Lodge
Pescadero, CA
650-879-1100
Santa Cruz Coastline

coloma river resort

Coloma Resort
Highway 49 @ American River
Coloma, CA
800-238-2298
California Historic Gold Country

Creekside Yurt Retreat
near Mt Shasta
Single Vacation Rental
Weed, CA
NorCal Mount Shasta

El Capitan Canyon
N of Santa Barbaraumbrella
Hwy 1 @ El Capitan
866-352-2729
805-685-3887
North Santa Barbara Coast

Fallen Leaf Campground
6 Yurt Rentals @ Campground
Lake Tahoe Basin, CA
Sierra Nevada Mountains

Hat Creek Resort
Yurts near Fishing Creekfish
12533 Highway 44
Old Station, CA
530-335-7121
Lassen National Forest

Hotel Nipton
Tent Cabins & Teepeesdirtbikes
Nipton Road @ NV stateline
760-856-2335
Mojave Desert
SUMMER 2020
CLOSED INDEFINITELY

Keough Hot Springs Resort
Hwy 395, Bishop, CA
Eastern Sierra High Desert

Lewiston Lake Yurt Rentals
@ Mary Smith Campground
Trinity River, Lewiston, CA
530-275-8113

Lupin Lodge
Clothing Optional Resortshowers
20600 Aldercroft Heights Rd.
Los Gatos CA
408-353-9200
Santa Cruz Mountains

Middle Fork Ranch
NorCal Smith River
15 acre retreat, Hwy 199
Crescent City, CA
707-457-3477
Northern California Coastal Mountains

Mother Lode River Center
6280 Hwy 49, Lotus, CAcanoe
530-626-4187
California Gold Rush Country

Mount Baldy Resort
8401 Mt Baldy Rd
Mt Baldy, CA 91759
909-982-0800

Oz Farm Retreat
41601 Mountain View Rd
Point Arena, CA
707-882-3046
Mendocino Coast

Premier RV Resorts
Cabin & Yurt rentals (in town)
Redding, CA
888-710-8450
Northern Californiaranger

River Park Resort
River Rafting Trips w/
Yurts next to American River
Coloma, CA
530-622-0553
California Gold Rush Country

Santa Margarita Lake KOA
Santa Margarita, CA
805-438-5618
800-562-5619
San Luis Obispo Backcountry

Shasta Lake Yurts
Lakeshore East Campgroundmountains
Lake Shasta, CA
530-275-8113
Northern California

Strawhouse Resort
31301 State Hwy 299
Big Flat, CA
530-623-1990
NorCal Trinity River

Treebones Resort
Ocean view yurts
Big Sur Highway 1 @ Gorda, CA
805-927-2390butterfly
877-424-4787
Big Sur Coastline

Vermillion Valley Resort
via Kaiser Pass Road
Edison Lake, Lakeshore, CA
559-259-4000
High Sierra, John Muir Wilderness

Virginia Creek Settlement
70847 Highway 395camptruck
Bridgeport, CA
760-932-7780
Eastern Sierra Nevada

Yosemite Lakes Resort
Cabins & Yurt Rentals
South Fork of the Tuolumne River
31191 Hardin Flat Rd
Groveland, CA
209-962-0121
800-533-1001
Western Sierra Nevadapinetree

Yosemite Pines RV Park
20450 Old Highway 120
Groveland, CA
209-962-7690
Western Sierra Nevada

tuolumne cabins

HSC: HIGH SIERRA CAMP

Yosemite National Park Tent Cabins:hiker
(advanced reservations required)

DustMites and AllergiesALLERGY NOTE: Most tent cabins are constructed out of heavy canvas material (fabric), which can mold when exposed to moisture (rain, fog, snow). Often they get dismantled, cleaned and stored properly over each winter season, sometimes not; All depends on weather, terrain difficulty and individual resort practices. If you suffer w/ allergies, moldy tent walls and dust mites can trigger asthma or other allergic reactions. If in doubt speak to the innkeeper or caretaker ahead of time.

Central Coast California
San Simeon SP. Central Coast of California

Rent a Treehouse

Post Ranch Inn
Tree-House Rentals in California
Big Sur, CA
Big Sur Coastline

Los Padres Topo

Los Padres Monterey

Los Padres National Forest Maps

Los Padres atlas
Los Padres National Forest USDA Topographic Atlas

7 minute QUADS (topo maps) inside a spiral bound book. Covers both north & south part of Los Padres National Forest. This map book can be found at ranger station – Los Padres USFS or click the book above to take you to the Total Escape Map Shop!

Los Padres Monterey Los Padres Ojai

Waterproof plastic map; USDA National Forest Service Maps

Additional topo maps for Los Padres region –

Forests

see more about Los Padres National Forest

Big Sur Coast

dirtbikeshiker

Links for Los Padres National Forest destinations

hwy33overlook
North of Ojai, CA – Highway 33 winds up to Los Padres NF

Best View Camp Sites

view campsite

Great Overlooks for Camping

Best View Camp Site in California 

Overlook Camps, View Spot Camp Sites

This camp list is comprised of primitive camp sites and developed campgrounds with good views overlooking a large area (valley, town, canyon, desert, river, ocean). Many ideal spots may require dirt road driving, and a few might need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach.

Prewitt Ridge, Big Sur Coast

We were suggesting this very spot way back in 1999, well before anyone else was ‘blogging’ about it. This area is by far the best, free coastal camping on the Central Coastline of Big Sur. Dirt roads traverse 10 miles out to vacant ridges overlooking the Pacific, with steep hills down to the highway. Camp above the fog layer and above the crowds. Explore the beaches during the day, and camp above the traffic & crowds at night.

Dry brush is abundant on the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. Camp fire restrictions should be of utmost concern in this area, since wildfires burn here often. Camp fire permits are required for camping on the back roads, and much of the time camp fires are banned in this region. Call ahead to the rangers to find out the current conditions.

Swinger

Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Big Sur Coastline

Two prime walk-in camp sites, on a shady point, high above a beach cove w/ scenic waterfall.

Called “environmental camps” these highly desirable spots need advanced reservations w/ fees many months in advance. Tables, fire rings and a vault toilet. Bare bones basics, but the ideal location is worth it. A forested cliff on the edge of the ocean, high above a secluded cove. This location a can get windy if a storm moves in (generally October – March).

Los Padres National Forest

Kirk Creek Campground
on Highway 1 @ Nacimiento Road
Big Sur CA

Willow Creek Road # 23S01
primitive camping on dirt road, above Hwy 1 @ Gorda, CA

sunset watch

Reyes Peak Camping
North of Ojai, CA
Pine Mountain Summit, CA Hwy 33

Off Cerro Noroeste Road, W of Pine Mountain, CA

Above Santa Maria, Highway 166
West of New Cuyama, CA

  • Miranda Pines Campground @ 4100′ elev
    Located well off hwy. on Road #32S13

Mendocino National Forest

There are several primitive campsites off of M10 with views of chaparral and canyons. Just above Stonyford, CA, on the way up to Fouts Springs. Unfortunately Mendocino National Forest is may be closed for 2019 due Ranch Fire (wildfire 2018) w/ Snow Mountain Wilderness completely 100% burnt.

Planning more scouting of this region summer 2019. Stay tuned.

Angeles National Forest

  • Mount Pacifico Campground
    Angeles Forest Highway
  • Lightning Point Group Campground
    near Jackson Lake @ Hwy 2
Fire Safe Spot
Random ridge spot in Big Sur
john bull camp spot
john bull 4×4 camp

San Bernardino National Forest

Toro Peak Campground Rd# 7S02

toro_campsite

  • San Berdu has more than a few trail camps for 4×4 enthusiasts. Weekends can be busy all year long. Snow usually closes some routes. Pine forest in southern California means very tight campfire restrictions. All yellow post camp sites include table and a fire ring. Campfire permits are required.
  • East ridge line, rocky, dusty, 4WD-only route, the John Bull Trail (near Holcomb Valley) has ONE real awesome view camp spot with great spans over the Mojave desert w/ smog and city lights @ night.
  • Mesa Campground @ Silverwood Lake SRA

I-8 East of San Diego, CA

  • Larkin Campground
    McCain Valley BLM OHV
  • Mar Tar Awa above Viejas Casino
  • Sweetwater Summit Co Park San Diego

I-5 North of San Diego, CA

  • San Elijo Campground, San Elijo State Beach
    Coastal cliffs, overlooking beach and ocean
    Solana Beach, CA

S-22  East San Diego County

Montezuma Grade, overlooking Borrego Springs & Anza Borrego Desert

  • Culp Valleyboulders, primitive camps on dirt roads; better views off-road. Vault toilet. Few tables, no signs. Small campground at the highway is easy to find. Boulders and bouldering. Mountain biking and hiking. Wildflowers in spring.

providence

Interstate 15 & I-40 Mojave Desert

view spot mojave

US Hwy 395 Eastern Sierra

inside Death Valley National Park

  • Mahogany Flat Campground steep dirt road access. Trailhead for tallest peak in the park, Telescope Peak (11,049′ elev)
  • Tucki Mine, 4×4 route. Unmarked dirt road inside Emigrant Canyon, off Wildrose Road.

inside Inyo National Forest

ohridgeview
oh ridge view
    • Coyote Flat @ Pinyon Boulders – 4×4 required, one primitive camp w/ great views overlooking the Owens Valley & peaks to the east. Coyote Flat has views toward the Sierra
    • Oh! Ridge Campground Off the main highway 158, June Lake Loop
      (148 sites @ 7600′ elev.) near June Lake, CA
    • Onion Valley Campground – High Sierra @ 9200′ elevation. Trailhead to Kearsarge Pass. W of Independence, CA

4x4 Camps

Western Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sierra National Forest

cabin rental

NFSsee also – NFS Fire Lookouts & Rental Cabins
many of which have excellent views of the wilderness areas; a hike or climb may be necessary

Colorado River Camping

Multiple riverside RV havens, county parks, and campgrounds near Parker, AZ

Riverside RV parks in Blythe, CA

Riverside RV parks in Lake Havasu, CA

coloradoriverRV
colorado river camping

 


Los Padres Group Campgrounds

Los Padres Group Camping – Big Sur, Monterey & Ojai, California

Los Padres Forest is the SoCal camping mecca. Pinyon forests & peaks of nearly 9000′ make this the highest elevations of Kern County. This coastal forest on the San Andreas Fault burns bad due to winds & wildfires, but there is plenty back country to enjoy with minimal crowds – as long as camp fire safety is key.

Southern Los Padres National Forest operates Group Campgrounds for reservations. Several back country camp spots can accommodate a large group. Mount Able’s Camp-O-Alto and Mount Pinos’ Chula Vista walk-in camp can both handle a big crowd, but you may need to call the Lockwood Valley ranger station for more info and availability.

Northern Los Padres – Hwy 1 around the Big Sur/Monterey CA region has 2 Group Campgrounds w/ facilities, flush toilets & reservations online.

Los Padres Group Campgrounds:

campground elev people veg toilet water notes
Arroyo Seco Group Camp 1000′ 49 mixed flush piped Carmel Valley, Greenfield
Holiday Group Camp 2000′ 8 oak vault piped N of Ojai
Plaskett Creek Campsite 600′ 45 pines flush piped South Big Sur coast
Sage Hill Campground 1200′ 50 sycamore flush piped Lake Cachuma

If you are seeking regular campgrounds that take reservations and do not need a large group site, then follow this link below for all other Los Padres campsites.

http://www.totalescape.com/outside/campsites/los-padres-camping/

Los Padres Camps

Plaskett Campground is across the road from Sand Dollar Beach, a popular day use area. California Coast Campground – the infamous Central Coast Highway – Hwy 1 (so you may hear traffic @ this camp)

camptruck

Hungry Valley SVRA – off-road park located near Interstate 5 @ Gorman, accommodates large and small groups with numerous campgrounds. Expect busy weekends and crowds; sometimes snow during winter months.

Ballinger Canyon OHV Park – off road park near Cuyama River Valley, on Hwy 33 near junction w/ Hwy 166. Campgrounds suited for off-road campers and RVs. Dirt bike trails, off road routes; North of Quatal Canyon (Rd #9N09) & Chumash Wilderness.

maps of Los Padres Central Coast-


Big Sur Campground

Big Sur Camping Sites & Campgrounds

big sur camping

Plaskett Creek Campground has green lawns, pine trees, & flush toilets. Located across the highway from Sand Dollar Beach, right on Hwy 1. Ponderosa Campground, on the other hand, has native grasses, oak trees, a seasonal creek and is located on a paved back road, with easy access from US Hwy 101

Central Coast Camping

Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest manages several Campgrounds along the Central Coast. Some are first come, first serve.

aldercamp
Alder Creek Camp
willowcreekrdsign
Willow Creek Road #23S01

hikes

Los Padres National Forest

Backpacking trails lead into the wilderness backcountry, along ridge lines with vast ocean views and also deep into fern creeks with redwood canyons. Sykes Hot Springs is a remote destination, if you like to hike, although summer can get crowded. Overnight wilderness permits and campfire permits may be needed.

mcwayfalls
McWay Falls @ Julia Pfieffer Burns SP

Free camping in Big Sur
can be found on dirt back roads:

primitive camp sites

DISPERSED CAMP: No charge camp sites means dirt road access, tighter camp fire restrictions & no facilities (table, bathrooms, fire pits). Campfire permits are required for primitive camping (stoves & BBQ), but unfortunately much of the time camp fires are not even allowed in the backcountry due to extreme wildfire danger.

None of these free camp sites are located on the beach or ocean shoreline. They are situated in the mountains near the coast.  These premium, hard to find camp spots usually require that you venture off the beaten path – w/ a National Forest map or regional topo map. If you want to camp without the tourists and crowds, with excellent views of the coast & the night sky, plus avoiding all fees – then take one of these dirt roads off the main highway & start exploring (preferably before sunset, with a high clearance vehicle).

prewittroads

Free camping California

Big Sur Private Campgrounds –

camp

Big Sur State Park Campgrounds –CA state parks

Big Sur Coastal Towns –

Prewitt Ridge Camping

Hiking California Coast

California Coast Trails

Big Sur Coast Coastal hikes are the mildest trails California has to offer, ranging from scenic strolls along the base of beach cliffs to steep redwood forested canyons. From Torrey Pines in San Diego to the multiple redwood parks along the North Coast, there is no shortage of hiking near the coastline. Southern California has more beaches than parks, with tide pool areas being a favorite destination for many. Central Coast has lush, fern canyons with year-round flowing creeks and numerous bluffs and rugged beaches. Bay Area has hiking trails nearly everywhere – along the bay, in the woods or on the coast. NorCal has all the wilderness, parks and remote beaches one could ever hope for. What are you waiting for? Get out there.

Pacific Valley Hiking

San Francisco Bay Area Hiking

Limekiln Hikes

hiking trail maps

NorthMarin
Channel Island National Park Map
Los Angeles Hiking Maps
Los Padres NF South (Ojai, Santa Barbara, Frazier)
Los Padres NF North (San Luis Obispo, Big Sur)
Marin Hiking Maps
Mendocino National Forest Map
Six Rivers National Forest Map
Redwoods Map
Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak

Sand Dollar Beach

Big Sur Camping

ocean of fog

Camping in Big Sur – Los Padres National Forest / Primitive Camps

If you want to escape the expensive redwood campgrounds on the coast, then you’ll need to head for the hills . But what? You are not up for that back packing trip in Ventana Wilderness & long trek over to Sikes Hot Springs. Well, in between back packing & car camping is a new concept – “back roads” camping. Often you will do without a campfire, a table & a toilet, but heavenly skies will grace you, well above the fog.
These are unmarked camp sites & there are no facilities. You’ll hafta search for yours. Nearly half of these prime camp sites have great ocean views.

Check the local ranger station for up to date fire restrictions & to obtain your free campfire permit.

camp area
elev spots veg toilet water .
Los Burros Rd 2000′ 8 oaks no no Rd# 23S01
Plaskett Ridge Rd 2000′ 3 oaks no no Rd# 23S02
Prewitt Ridge #23S05 3200′ 12 oaks no no via Naciemiento Ferguson Rd

maps of the area –

Check out the Big Sur Back Roads for self guided routes thru redwood forest.

redwood drives

Central Coast California

Central Coast Mountains / Central Coast Cali

Within 40 miles from the Santa Barbara coast are mountains that reach near 9000′ elevation, the tallest in Kern County. Mount Pinos & Mt Able, as well as the Sespe, Dick Smith, San Rafael, Matilija & Chumash Wilderness Areas, make up this southern portion of Los Padres National Forest. There are plenty of tiny, primitive campgrounds that offer seclusion for RVs & car campers. 4×4 camps, OHV routes & parks, plus numerous Wilderness areas that will suit everyone’s need for the outdoors. A great drive for accessing this area is Hwy 33 North from Ojai.

Further up the coast is the northern section of Los Padres National Forest – which is the mountainous back drop to the magnificent Big Sur coastline. If you are seeking to camp near Big Sur without the fees of a developed Campground, these dirt road ridge lines may be your saving grace… if you don’t mind roughing it. Views over the ocean & coastline are even more spectacular than from Hwy 1, but campfire restriction can be tight in summer & fall months. There are plenty lodging opportunities, historic lodges, cabins or luxury RV parks, located in the small towns along the coast.

Both Los Padres forest north & south are open all year long for recreation & camping. Only one town in this region, Pine Mountain Club, gets considerable amounts of snow (roads may be impassable without chains, AWD or 4×4). Central Coast icon Big Sur with Hwy 1 is prone to mud & rock slides during heavy rains, so plan for alternate routes & check road conditions w/ CalTrans when traveling during inclement weather.

Central Coast forest & parks –

Los Padres National Forest
Andrew Molera State Park
Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
Limekiln State Park
Pfieffer Big Sur State Park
San Simeon State Park

Moonstone Beach Cambria

Central Coast maps & trails –

Central Coast towns nearby –
Big Sur, Cambria, Frazier Park, Gorda, Gorman, Ojai, New Cuyama, Pine Mountain, San Simeon, Ventucopa

Milpotrero

23S01 – Los Padres NF

Big Sur Dirt Roads

Los Padres National Forest Road #23S01

Willow Creek Road
Los Burros Road

South Big Sur Coast Dirt Roads & super scenic US HWY 1 – North of San Simeon and Hearst Castle, north of Ragged Point and just past Gorda, CA a dirt shoulder, widens, a break in the bushes on the right side of the highway, a small wooden sign for the Yurt Resort called Treebones and the turn off to the back-country of Los Padres National Forest Road #23S01

Willow Creek is a steep coastal canyon w/ Willow Creek Trail #5E08 in the creek below and the dirt road 1000′ above. Willow Creek Day Use Area, the Willow Creek bridge and Willow Creek beach w/ restrooms, picnic tables, and paved parking lot near the highway.

DIRT ROAD, high clearance is recommended, but not required. 4×4 may be needed in wet weather. Motorhomes, trucks w/ trailers and RV campers are not gonna like this rugged, narrow, steep, dirt road and are advised to stick to the pavement. Camper vans and SUVs are be better suited for this terrain.

  • Both Thomas Bros. Maps & Benchmark Map’s California Atlas has this route listed as Los Burros Road
  • Google Maps has this route named Will Creek Road
  • Yahoo Maps has this route as Willow Creek – Los Burros Road
  • Mapquest has this one listed as Los Burros Rd – Fort Hunter Liggett (which is a military base,  on the opposite side of the mountain range near US Hwy 101)


View Larger Map

 

Free Camping in Big Sur

Willow Creek Rd

Several primitive camp sites can be found along this rugged dirt road, which climbs steeply and switchbacks thru redwoods, madrones, cedars, grass lands and oak hills. Sites within the first 3 miles  of this road offer the serene sounds of the ocean – waves, seals, sea lions as well as traffic on the busy highway. There are a few private properties back here in the boonies too, so read signs and don’t go exploring this region in the dark.

About 8 miles back on Willow Creek Rd is Alder Creek Campground – a small developed camp w/ only 2 camp sites and no piped water and no fees.

Prewitt Ridge  also has numerous ideal top-of-the-world, free camp sites, which do require a lot more dirt road driving and a very good backcountry map.

  • Sycamore Flat Road intersects @ 3 miles up
  • Alder Peak Camp is San Martin Top @ 12 miles up
  • South Coast Ridge Road is at the very top @ 14 miles
  • Lions Den Camp is 19 miles of dirt road driving
  • Three Peaks Camp is 21 miles way back there
Los Padres Monterey District Big Sur Map NatGeo

Silver Peak Wilderness

Hiking the Southern Big Sur Coastline

faded public lands
Sun-bleached, wooden Los Padres sign – near Salmon Creek trailhead.

Silver Peak Wilderness, Big Sur Coast

Central California Coast

31,555 acres

8 miles South of Gorda, CA
along Pacific Coast Hwy 1
near Big Sur, CA
Los Padres National ForestBig Sur Wilderness Map

Backpacking and hiking trails on the Pacific Coast, steep terrain next to ocean. Coastal redwood canyons, oaks hills, great views. The neighboring Ventana Wilderness is located just north of Silver Peak hiking trails.

Southern Redwood Botanical Area

Silver Peak –3,590′ elevation
Alder Peak –3,744′

trailheads

  • Salmon Creek Trail #5E09
  • Hwy 1 @ connection Trail #5E10
  • Alder Creek Trail #5E09

mm

mile markers along Pacific Coast Highway 1
(Monterey County)

  • Cruickshank Trailhead – 6.5 mm
  • Soda Springs Trailhead – 3.8 mm
  • Buckeye Trailhead – 2.4 mm
  • Salmon Creek Trailhead – 2.2 mm

developed campgrounds nearby –

nearby towns –

Ocean View Hikes Big Sur


View Larger Map

Oak Foothills

Ventana Wilderness

ventana hikes

Central Coast California
Backpacking Big Sur

Ventana Wilderness is a 40 mile stretch of protected land located in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the Big Sur coastline in between the Monterey peninsula and the Nacimeinto-Fergusson Road #4004. Fort Hunter Liggett lies to the east side and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ancient volcano peaks called “cones” line the pine ridges – Ventana Cone,  Ventana Double Cone, South Ventana Cone, Black Cone & Cone Peak.

240,026 acres
Cone Peak – 5155′ elevation
Los Padres National Forest
San Antoni River
Sykes Hot Springs
Tassajara Creek
Tassajara Hot Springs

campgrounds bordering area –

hiking trailheads –

  • Cone Peak
  • Escondido
  • China Camp
  • Arroyo Seco
  • Bottchers Gap

redwood hikes

nearby towns –

Central Coast Big Sur Maps

ventana map

Los Padres Forest Maps

NatGeo Big Sur Topographic Map

Pinnacles National Monument Map

Ventana Wilderness Topo Map

Smaller Silver Peak Wilderness (31,555 acres) is also featured on the same map, situated south of Ventana and north of the San Simeon Hearst Castle area.

 

Ventana Wilderness Alliance
Ventana Wildlife Society

Partington Cove Hike in Big Sur

Big Sur – Partington Cove

DSCN3026
Go west to & visit the oceans edge or head east to explore a deep redwood canyon.big

Approx. 5 miles South of Big Sur State Park and just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burn State Park, this unmarked dirt turnout area on Highway 1 is a rare find. Rocky shorelines at the historic point, plus the scenic tree lined waterfall & cross the highway & head east for a shady Redwood canyon forest with plenty of backpacking options into the Big Sur back country of Los Padres National Forest. From bright sunny ocean view hillsides to dark shady forests.

This portion of the highway cuts into a deep bend along the coast & has no markings to the paradise that lies within. A steep dirt fire road (down to the cove) with metal gate is your only clue. Dirt parking area on both sides of the road indicate that people have parked here before.

This un-signed secluded hide-away has a variety of landscape & sites to see. You could easily kill 6-8 hours just in this canyon alone!! Definitely not a hurry through kind of place. Take your time, enjoy the view, tide pools, bring your swim suits & refresh in the creek. Carry a picnic eastbound into a shady creek-bed canyon & watch the sun dance through the towering pines above.

Driving northbound on Highway 1, look for large hair-pin turn out in canyon area – approx. 3-5 mi. North of Julia Pfeiffer State Park in wide dirt areas along roadside. Located in between Julia State Park & Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Hike down the dusty wide gated fire road in dry brush chaparral. The view of Redwood trees, the royal blue ocean in front of you, the sounds of a water falling creek. The trail forks off in 3 directions:

Right / Rock Beach – this a boulder lined cove where the clear fresh water stream meets the ocean. Small pools & waterfalls can be found just upstream .

Bridge Crossing / Point – through a wooden tunnel to a cliff area with tide pools & wooden structure (an old boat launch?)

Left / Up Stream – a forested canyon w/ a variety of trees; dead ends a few hundred yards up into the canyon

DSCN3021Another option to this canyon is the East side:

Hike up inland (away from ocean) into a densely forested creek area. Redwoods, waterfalls & boulders. Deer sightings are quite common in this area. Shady & dark this trail climbs gradually in elevation. One fork of the trail leads to an old Redwood Grove. A portion of the trail is closed 2.5 mi. up due to a landslide. But overall the is a perfect option for backpackers wanting a short hike.

  • Los Padres Maps (USDA)
  • Big Sur Map (NatGeo)
  • Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak
  • Los Padres Camping

    Los Padres Campgrounds
    Big Sur, Mount Pinos, Ojai, Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia

    Forests

    Los Padres National Forest campgrounds span the length of the California Central Coast, from the Monterey Bay to Los Angeles County. Choose a desired area:

    Big Sur Campgrounds

    Frazier Park Camping

    Mount Pinos Campgrounds

    Ojai Camping

    Santa Barbara Camping

    Santa Lucia Camping

    Bottcher Gap Campground
    Lush coastal campground is Bottchers Gap near Big Sur, CA

    Los Padres National Forest

    see also Los Padres Group Campgrounds

    maps of the Los Padres regions –

    Los Padres nearby towns & cities –

    Pine Mountain Club from ridge
    Pine Mountain Club from ridge