Camping in Big Sur: Exploring the 4 Best River Campsites in Big Sur

From secluded spots to campgrounds with all the amenities, we’ve got you covered with the best campsites by rivers in Big Sur. 

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What are the best river campgrounds in Big Sur?

The best camping areas near running river bliss in Big Sur are:

  • Limekiln State Park
  • Big Sur Campground and Cabins
  • Riverside Campground and Cabins
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Big Sur is uniquely situated smack in the middle of California’s most revered natural landscapes. This central position means that it gives access to both beach and mountain scenery, with an abundance of running rivers that weave through the terrain

Camping on the riverbanks of Big Sur is an unforgettable experience. Here is everything you need to know about river campsites in this part of California, including where and when to go. 

About The Big Sur Coast

The Big Sur coast comprises a rugged and mountainous stretch of Central California coast that runs from Carmel to San Simeon. 

The Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean and comprise redwood forests, beaches, and endless stretches of hiking trails and running rivers. 

The area is home to numerous state and national parks including: 

River Camping in Big Sur

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Big Sur and Los Padres National Forest is an area of natural beauty and excitement that is best explored by camping near its rivers. 

Whether you’re looking for tranquil fishing, rafting, or just discovering nature on foot via the hiking trails, Big Sur has the perfect river campsite for you.

There’s a huge diversity in experiences awaiting in these campground destinations. While some offer tent camping, tent cabins, car camping and have a specific van campers park, others will hike in destinations with fewer amenities.

Garrapata River and High Bridge

In Big Sur, some of the best rivers to camp near are the Garrapata River and High Bridge. 

Camping here will give you access to the natural beauty that abounds in Big Sur including towering redwood trees, majestic coastlines and meandering trails that make up this unique part of California. 

Big Sur River

Big Sur River is one of the most majestic rivers in the U.S. It spans across Central California, just south of beautiful Northern California, from Monterey Bay to Hearst Castle and is a small but powerful force, with crashing waterfalls, deep canyons, and secret swimming spots. 

Big Sur camping means becoming one with its breathtakingly beautiful majestic mountains, verdant valleys and thick forests that line its curving banks. 

It has many pockets that make for great camping. 

The Best Time To Camp in Big Sur

The best time to camp in Big Sur is during the late spring or early summer when you can enjoy mild temperatures without feeling too hot. During those months, the wildflowers are blooming and wild lupines are growing everywhere, presenting incredible views along the coastline. 

Additionally, the days are usually dry meaning there isn’t much rain for hikes and outdoor activities.

The Best Big Sur River Camping

best river campgrounds in Big Sur

Limekiln State Park

  • Camping reservations needed
  • Check-in: 2 pm  Check-out: 12 pm
  • Amenities: Room for one car, firepit, picnic table
  • Redwood sites and beach sites available

Camping by the creek at Limekiln State Park is the perfect soft introduction to river campsites in Big Sur. The area is full of wildlife and activities to keep any camper busy during the day. 

There are miles of trails that surround the Staying at the campground there provides more than just a place to pitch a tent –  it grants you incredible views of  the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Ocean view tent campsites make this a prime location.

Big Sur Campground and Cabins

  • Privately run 
  • Tent sites, RV sites, Camping Cabins
  • Inner tube rentals
  • Complimentary firewood, ice, camp mugs
  • Beach access

Big Sur Campground and Cabins is a privately owned campground with very reasonable mid week rates and an epic setting amongst the redwoods and the Big Sur River. This is as “glamp” as it gets in these parts without sacrificing a raw and natural experience. 

Located just 70 miles southwest of San Francisco, these forest cabins will have you surrounded by evocative redwood forests, mesmerizing beaches and of course a rambling river full of adventure potential. 

With ample walk-in sites, as well as cozy cabins, all equipped with modern amenities, visitors can experience being immersed in nature while still having access to the comforts of home. A short walk will have you near many amenities in no time.  

Riverside Campground and Cabins

  • Tent and RV sites 
  • Picnic tables, fire pit, bathrooms and hot showers
  • Beach access

Just off the Big Sur River lies Riverside Campground and Cabins

Though not as spectacularly appointed as the Big Sur Campground and Cabins, its surroundings pull all the weight and it’s a practical river camping location for your Big Sur camping trip. 

The campsites are conveniently located just ten minutes from beach access and a plethora of hiking options. 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

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  • Reservations recommended
  • Tents, trailers, and RV’s welcome
  • Group campsites near the river
  • Camp store and laundromat on site
  • Sites are equipped with table, fire ring and grate

Lovingly known as “Mini Yosemite,” Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is an extremely popular destination for those looking for river camping around Big Sur. 

The park has almost 190 easy walk-in campsites that are available on a first come first serve basis, but it’s recommended during peak season (June to October) to book ahead. 

Tent camping and RV camping are both accommodated here, with a dump station for the latter. The park is fully stocked to entertain with an amphitheater, over a 1000 acres of hiking trails, and easy beach access. 

Honorable Mentions

While these are our top choices as some of the best Big Sur Campgrounds with river campsites, there were plenty of runner ups which host both RV and tent camping.

  • Plaskett Creek Campground
  • Ventana Campground
  • Fernwood Campground
  • Andrew Molera Trail Camp

It’s always good to have nearby backups especially if you are looking for first come, first serve campsites during the peak season! 

Key Takeaways

  • The riverside camping in Big Sur fills up fast so book ahead when possible. 
  • Big Sur Campground and Cabins is on the more luxury end of river camping. 
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the biggest and most popular options for river camping. 
  • RV and Tent sites are available in most river campgrounds around Big Sur.
  • There are privately owned campgrounds that offer a more luxe experience.