How To Camp In Big Sur For Free

The perfect place to get off the grid and fully immerse oneself in California’s wild and undeveloped side.

Big Sur California
Enjoying the sunrise from the tent. Photo: Zoe Zaleski

Big Sur is one of the most stunning stretches of coastline in the world. The coast of Big Sur boasts beautiful bridges, rolling clouds, golden hills, steep cliffs, and clear turquoise waters. Big Sur is the perfect place to get off the grid and fully immerse oneself in California’s wild and undeveloped side.

The drive stretches just under one hundred miles and is situated between Carmel and Morro Bay. While it can easily be completed in a few hours, Big Sur provides the unique opportunity of being able to camp without any reservations or fees up above the clouds, overlooking incredible views of the ocean.

Big Sur California
The perfect dinner spot above the clouds. Photo: Zoe Zaleski

The Southern half of Big Sur falls under Los Padres National Forest, with wild rocky shores and every shade of blue and green imaginable. Los Padres National Forest is unique in that camping is allowed off the main roads along fire roads. While permits are required for using camping stoves and fires are prohibited, this is one of the only places in California where no prior planning for camping is required.

If you are the adventurous type looking for a secluded and breathtaking camping experience, Big Sur is the place for you. Plaskett Ridge Road curves up above the cloud line and provides views of the ocean below and the mountainous canyon along the opposite side of the ridge. There are numerous pull outs along the road in which cars can pull off and park to set up camp.

Big Sur California
The stunning views along Big Sur. Photo: Zoe Zaleski

While the views on top of the ridge are one of the most stunning displays of California coastline, there are a number of factors to take into account before making your way up Plaskett Ridge Road.

The road itself is highly treacherous and should only be used if the roads are not wet and muddy, so summer is the best time of year to attempt the drive. Be sure to drive the road only in a four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle, and to pack clothing for all types of weather, as the cloud cover causes a significant drop in temperature when it rolls through.

Big Sur California
Roadside views along Big Sur. Photo: Zoe Zaleski

While there are countless resorts and oceanside campgrounds, this free camping hack is a great way to see one of the most priceless views in the United States while saving money. It is a gorgeous spot to enjoy being out in nature, observing amazing stars, and cruising along the winding roads and bridges of Big Sur while staying disconnected from the outside world. If you are in the area, be sure to check out this free camping hack!

Zoe typically camps in Big Sur one to two nights at a time.

Big Sur California
Camping above the clouds in Big Sur. Photo: Zoe Zaleski

Zoe Zaleski

Zoe has been an avid traveler her whole life. She grew up in California, has lived in Spain, and is currently living in South Africa. Zoe has traveled to over twenty countries, and does not plan on stopping any time soon. She loves being outdoors, and her passions include photography, diving, backpacking, and rock climbing.

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