Planning a trip to Big Sur and looking for a campground to stay at? The Kirk Creek Campground is one of the most scenic campgrounds to experience along the rugged California coastline.
Kirk Creek Campground is perched on top of bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with dreamy views of the Big Sur coastline.
This campground offers the perfect place to enjoy nature, rest, reset and explore a few fun outdoor adventures.
Our guide below covers all you need to know about the Kirk Creek Campground from the amenities it offers and things to do nearby to what you should bring, and expect from your stay. Let’s jump in!
Know Before You Go
Before you head out to Big Sur, here are some important visitor tips to keep in mind:
- There is no cell service at Kirk Creek Campground and in general very little to no reception along Highway 1 in Big Sur past any major cities. Be sure to look up campground directions, download movies to watch, or a Kindle book to read ahead of time.
- Kirk Creek Campground allows dogs, but only within the campsite. While this region has limitations on where dogs are allowed, we had our pup Quito with us while camping in Big Sur and found plenty of places to take him for walks.
- Stock up on everything you may need for your camping trip before you head out there. There are very few stores in Big Sur so we recommend bringing everything you may need for the weekend including food, water, and camping supplies.
- Bring small bills if you wish to buy firewood or water that is often available for sale by the camp host.
About Kirk Creek Campground
If you’re looking for a scenic campsite in Big Sur, Kirk Creek Campground is it! We loved staying at this campground because it offers the chance to enjoy quality off-the-grid time in one of the most beautiful places in California. But this makes Kirk Creek Campground hard to reserve as it’s always booked up, comparable to campsites in top National Parks like Yosemite.
All of the campsites at Kirk Creek Campground are grassy, open, and very spacious with plenty of distance from the rest of the campers. Unlike other California camping experiences, this one felt very serene and quiet with no late-night partiers staying up drinking until the wee hours. Perfect if you just want to disconnect for a few days and enjoy some peace and nature!
The front campsites are lined against the bluffs and the back campsites are slightly elevated so everyone can enjoy ocean views.
Unfortunately, this means that some of the campsites are not leveled and tilt downwards. If you plan to stay in a car, van, or an RV, bring leveling blocks. Having leveling blocks and taking the time to position your car when parking can make all the difference for quality sleep.
Kirk Creek Campground Reservations
Kirk Creek Campground offers 33 campsites from which most work on online reservations basis and a couple are set aside as first-come-first-serve. The current fee is $35 for a standard campsite that can accommodate up to 8 people and 2 cars.
If you want to stay at this campground, your best bet is to make a reservation well in advance (like 6 months). Without a reservation, you might be turned away, especially on the weekends and busy travel seasons like summer. This is a sought-after campground in the Big Sur region. The minute these campsites open up in the reservation system, they often get booked right away!
If you show up without a reservation, you might be able to snatch a campsite from a “no-show”. Our campsite almost got re-sold to someone else after we left to explore Big Sur without checking in with the campsite host first. If you have a reservation, always check in with the camp host upon arrival to prevent that from happening!
With limited campground and hotel options in Big Sur, Kirk Creek Campground does their best to accommodate all of the travelers. They even have a section with several tent sites reserved for biker and hiker walk-ins.
Kirk Creek Campground is located along the scenic Highway 1 in Big Sur. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles and a 1.5 hour drive from Monterey. The drive can often take much longer due to windy roads, foggy weather conditions, and the jaw-dropping viewpoints that you’ll want to pull over and see constantly.
While Highway 1 is a paved and well-traveled road, be sure to drive with caution, especially around blind, sharp corners. During our trip, we saw a car flipped over and another one driving on a flat tire for miles since there are no mechanic shops nearby. You can also bring a fix a flat that can temporarily help you repair a flat tire.
Big Sur has very few towns and gas stations in between so be sure to fill up on gas before heading into this remote stretch of the rugged California Coastline. There is a gas station in Gorda town about a 15-minute drive from the campground but it has a reputation for being the most expensive gas in the country.
The great thing about the Kirk Creek Campground is its central location. Within a short drive, you reach some of the most popular Big Sur attractions including Limekiln State Park, Sand Dollar Beach, and McWay Falls.
Google Map Location: Kirk Creek Campground, Big Sur, CA 93920
Kirk Creek is a rustic campground with basic restrooms, no water sources, and no showers. If it’s your first time planning a camping trip and you’re looking for a campground with more amenities, we recommend checking out the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground that has hot showers, a camp store, and even a restaurant on the property!
Here are some of the highlights of the Kirk Creek Campground:
- Each campsite comes with a picnic table, a fire pit, and a grill. We recommend bringing fire starters that can help get a campfire going in the wet coastal conditions and camping popcorn that is so fun to make! If you forget to bring your own firewood, you can purchase it for $15 (in cash) from the camp host or the general store in Gorda about 15 minutes south of the campground.
- All of the campsites have a great view overlooking the ocean that is perfect for enjoying sunrises and sunsets. The campsites are situated on top of bluffs with an approximate 100 feet drop off below.
- The campground has a few trails that you can do nearby without leaving your campsite. We took a short trail on the south part of the campsite that travels from the bluffs down to a scenic creek.
- There are multiple easily accessible vault restrooms through the campground. These are primitive restrooms with no water or lights so bring a headlamp to use them at night.
Here is the breakdown of what it cost us to visit and camp at the Kirk Creek Campground for the weekend:
- Gas: $160. Since it takes us around 4-5 hours to get there in our campervan, one of our biggest expenses is usually gas.
- Groceries: $150. There are not many restaurants in Big Sur so we typically spend more on groceries.
- Campsite: $70. The campsite costs $35 per night and we stayed for the weekend.
- Firewood: $30. Firewood costs around $15 per bundle – bring cash to get it from the camp host.
- Parking: $30. To park and visit some of the main attractions in Big Sur.
Total estimated cost: $440 for a 3-day camping trip.
What To Bring
The weather in Big Sur can be quite temperamental so come prepared for anything. During our road trip we experienced wind, fog, rain, and sunny weather – all within the same weekend.
Here are a few basics that we recommend bringing for your camping trip to Big Sur:
- Water jugs. Upon arrival, we were surprised to find out that the Kirk Creek Campground does not offer any water sources. Be sure to bring plenty of water for your trip or grab some at the Gorda General Store nearby.
- Food for the trip. Our campervan has a fridge so we usually bring basic meals for our camping trips. If you want to treat yourself to a restaurant meal, Whale Watchers Café in Gorda is a casual spot that is open from 7:00 am to 7:30 pm. Wild Coast Restaurant is another nearby restaurant that offers upscale three-course meals and sushi if you’re looking for a nice dining experience with excellent views.
- Light Jacket. The weather in Big Sur is unpredictable and can change drastically throughout the day. When traveling to the coast it’s always colder than expected so pack a jacket that you can easily carry around and to the beach. I have an ultralight jacket by Mountain Hardwear that I bring in my backpack with me everywhere.
- Hiking shoes. I’m pretty clumsy so I prefer wearing hiking shoes with extra grip that prevent me from slipping & falling especially when it’s raining. But any walking shoes will do it for the easier hikes.
- Travel towel. To wipe off mud and sand before getting into your car or tent.
- Poison oak treatment. Poison oak can be found all over the Big Sur coastline. Bring poison oak treatment in case you get exposed to it.
- Sunscreen. This is an absolute must for traveling in California. It’s easy to get sunburned even on foggy coastal days.
- Portable phone charger. It’s always a good idea to bring a phone charger just in case your phone runs out of battery mid-hike.
- Emergency kit. REI sells compact lightweight emergency kits that are easy to bring in a car or day pack. You never know when you’ll need it and in Big Sur it’s best to go prepared.
While this is a compact list with a few of the basic items, we do have longer packing articles that dive into more details!
For tent campers: Check out this guide that covers our ultimate backpacking packing list.
For car travelers: Here are all the essentials that we bring for road trips in our car.
For van travelers: This guide covers 85 essentials that we pack in our campervan.
Things To Do In Big Sur
Here are some of the best things to see & do in Big Sur that are located near or within a short drive from the Kirk Creek Campground.
Heading south from the campground:
Sand Dollar Beach
When staying at the Kirk Creek Campground, Sand Dollar Beach is one of the closest beaches that you can visit in the area. Many people come to Sand Dollar Beach because it is also one of the few dog-friendly beaches in Big Sur. Here you can take your pup down to the beach and into the water but they do need to stay on leash and be cleaned up after.
There is a decent size parking lot for visitors that costs $10 for day-use. If there is an attendant on duty, here you can also purchase water, propane, poison oak wipes, and Advil.
To reach the beach you can follow the path that goes through the wooden gate and leads down towards the shore. There is a viewing area on top of the cliffs where (if you’re lucky) you might spot sea life or a California Grey Whale in the ocean.
From there take the stairs down to the Sand Dollar beach where you can go for a leisure walk on the longest stretch of beach in Big Sur.
San Martin Rock
San Martin Rock is a quick scenic spot that you can see as you drive up and down Highway 1. Here you can pull over to see the ocean and the unique San Martin Rock.
For better views, you can take a narrow trail down the overgrown bluffs for a closer look. But be careful as this trail ends abruptly next to a steep cliff edge.
For a different view of the rock, you can also stop by the Willow Creek view point and day use area. The Willow Creek viewpoint is free but if you wish to head down to the beach, it costs $10 for beach day use.
Gorda is where you’ll want to stop if you need to stock up on camping items, groceries, drinks, gas, or any other supplies. But do note that everything here is extra expensive because it has to be brought in from afar. Gorda also has cottage rentals, a minimart, Whale Watchers Café, and an espresso bar.
Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Creek Falls is a 0.3-mile hike that leads to a hidden 120 feet waterfall in the Big Sur area. This is a short hike but you’ll need to scramble across slippery rocks and pull yourself up a cliff with a rope to take a closer look.
This hike is also overgrown with poison oak and the trailhead has warnings for toxic algae that can often be found in the water. If you plan to hike this trail with little kids or dogs, don’t let them play in the water to avoid exposure to toxic algal mats.
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Ragged Point Scenic View
Ragged Point is one of the most popular locations in Big Sur for travelers to stop and stretch their legs, fill up on gas, grab lunch and enjoy views of the ocean.
On the property, you can roam around and check out the Ragged Point Inn, a rustic yet chic hotel that has a nice restaurant with outdoor seating. This is also a popular location for events and dreamy Big Sur outdoor weddings.
Here you can also walk on pathways next to the cliffs and peep through an art piece called “Portal to Big Sur”.
Elephant Seal Vista Point
When coming from the south, this is usually our first stop on a Big Sur road trip. Here you can walk on designated pathways and observe elephant seals from a close, yet safe distance.
In the 1800s elephant seals were hunted to near extension. A small group of them resided on the Guadalupe Island in Mexico and since then have repopulated to a colony of 15,000 that we can see here today.
We stopped by the Elephant Seal Vista Point most recently in March and saw a large group of females and one male on the beach. The males are giant and are typically gone by March while the females are much smaller and stay with their young pups.
Heading north from the Kirk Creek Campground:
Limekiln State Park
This is another excellent campground and day use area in Big Sur that has access to a large beach and several hiking trails. The Limekiln Campground is part of the Limekiln State Park so it costs $10 to visit it for the day.
Besides providing easy beach access, here you can also take scenic trails through a redwood forest that leads to historic lime kiln ruins and a waterfall. Unfortunately, all of the trails were closed during our visit due to damages from a fire so we were not able to do them on our trip.
Gamboa Point is one of my favorite viewpoints of the Big Sur coastline. This area overlooks jagged ocean rocks, lush hills, and turquoise blue water that looks especially stunning on a sunny day.
There is a small, pristine beach at the bottom of the overlook but the beach is private and not accessible to the public.
Big Creek Bridge
Big Creek Bridge is a quick, scenic stop and a viewpoint that overlooks a highway bridge. This is a great alternative to check out if you don’t have the time to drive to visit its larger version, the Bixby Creek Bridge more up north.
The Big Creek Bridge is 589 feet long and is made of giant concrete arches built into the canyon walls. There is a designated viewing area to take in the views.
If there is one place that you should see in Big Sur, it’s McWay Falls! This is one of the most scenic and photographed locations along the California Coastline.
To visit this waterfall, you can park at the McWay Waterfall parking lot which costs $10 for the day use. From there follow the short trail that goes through a tunnel and leads down to the shoreline. Take the pathway to the right that will take you to a viewing area of the jagged ocean rocks and McWay waterfall.
Due to erosion, part of this trail is closed now so you only have a small space to share with other visitors, view the waterfall and take a few photos for memories.
Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground
If you’re looking for something a bit different, the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground has serene forest trails that travel amongst giant redwood trees. We stayed at this campground on a previous Big Sur trip and enjoyed that it offered different scenery besides beaches and oceanfront trails.
Pfeiffer Beach is a great place to spend the afternoon if you don’t mind the hour drive from Kirk Creek Campground to get there. It costs $12 to visit Pfeiffer Beach and there is a designated day-use area that includes a paved parking lot, restrooms, and access to a trail that leads down to the shoreline.
Pfeiffer Beach consists of jagged rocks and a long strand of beach that continues along the northern shore. The most popular rock formation here is called the Keyhole Arch that is essentially a large opening at the center of the rock where waves and ocean water can wash through.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend than camping out on the stunning Big Sur Coastline! With amazing beaches, hiking trails, and picture-perfect campsites, it’s the perfect way to unplug and relax away from the city noise.
Looking for more California travel inspiration? Be sure to check out some of our popular California travel posts below:
- 10 Best Places To Stay In Big Sur For a Coastal Experience
- 15 Incredible Things To See & Do On a Big Sur Road Trip
- 10 Best Day Hikes In Yosemite That Should Be On Your List
- 15 Stunning Destinations To Visit In California In Winter
- Staying At Curry Village Tent Cabins In Yosemite
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