This past weekend, a group of 8 of us went camping at Big Sur. Our friend CR had secured one of two of the most sought-after campsites on the West Coast at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This campsite, perched above the gorgeous, rocky shores of Big Sur, was a hybrid of car camping and backpacking: it was far enough down the road to be secluded and surrounded by nature (i.e., not rowdy campers or RVs), but also had a few car camping luxuries, such as a fire pit, picnic tables, trash and recycling bins, and pit toilets. Just a short 0.1 mile steep hike down the hill from the fire road, we were able to bring in enough water, firewood, and camping accessories for the weekend. (There is already a very informative article about camping at JPB on the internet, so I won’t repeat the details. One difference since that article was written is that campsite #2 is no longer overgrown with vegetation.) One thing I loved about this campsite was sleeping to the sounds of the ocean. So calming!
CR had the foresight to book 2 nights over MLK Jr. weekend – Saturday and Sunday – which allowed for a leisurely arrival on Saturday afternoon and departure late Monday morning. On Saturday, we set up and enjoyed our camp and did some exploring around the area. We climbed on the nearby rocks to watch a glorious sunset and look for whales and dolphins in the distance.
On Sunday, we did a short, tough hike on the Ewoldsen trail — about 4.5-5 miles roundtrip (out-and-back) and 1500′ climb. It was hard work but so worth it! We started off deep in the redwood forest, then kept climbing up single track until we reached the ridge and caught views of the coastline. For January, it was very warm – probably 70 degrees or so.
After the hike, we returned to camp for lunch and naps, then went back to civilization for a few hours to watch the 49ers playoff game. Unfortunately, they lost, but we did catch another magnificent sunset, this time over layers of dense fog from the deck of the Ventana Inn.
One of the features of this campsite is that it’s just a short walk from McWay Falls, one of the must-sees of the Big Sur coastline. Since California is currently in a bad drought, I wasn’t expecting to see much of a waterfall, so I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that much different from when I was there last, in 2009. To me, the color of the water in the cove is the most stunning part — more Caribbean aqua than Pacific coast blue.
If you’re planning a trip to Big Sur, I can’t recommend this campsite highly enough!