Don inspecting the Nacimiento Campground 2016
Enjoy the Big Sur Outdoors NOW but DO BE CAREFUL! NOTICE: "…Due to extremely dry vegetation and an increasing fire danger, Los Padres National Forest officials announced that Level III fire restrictions will go into effect beginning , June 14, 2016. The following restrictions will be rigorously enforced until this Forest Order expires:
Wood and charcoal fires are prohibited in all areas of Los Padres National Forest except for designated Campfire Use sites; however persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are allowed to use portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel outside of designated Campfire Use Sites. California Campfire Permits are available for free download at the preventwildfireca.org website"...
extreme high : click for current fire restrictions
Updated August 25, 2016: If you want to beat the tourist season rush it is likely already too late but things have gotten complicated because of fire; check to see if your desired campground is open and look for sites open because of cancellations. There are still a very few first come coastal campsites available on weekday early mornings but on Friday or Saturday or even Sunday forget it the coast is busy, you must have a reservation.
From my recent central coast camping sojourns one important thing I have learned is that the time to go camping on the central coast is RIGHT NOW, before drought induced USFS fire restrictions are upgraded again and water services are downgraded; fire restrictions were finally lowered so now you can have campfires and charcoal barbecues anywhere in the Los Padres National Forest including the established popular campgrounds; to me if there isn’t a campfire and or barbecue then it isn’t camping.
Bottom line is get camping NOW... the fire restrictions will be upgraded again too soon.
Don’t forget to pack water, drinking water and hand sanitizer Kirk Creek has gone dry and the potable water in the water systems at Nacimiento Campground are iffy and Ponderosa Camp has strong sulphur water (take bottled water to drink) both camps are on the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and provide good alternated to overcrowded campgrounds on the coast. Other changes already here and coming soon to some camps and day use areas are the closure of showers and switch from flush toilets and sinks to emergency chemical toilets and hand sanitizer stations; San Simeon State Park has already shut the showers down (SLO Tribune) and replaced the day use area bathrooms with chemical units, Limekiln still has showers at this time and there is an outdoor shower at Hearst Memorial State Beach north end the lower parking lot by the beach.
CAMP BY CAMP RUNDOWN; these are the camps I’ve stayed at or visited this March:
1. San Simeon State Park Campground - Washburn Primitive Campground
2. Morro Strand California State Beach Campground
3. Plaskett Creek Campground
4. Kirk Creek Campground
5. Limekiln Creek Campground
6. Nacimiento Campground
7. Ponderosa Campground
8. Pinnacles National Park Campground:
9. Carrizo Plains National Monument
Big Sur Camping Tips Spring 2016:
1. Take Water: take along water and or jugs to carry and plan to purify; bottled drinking water and a big bottle of hand sanitizer for the table are good ideas too.
2. Go Soon As Possible: it will of course get busier as the season progresses but the real dangers of waiting are the lack of water and possible campfire and barbecue restrictions.
3. Plan Ahead, all good sites get reserved online Fridays, Saturdays and holidays: many people now reserve online if possible, this can assure you the most desirable site and keep you from being pushed out of the park back onto the highway
Big Sur Camping Update June 14th, 2016: Spring is almost over... the Big Sur backcountry has some wildflowers still blooming even though the grass is golden... so get going to see what's left today! Postponing your trip until the later in this poor drought ridden land could cause disappointment. It is truly beautiful hurry quickly don’t miss it.
Ponderosa Campground is all opened the upper part of the camp and got the water flowing although it tastes like rotten eggs. Because of the price of gas it is busy this year get your reservations as soon as possible; most good sites are already reserved for Fridays and Saturdays, you can still have campfires at the sites but level III restrictions began June 14 and stricter fire restrictions and drought related problems will start soon (like some water restrictions are already in effect on the coast). Please do be careful and follow the USDF’s rules, regulations, and suggestions regarding fire.
But do out and enjoy and appreciate the Big Sur…Happy Camping!
10. USDAFS Memorial Campground : - May 9th/ May 13th, 2016 (the campground was full!), Nice Big Sur backcountry camping with miles of beautiful hiking trails in another-worldly landscapes of exposed sandstone bluffs, make connections to other trails, back roads, and backpack camps also a route along the Arroyo Seco River with close by great swimming holes too. The is a FREE primitive campground, this has not been a popular park because it is out of the way and limited to one entrance because of a landslide/road closure but that seems to be changing and it now gets full; it is first come first serve and does get full like for spring break and holidays and weekends such as Memorial Day and July 4th weekend. Only eight primitive campsites with all the basics except water and firewood; camp sites have campfire-rings, charcoal grill stands, picnic tables, vault restrooms, garbage, elbow room and nice views; directly across from Indians USFS Ranger Station. Go to Fort Hunter Liggett turn onto Mission Road to Del Venturi Road. Travel 18 paved miles to the campground.
11. USDAFS Escondido Campground : - May 9th, 2016, a bit further and higher in elevation than Memorial Campground and the road to get there is narrow and rough dirt but makes a good alternative when Memorial Camp is full; also has miles of beautiful hiking trails one which leads to the Arroyo Seco River. The area is teaming with wildlife and beautiful flora. The fee is FREE ; 8 primitive campsites with all the basics except water and firewood; camp sites have campfire-rings, charcoal grill stands, picnic tables, vault restrooms, and garbage pick-up. Go to Memorial Camp then 3 unpaved narrow road miles to the campground.
More about these camps: These are a couple of rare out of the way “hidden jewels” that hate to advertise so they may stay that way but they seem to be getting more popular anyway. There is plenty of great scenic hiking, near by places of historical significance and abundant wildlife if you like those sort of things and a few good campers if you care for a little good human company.
The surreal landscapes surrounding these campsites still bears the scars from the 2008 wildfire that ripped through and burned all the way to the coast a reminder to take extreme care with fire. The large scared trees that survived and the small 4 to 6 foot pine and 2 to 3 foot madrone replacements have are a testament to the hardiness and resilience of nature but are also provide fuel for wildfire should that happen. Please do be careful and follow the USDF’s rules, regulations, and suggestions regarding fire.
But do get out and enjoy and appreciate the Big Sur…Happy Camping!