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5 of Monterey County's Best Coastal Campgrounds

limekiln at sunset

This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail series, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

Monterey County is home to some of the state's most stunning terrain. From coastal bluffs to towering redwood groves, there is a unique camping opportunity to be experienced for all ages.

Below you'll find the following excellent campground options in Monterey County.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

big sur julia burns
Source: Joe Parks/Flickr/Creative Commons

Camping in Big Sur is a remarkable experience. Nestled among the nearby 3,000-foot ridges and jagged stretches of the Pacific Coast, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers the opportunity to laze or jaunt among redwoods, tidepools, and dramatic vistas. In December and January, watch for gray whales from the end of Overlook trail. And any day of the year, amble a short trail to view McWay Falls, where McWay Creek plunges into the shore in spectacular fashion. There are two designated campsites, hike-in only with no vehicle access. Reservations required. Visit here for more information.

Andrew Molera State Park 

Looking to pass a night in a yawning meadow near the Big Sur River? Then Andrew Molera State Park is your ticket! The campground allows access to the beach and over twenty miles of trails in the park, including the East Molera Trail that leads to broad coastal views. You can even meander over to Cooper Cabin, built in 1861 and the oldest structure in Big Sur. The campround operates on a first come, first serve basis, and is about ⅓ mile from the parking area. Visit here for more information.

Kirk Creek Campground

kirk creek campground
Source: Michael/Flickr/Creative Commons

Sitting on a bluff above the Big Sur coastline, Kirk Creek Campground promises a view of the sparkling Pacific from each campsite. Watch a ocean sunset from your tent, then the next day hit the 5-mile trail to Sand Dollar Beach, the largest sandy beach in Big Sur (it’s dog-friendly, too). There are numerous trails from the beach leading to bluffs and coves in the area. For further hiking, head across the highway to pick up the Vicente Flats Trailhead. Make a reservation for one of the 34 sites here.

Fremont Peak State Park

Hike up about one mile from your campsite in Fremont Peak State Park and be treated to a vista unlike any other -- four California counties all within eyeshot. At the apex of Fremont Peak, take in the surrounding counties while also visiting the Fremont Memorial, honoring former military governor of California John C. Fremont. Ten primitive family campsites and forty picnic areas are available, reserve here.

Limekiln State Park

Surrounded by some of the oldest redwood groves in Monterey County, Limekiln State Park is the former site of a limestone quarry that was active in the late 1800s. The park has beach access that offers incredible views of the steep coastal hillsides. Strike out on a hike to visit the former steel kilns, or meander along Hare Creek through a redwood grove that was saved from destruction in the 1980s. Twenty four campsites are available, make reservations here.

Top Image: Chris D 2006/Flickr/Creative Commons

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