Two Weeks in Big Sur’s Kirk Creek Campground

kirk12Sharon and I just wrapped up a most wonderful experience, camping right on the Pacific Ocean in the middle of Big Sur. For two weeks. It has really been beautiful and relaxing and restorative and everything else we could ask for, so let me give you a little background about Kirk Creek National Forest Campground and why this is such a special place to us.

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Looking north up the coast after we went inland and uphill a bit – campground is lower left.

We first stayed here in late October 2011, our first year of fulltiming, stumbling upon an open spot as we headed south down the Pacific Coast Highway before legging it for Florida – I had to get home by the end of the month because my tag was expiring.  It's a 33 spot campground on a small sloping bench maybe a hundred feet above the ocean, and back then it was all first some first serve, so we lucked out because they happened to have a spot. There's no electricity, no water, no dump, no cellphone service, and the nearest amenities are either 55 miles north in Carmel, or 40 miles south in San Simeon/Cambria.  So you have to come prepared. We didn't have enough time in 2011 to thoroughly enjoy it, but it went right to the top of our list of places to revisit.

Can't beat Big Sur.

Our Chevy Roadtrek in spot #8 back in 2012. Lot of ocean out there.

2012 was our Pacific Coast Highway year – we spent seven months on this fabulous road, and hit Kirk Creek for extended stays on the way north in April and May, and again on the way back south in November.  We have returned whenever we have been in the area, except in years like 2014 when I was tied up in Kitchener working on stuff.

One troubling development that made me think that this beautiful place was gone for good was the fact that the concessionaire (the private company that manages this National Forest campground) had put in an online reservation system. Since this place is only a three hour drive from the San Francisco metropolitan area, I figured it was useless for people like me to ever get a spot, and indeed the online sites are booked six months in advance.  But they still have a few first come first serve spots, one of which was available when we dropped by two weeks ago with slim hopes of getting anything. We took it.

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California poppies in our campsite.

Brenda the current campground host has been here five months now, and is most gracious and adept at squeezing in a few people when there are no-shows or cancellations. There are absolutely no guarantees that you will get anything without a reservation, though. There's another campground, Plaskett Creek, five miles south on the land side of the highway with many more spots, so you can usually find something if you show up early in the day, and avoid Thursday-Friday-Saturday arrivals.  Believe me, there are no bad spots at this campground, since it slopes down to the cliff edge, and everyone has a gorgeous view of the ocean.

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You don't need hookups. You really, really don't.

It's not a place for hookup queens, though. Bring your own water, food, electricity, and everything else. The nearest beer is forty miles away, and over ten dollars a six pack. On a trip to town I brought some back for Brenda as a present, and I thought she was gonna cry. Solar, extra batteries, and other boondocking enhancing capabilities are very, very good things for your RV to have. Generator use is technically legal, but you will stick out like a sore thumb, and get many disapproving looks from the vegan tent campers. There's no over the air TV or cell phone coverage here, and my satellite setups made me many friends. I was the only one with access to Golden State Warrior scores.

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K.C. the campground kitty, hanging out on our picnic table and dropping broad hints about lunch.

It's a beautiful, unspoiled wilderness, with whales, sea otters, and seals in the water, all kinds of birds in the air, and raccoons in your groceries if you aren't careful. Squirrels and bunnies scamper around all day under the watchful eye of K.C. the campground kitty, who has been here at least seven years, and is an institution. He gets enough handouts to give the wildlife a break now, and he and Fiona were making eyes at each other back in 2012 until I put a stop to that. She always goes for the rogues and scoundrels, to my everlasting disappointment. He's still here, a bit the worse for wear from his outdoor existence, but he's part of the charm of the place, and remembered us well enough to ask for some cat food immediately upon our arrival. Like Big Sur, some things never change.





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1 comment

  1. Hah, I saw you. Yesterday I drove back to LA on the coast through Big Sur and I drove around the campground you were staying at. I just saw it off the road and I thought I check it out. We even said hi to each other and I saw your massive satellite antennas while I was driving by with my little class B. 🙂 I’ve noticed there is no reception and maybe that’s the reason I would not want to stay there for long time. It is a beautiful campground though.