Clifftop Camping & Hot Springs in Big Sur

San Francisco Kirk Creek Campground

Added by George Miller

Enjoy in unreal views and safe, cliffside camping. The Campsite fire pits & wooden tables make camping easy and the gate is not closed after dark allowing people to come and go. The Esalen Institute is located 20 minutes drive north on US-1.

Campsite: There is nothing quite like driving or biking along US-1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Make sure you get a chance to do the drive during the day so that you can see all that Big Sur has to offer. Be careful when pulling off especially onto the shoulder and never stop on a curve in the road unless there is a clearly marked pull off. If you encounter the fog that the area has become a bit famous for be very careful driving but be sure to enjoy the mystical views.

Big Sur is really a magical place and a single trip could never unlock all of her beauty. I instead offer up a campsite with the potential for an unforgettable introduction to this beautiful area. Kirk Creek Campsite is often available to walk-ins however especially in the more popular months of summer etc you will want to make a reservation ahead of time. There are also a set of bike in spots along the bluff which are beautiful and it seemed like many people park their cars in pull offs along the road and bike to spots.

The campsite is near many trailheads and one brings you right down to the water. Its a beautiful area to explore and worth a day or two, especially if you enjoy hiking.

Something to certainly be aware of is the abundance of Poison Oak off of the trails and designated camping clearings. Another caution I give is that this campsite does not have running water so pack in what you will need for the evening and the next morning.

For campsite information call: (805) 434-1996

Hot Springs: Another option and possibly one of the most incredible experiences in Big Sur happens to just a quick drive north to the Esalen Institute. If you call 831-667-3047 on the day of your trip you can reserve a spot for Late Night Bathing at their hot springs ($25/person). This takes place between 1-3 AM and is a peaceful and rejuvenating way to see a side of Big Sur many people have not and Kirk Creek is optimal for this because of the location relative to the institute and the gates don't close at night.

The experience includes two hours of bathing with private and group baths separated into an indoor and outdoor sections. Both sides overlook the ocean and are positioned right on the edge of the cliffs. Joining the two bathing areas are shower facilities with ceiling to floor glass looking directly off into the ocean.

There is a vibrant history surrounding the institute and hot springs which also makes for a good read. Everything aside, I cannot stress this enough, the experience of the baths at night is not to be missed!

Pack List

  • Tent/RV
  • Car/bike
  • Food/beverages
  • Sleeping bag
  • Supplies for a fire
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Water (no running water on site)
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5 days ago

Beautiful but books up fast!

Drove up the California coast the other day and thought I'd have plenty of spots to choose from. I arrived here at 2:30pm (check out is at 2pm) and all the walk up spots were already taken -- on a random Tuesday! I can't even imagine the weekends. Make to reserve your spot or arrive early to nab a walk up!

5 days ago

over 1 year ago

I'll have to do this next time I venture out to Big Sur. I just heard about the Esalen Institute on my last day as I was heading to LA — sounds amazing!

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Incredible day on the bluffs overlooking the ocean and the sunset, then hot springs cliffside under the stars. A truly unforgettable experience!

over 1 year ago

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