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BIG SUR - further on up the road // primitive camping recs?

Hello to who reads this 🤙,

Planning a trip to Big Sur soon to ask a special question. I’ve camped many times at a variety of the organized campsites. But I’ve always been interested in primitive camping up on the ridges in national forest areas.
If anyone can provide some good info on their experiences I would be so grateful. As goes for a lot of research on national forest dispersed camping, the info I found is sparse and limited. Hoping for a little exactitude for a short weekend with a long approach to Big Sur.

Thanks in advance!

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5 Replies

Hi @Kahalacy - Thanks for reaching out! 

It's great to hear you are planning on spending some time around Big Sur. It's such an incredible area!

Finding primitive camp sites in this area isn't always straight forward, as you have seen in your research. When I have had positive results it has been from wandering around national forest land after parking in a dispersed camping site, making sure to arrive before sundown so I have plenty of time to search.

For places to start these kinds of ventures, I would suggest the following starting points:

  • Prewitt Ridge Road
  • Willow Creek Road

Contacting a Los Padres National Forest ranger is good starting place for more info about these areas, as their conditions change, as well as status of certain primitive camping areas. They should be able to help you with the most up to date information. It looks like most of their ranger services have been switched to virtual, with various contact information available of the Los Padres NF USDA webpage. 

Hopefully this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Consider the road to Cone Peak. As a heads up, this is an forest where a permit is required to park on the National Forest, so it's not quite free camping. There is also a lot of private property within the forest service boundary, so careful attention to map resources is required. Most sites are very small, essentially enough room to park and set up a couple of chairs. It's best if you can sleep in your vehicle.

It's not moonshining they do in these hills, so it's best to pay attention to property lines.

I really appreciate the insight. Will look into Cone Peak. Would you be able to say from experience if this area to Cone Peak may be easier to find a site compared to the seemingly popular options of Prewitt Ridge and Willow Creek Roads?


I know and have camped on the road to Cone Peak twice. The road going south from the saddle also has a few small pull out type campsites. Otherwise most of my roadside camping has been done away from the Big Sur Coast because of problems of closures and private property.

The Santa Lucia mountains are quite large and there is access from the north, south and east as well. 


Thank you for the detailed info!