Camping in the Los Padres National Forest – Tips for Camping at Limekiln State Park Campsites

My first camping experience in the Los Padres National Forest was unforgettable. The central coast of California is a long succession of bluffs, cliffs, forested areas, beaches and magical blue ocean water. I excitedly reserved a campsite at Limekiln State Campgrounds with a view of the pacific ocean. I hadn’t been back up to the Big Sur area since my birthday 2 years ago when we drove down from San Francisco to Los Angeles. What made this trip even better was that my fiancé Trevor, and our friends Karen and Alan were there to share this remarkable place with me.

If you are like me you like to know as much information as possible when going to a campsite. Are the showers hot, will we be in a good campsite, how far away is the campsite from everything. Since this was my first time I really didn’t know what to expect. The reservation and camp websites only show you a tiny view into what it will be like camping here. I want to give you a few helpful hints that will help you get the most out of your Big Sur camping experience. (some tips are exclusively for Limekiln campgrounds but others are general tips about central coast camping and exploring)

1) Bring cash for quarters for the showers. The showers are $.25 for 2 mins which is definitely the best deal I have seen in Big Sur. The Julia Pfeiffer State Park campgrounds are $1.00 for 2 mins! Also the shower is hot not just lukewarm! (definitely was the cherry on top)

2) If you are bringing a second car be sure to bring cash to cover the daily fee of $10. The booking only covers the first car.

3) Each campsite has a spigot for drinking water and washing dishes.

4) If you book a beach access campground you will be sleeping under the 1 freeway. Which isn’t so bad because the sound of the cars passing overhead are muffled by the sounds of the waves crashing and the creek running out to the ocean.

5) Did I mention that there is a creek right next the campsites. Just be sure if you are booking a ocean access campsite that you book one on the east side of the camp map.

6) The beach is relatively small and swimming is prohibited.

7) Swimming is also prohibited at all the beaches throughout the Big Sur area. The waves are unpredictable and the rip currents are extremely powerful. It is very rare that you will find beaches where the conditions are even right for just wadding.

8) Layering is super important for camping at Limekiln. It will be overcast and chilly at night and the marine layer will fade away in the afternoon leaving you at the mercy of the sun’s unrelenting rays.

9) The beaches can get extremely windy. Sand will be flying in every direction including from below you. Pack a wind breaker, glasses and scarf to cover your face, head and torso.

10) Depending on the time of the year you will not be able to watch the sunset on the water. We went May 28th-30th, the sun set over the rocks to the northwest.

11) The hike to Limekiln waterfall is a little over a mile each way. Great way to start off the camping trip when you first arrive.

12) The hiking trails are limited and short so you will probably want to plan day trips to other parks along the coast.

13) Parking fees for other parks and beaches are not covered if you are camping at Limekiln. Both Pfeiffer State Park and Beach are $10 each.

14) Bring earplugs in case of noisy neighbors and remember to have them ready because there is nothing worse then getting up to find them in the middle of the night.

15) Big Sur State Park is 1 hr and 20 mins away. A great way to spend a day hiking and enjoying nature.

16) It can get very foggy in Big Sur. When we visited the marine layer was over the hills and ocean most of the trip. It did clear mostly midday and afternoon but it still had a fog over the horizon along the water. I found the best weather in mid November and Mid July with clear skies that go on forever.

17) Be sure you stop for gas before arriving because the nearest gas stations are over 40 miles away from the campgrounds.

18) Talk to the locals in the restaurants in the area to find out where to go for cool hikes and beaches in the area. I talked to a girl at the Big Sur Taphouse next to the Deli. I was so glad I started a conversation with her because she told us about Pfeiffer State Beach. By far the best experience in Big Sur.

19) When you are day tripping be sure to checkout all the different campsite that are along the way. You may be able to spot your next camping spot. Kirk Creek campsite is now on my list of campsites, it is situated on bluffs high above the water. Also Julia Pfeiffer State Park campsites that over look the beach.

20) There are tons of vantage points that you will want to stop at so make time for that. Every viewpoint has something different and spectacular to offer

Most of all the important thing to remember is to have fun exploring the forest and beaches. No matter what difficulty or unexpected hiccup you face, Big Sur will be the trip of a life time. This is the most beautiful place that I have ever been to and even my friend compared it to an expensive vacation that felt like it should have cost thousands of dollars. I have backpacked in the North Cascades and camped and hiked in Yosemite and Zion. None of these places even come close to the beauty and serenity that encapsulates all of the central coast. I hope that after reading this you are inspired to go camping along the central coast in California.

Read More by Trev Fenner

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