6 best campgrounds in Monterey County

Camping as a family is one of my favorite things to do.  Both of my kids really love to get away and adventure outdoors, and I swear, they always get along so well on these camping trips.  For the most part…

Living in Palm Springs, we adventure around Southern California often; there is a lot to see and experience.  This summer though, we are planning on heading north quite a bit.  In an effort to escape the intense heat and experience new sights, I’ve been researching the best campgrounds in Monterey County (which is huge!).

Monterey County is a perfect area to explore again and again with your family.  From breathtaking ocean, cliff side and forest views to legendary golf courses and epic shopping, you’ll never run out of fun family trip ideas.  Amazing campgrounds run all through the county: near downtown, on the coastline, perched atop the cliffs and alongside streams, rivers and lakes.

There are many campgrounds in Monterey County.  For a full list -> Camping in Monterey County  Please note that due to road closings, campgrounds at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur are currently closed, potential opening June 1, 2017.

Here are my top 6 to visit:

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

One of the highest-rated campsites on the Pacific Coast, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers only two sites, yes you read that right.  These two coveted campsites are worth reserving far in advance (6 mos+ at least).  Here you will get incredible views of the Big Sur coastline through cypress groves filled with gorgeous wildlife.  Make sure to check out McWay Falls, an 80-ft waterfall that runs year round.  If camping at the right time in winter (Dec/Jan) or spring (March/April) you can catch the grey whale migration. Dolphins are also common sights!

Limekiln State Park, Big Sur

These 33 campsites run alongside Limekiln Creek, in the southernmost state park in Monterey County.  The park is located in the steepest coastal canyon in the continental United States and holds some of Monterey County’s oldest redwood groves.  Campsites are first-come, first-served.  Limekiln State Park is one of the only Big Sur parks with beach access, so if you’re looking to spend your days on the beach, lookup up, this is your spot!

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Nicknamed “mini Yosemite” this gorgeous landscape featuring waterfalls, redwood groves and a wide variety of iconic California wildlife, is the most popular camping destination in Big Sur.  Pop your tent alongside Big Sur River and spend the day exploring the vast hiking trails that vary in difficulty.

Lake San Antonio, Harris Creek Campground

For those looking for freshwater recreation in Monterey County, look no further.  Famous for its fishing opportunities, Lake San Antonio is a perfect spot for boating, water-skiing, swimming and other water sports, year round.  Lake San Antonio offers over 500 campsites around the lake, abundant with wildlife and a great spot to take the kiddos.

Fremont Peak State Park

Here’s a spot for those who like to camp out for the view – the night sky view.  During the day, enjoy spectacular views from Santa Cruz to Carmel.  At night, the Milky Way shining bright above.  Do not forget your telescope or your camera/tripod set up to catch stunning star trail photos.  On moonless Saturday nights, hike over to the Observatory (open to the public once a month) to watch the stars.

Veteran’s Memorial Park, Monterey

Visiting Monterey for its downtown shopping, restaurants and attractions?  Maybe roughing it with kids isn’t your idea of fun.  Check into a campground tucked into the forest only a mile from downtown Monterey, Veteran’s Memorial Park.  Campsite 35 is the most isolated spot, so request it if you can!

Another really great reason to visit Monterey County is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located on the ocean’s edge of historic Cannery Row.   Sea life on exhibit includes marine animals of all kinds, which can be viewed above and below the waterline.  The only mammals you will find at the aquarium are sea otters, which were rescued through its Sea Otter Program.  It is a spectacular aquarium, great for everyone with (or without) kiddos!


Plan the perfect family getaway in Monterey County and enter to win tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Monterey County Youth Museum. TWO LUCKY WINNERS will each win:

  • Four tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Four tickets to the Monterey County Youth Museum (MY Museum)


Planning a trip to Monterey >> Everything to do in Monterey County, California

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