We first did this trip in April of 2015 and had such a great time we decided to do it again the next year. It has now become one of our favorite locations in California to roadtrip to and camp in. The plan was to load up our 22 footer Jayflight trailer and haul it up the coast to Montana de Oro for an overnight stop which would allow us a leisurely day of driving and stopping for lunch/photos along the scenic Highway 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Day 1: Fullerton to Montana De Oro State Park/Islay Creek Campground
The first day was a 235 mile crawl up through the quintessential California landscapes of the Hollywood hills and ocean vistas of Santa Barbara to the windswept bluffs of Montana De Oro near the sleepy town of Los Osos. An optional stop on the way north is the Danish hamlet of Solvang. With it's windmills, beer gardens, and cute local shops we had a great lunch stop with our constant companion Bullwinkle. We had stopped here last year and although it was picturesque this is the best photo we got. It's not our fault that Bullwinkle is so photogenic.
Islay Creek Campground was our next stop and it's located just up the hill east of Spooners Cove. Each site has a picnic bench and fire ring as well as shared vault toilets. Reservations are highly recommended. Don't forget to bring your bikes as Montana De Oro has some great bike trails for all levels with a fantastic overlook point.
Spooners Cove offers easy access to tide pools and a freshwater creek. There's plenty to explore here a short walk away from the campsite. Also you can just sit and watch the water or explore the caves. Great for kids and dogs alike.
Here I'm wearing a 10Tree raglan, Poler Campvibes waxed cotton 5 panel cap, and Kavu Road Warrior Shorts, which are some of my favorite items to rock on the daily as well as out wandering.
The Bluff loop trail starts just south of Spooners cove and hugs the steep cliffs right above the crashing waves. Along the 2.1ish mile trail there are a few spots open to make your way down to a secluded beach or tide pool. During this time of year the water is cold, but not too cold for wading, and definitely not too much for Bullwinkle to go crashing through.
The next morning we packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of the journey - the dramatic central coast past Hearst Castle where the mountains spill into the ocean to the dark redwood forests of Big Sur.
Last year due to rain there was some road debris that created a serious pit stop for us. We pulled into the campgrounds with people waving at us, which we thought was just some central coast friendliness. Once we got into the site we realized our mistake, our tire was shredded! Luckily our trailer is a double axle and we safely made it despite it all. We now carry two spare trailer tires for this reason. Better to be safe than sorry!
We took our time going north since this leg from Islay Creek to Big Sur would take a little over two hours of total drive time (~100 mi). Some of our favorite stops along the way are:
- Lime Kiln/ Pfeiffer/McWay Falls
- Partington Cove
By early afternoon we made it to our campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Reservations are recommended. It's $50/night to reserve a riverside site but it really makes the trip to be right by the water. If you bring a few rafts it's fun to float down to the otherside of the campground, or you can fish everyday if you like! We feel it's worth it unless you are in a site deep in the redwoods (it gets dark and cold fast there, though). Reservations are Here . Sites we recommend:
The sites numbered around 170 are close to a nice swimming hole that swirls around a big boulder but watch out for poison oak! Always good to have a small Adventure Medical Kit for those moments.
-60 and 61 which are twin sites on the river front on their own secluded spur in the road for ultimate privacy. We loved our site and ended up making friends with our neighbors which was great once it got dark and we wanted to have some friends to jam out with.
We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.
We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our Thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.
Exploration of the campgrounds was in order and there is no better way than by bike! Here myself and the wife decided to try out our selfie stick while feeling the breeze in our hair and enjoying the greenery. She's wearing the California Dreaming tank from Bandit Brand and Komono Sunglasses.
Dinner that night was a lofty goal of building a dutch oven pizza. It turned out ok but there were some lessons learned. Baking is a science but with a dutch oven it's a voodoo art. To help here's a chart of the number of coals needed on top/bottom of the oven to reach a certain temperature. In the end it was still delicious and after waiting a few hours for it to be prepped and cooked we were starving and wolfed it down. Chart
We are classy camp folk. Obviously dutch oven pizza pairs well with Carlo Rossi sangria and Jenga. Always remember when your in the mountains the alcohol goes a lot further we were silly by the 2nd drink. Always bring plastic reusable cups for these kinds of adventures because spilling will be happening.
The next morning we slept in aided by the sound of running water and a cool breeze through the trailer windows. After a hearty breakfast of mountain man pie (hash brown crust, sausage crumbles, cheese and egg holding it all together in the dutch oven) we set out for another little bike ride.
Here Liz parked her townie and her favorite pack the Wildwood Poler pack, which we have available in store only by the original Big Sur Park Lodge from 1920.
Bullwinkle seemed to like the ferns and downed redwood stumps. He stopped to roll in this field of clovers for good luck! Liz is rocking the Sol Cool Hoody and Komono Clement sunnies in this shot.
After a light lunch we decided to head down to Pfeiffer State Beach. Voted by USA Today readers it's one of the top 10 beaches in the US. It's known for its sea caves, arches, and purple sand.
It's positively magical, we spent a half day there relaxing in our Alite mayfly chairs and soaking up the sun. Liz is as pale as milk and she was happy she brought her Exofficio Sol Cool Hoodie. Don't miss the sharp turnoff from Hwy 1 onto Sycamore Canyon Rd. You could easily spend all day here.
With the sun setting it was getting chilly and we hightailed it back to camp. The fixin's were all chopped up and dumped into the dutch oven for a pot of super chilli.
We let that cook down by itself over a few coals and got to relaxing by the Big Sur River. Bullwinkle looks very pleased with himself for finding a good spot.
Time to dig in!
The Wellington Henley is a great layer out in the woods or in town.
Our last morning called for some breakfast burritos to fuel up for the long drive back home. As always Hydroflasks are a constant companion.
While we worked our way home we noticed someone's fortress of solitude on the road to Carmel and realized it must be heavenly. One day maybe we will have one of our own. for now, it was time to get back to real life and say good bye to the central coast and head back to Fullerton.