Travelog XIII Pfeiffer Big Sur: Camping
California truly has the best coastline. There, I said it. If I find another better one, I’ll let you know. This past weekend, we went camping in Big Sur with a large crew for a couple of days. The first camping trip I ever took Cooper on was Big Sur when he was just 4-5 months old. He had a blast but I’m not sure if he remembers. When we were driving down the coastline, he popped his head out the window to take in the smell of the ocean and had a big smile on his face.
We reserved our spot at Weyland Campground early in the year and it was right next to the creek. It’s best for you to reserve early as spots tend to fill up fast. The fee for a standard site is $35 per night. Dogs are permitted on campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park but majority of all hiking trails are not dog-friendly (see below for a list of dog-friendly trails). The weather in Big Sur was similar to San Francisco (cloudy and foggy) so I knew Cooper and Sachi didn’t need much outer protections which made packing easier. Our campground has access to water, clean restrooms and showers so we didn’t need to bring gallons of water or toilet papers. Be aware that there will be bugs and potentially ticks and fleas, so it’s best to pack natural bug repellent and make sure that your pup(s) has updated medication as needed.
What We Packed
Therm-a-rest Camping Mattresses
8x6 Tarp (tent footprint)
Wool Socks (and extra pair)
Cutting Board, Knife, Chopsticks, Silver Spoons, Stainless Steel Bowls, Enamel Mugs,
Hotpot Pot, Pan, Mini Pot, Dishsoap and Sponge, Two Burners, French Press
Enough clothes for 3 days, 2 nights (warm and comfy with some thermals)
Camera: Sony Alpha a7r ii
Lens: Sony FE f/2 28mm, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8, Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
2 dog bowls
Mini-Emergency Kit Bag
Tips: If you have any food, please do not leave it out without properly storing it away in an airtight container. There are squirrels around the campground that will come and ravage everything. All food of any type (chips, dog food, frozen meat) should be stored away when there are no supervisions at the campsite.
Also, if you are taking your pup(s) or any pets with you on this camping trip, please keep note that the CLOSEST vet clinics are located in Monterey and Carmel (about 30 miles away which is roughly 1 hour from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park). Go here to see the vet clinics that are open 24 hours.
The drive from San Francisco to Big Sur took about 3 hours, it was definitely one of our shorter road-trips compared to Yosemite or Trinity Alps. If you’re taking your dog to Big Sur from the north, you can stop by Monterey Bay or Carmel (both are very dog-friendly town) for a nice and fun break.
When we arrived at our campsite (Weyland Campground 119), the first thing we did was to set-up our dog hitching system prior to pitching our tent and unloading all our equipment. This way, our dogs are safely secured and are free to move around without any enclosure. They’re less likely to get anxious about what we are doing as they can see everything that their humans are doing. Once the pups are secured and our tents are pitched, we started to prep early for dinner. The benefits of car camping is that we’re able to bring a lot of food and supplies to help us make camping fancier than normal.
For our first camp meal, we decided on yakitori. I had prep chicken hearts, gizzards, thigh, and skin on bamboo skewers the night before and pre-made the tare sauce needed for grilling. To make traditional yakitori, we bought a Shichirin Hida Konro from Noto Dia and we used binchotan charcoals to fire up the grill. It was difficult at first to get the charcoals hot enough to grill the meat but once we got it going, it was easy from there on out. We were making yakitori for 3 hours while chilling around our campsite and talking amongst ourselves. More of our friends started trickling in and soon enough, the two campsites (117 and 119) was filled with tents. Everyone started popping over to us for a grilled skewer, a great way to start camping.
The remainder of our first day was spent exploring the campground and hanging out with friends in our conjoined campsite. Big Sur River was right next to our campground where we moseyed over with our pups, Cooper went in for a swim while fetching sticks. Both Cooper and Sachi ended up feeling happy, content, and tired following the river romp. We ended the day chilling around a campfire while playing Asians Against Sobriety (think Cards Against Humanity but with Asian memes). Then it was time for us to call it a night in our warm, cozy little tent. Cooper claimed a spot at the corner of the tent and proceeded to knock out.
Everyone was up bright and early for a full day in Big Sur on the following morning. I woke up just a tad bit earlier than everyone else to feed the pups and also to prepare breakfast. On the menu that morning was bánh mì ốp la, baguette served with sunny side up fried eggs topped with soy sauce. A hearty morning Vietnamese meal for a full day of hiking and exploring.
There are only a few places in Big Sur that permit dogs on trails. I chose Coast Ridge Road to Terrace Creek Trail as it was only 7.6 miles roundtrip and was considered a moderate trail, which shouldn’t take us long. Our plan was to hike for 2-3 hours then check out McWay Falls before heading back to camp at around 3:00pm to prepare dinner. Usually the goal with camping is to prep and eat our meals before it gets dark, luckily the sun sets at around 8:00pm during this time of the year.
If you’re wondering what trails permit dogs, here is a list for just Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park:
In the past, we had already done Pfeiffer Beach and I wanted us to explore more of what Big Sur has to offer with a hike rather than a beach trip. Coast Ridge Road is moderately trafficked and is accessible year-round, dogs are allowed but they required to be on-leash at all time. Please remember that this is a State Park, the rules should be followed.
Finding the trailhead was a bit difficult, when you see a sign for Vantana Resort off the Highway 1, turn in and go uphill. There will be a lot at the top for you to park your car. The trailhead is right after the meditation circle (giant stone circle, you can rotate it!) and there will be a red gate. The trail is flat with not too many rocks but it’s all uphill, it’s not too strenuous (some people were jogging by us). Albeit, it may be difficult if the weather is hot since there aren’t a lot of shade once you get closer to the top. The view was great! The trail starts out with a forest setting but as you make your way up, you can see the coastline on the left with an open scenery (this is the no-shade part)
We started to make our way down at around 1:00pm. Both Cooper and Sachi were content with the hike but I could tell they wanted more, I guessed 7 miles just doesn’t cut it anymore. Just before heading back to camp, I wanted to pay McWay Falls a visit since it was only 7 miles away from Coast Ridge Road. If you have never heard of McWay Falls or have heard of it but have never seen it in person, I really recommend going there when you’re in Big Sur. It’s one of those must-see places along the California coastline. The water has this beautiful teal/turquoise/aquamarine jewel tone and next to it is an 80ft waterfall streaming out of a rock. There’s a vista point spot where you can park your car and bask in the gorgeous view. If you want to go down for a closer look, there is a trail nearby (not dog-friendly). I would imagine that the sunrise and sunset here would be pretty marvelous. Another reason for me to want to return again.
As we made our way back to camp, we stopped for some soft-serve ice cream. I can’t remember the name of the place but it’s off of Highway 1 and north of McWay Falls. It has a lovely outdoor patio that’s dog-friendly, there was a bowl of fresh water for the pup(s) and tables for us to enjoy our confection.
After we were satisfied and gotten our sugar rush, it was back to camp we go! We ended up making it to our campground at around 3:00pm. After we hitched up the pups safely, it was time to prep for our hotpot dinner. We bought two flavor broths from The Pot’s in San Francisco, pork bone and curry. The ingredients that we throw into the hotpot was bought at an Asian market. There were thinly sliced pork belly, beef briskets, shrimps, bok choy, enoki mushrooms, and garlic. And as strange as it may seem, we use Stella and Chewy’s broth topper (beef and chicken) to continuously fill up our hotpot as it diminishes. The warmth of the hotpot filled up the soul as the air started to drastically cooled.
With a belly full of hotpot goodies and a devoured pot, we cleaned up our station and then proceeded to rest and relax around the campfires. Cooper and I cozied up together in our friend’s hammock briefly as we watched sticks being tossed into the fire pit (sorry Cooper). Soon later, the pups had another romp around the river since they recouped their energy from the hike earlier and now has a burst of energy that was ready to be exhausted. Cooper was more than thrill to engaged in another game of stick fetch in the water.
Then second dinner got started as some of our friends came back from their quick trip to McWay Falls (a few of them didn’t come with us earlier). They were serving up KBBQ, grilled steak on a cast iron, and homemade french fries. The night was filled with laughter, chatters, light shows, and delicious s’mores. Cooper was completely tuckered out so he was asleep in the tent earlier than the humans, Sachi already clocked out for the night around the same time as Cooper. I called it a day once sleep started overtaking me following the s’mores.
And just like that, our camping trip came to an end the following morning. We cleaned our station thoroughly, deconstructed the tents, and packed up everything into the car once more. The campsite was left as clean as possible and all trash were properly thrown out. With a full day ahead of us, we took our time heading back to San Francisco and made sure to stop along the way at certain vista points to admired the golden coast even more. The first stop was a regular vista point just before Bixby Creek Bridge. The overlook was higher in elevation and we were able to get a good vantage point of the rugged coastline.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Big Sur without getting snapshots at Bixby Creek Bridge and we did just that at our next stop. Every time we are in Big Sur, I always like to do a quick detour at Bixby to admired the aesthetically graceful bridge against the magnificent Pacific Ocean. We hopped into the car and continued our drive up the coast after basking in the glory of Bixby Creek Bridge. The weather was really good to us with a mix of sunshine and cloud.
The last stop was a short expedition to Calla Lily Valley and Garrapata Beach. This is actually a dog-friendly area! It was my first time here and I definitely didn’t expect it to be such a gem. The calla lilies were still gorgeous, albeit some had already wilted away. There’s a fresh water creek that runs through the calla lilies and into Garrapata Beach. The beach had very few people and was exceptionally clean (let’s keep it this way please!). Cooper got to run his heart out and played fetch with a driftwood that he found washed ashore, a great way to tire him out before the nonstop 2 hour drive back. This furry nugget always has such an abundance of energy.
Thank you for always being so beautiful Big Sur. We’ll surely be back again soon and bask in your glory once more.