In case you haven’t heard, a glamorous camping trip is also known as glamping!
Jaw-dropping ocean vistas, elephant seals barking on the beach, waterfalls, winding roads, redwood trees, lighthouses, boardwalks, and stunning sunsets are some of the many reasons why Big Sur is one of the most popular road trip destinations in the entire United States, and it is a perfect spot for a girls glamping trip. I recently organized a fabulous camping trip to Big Sur for 15 ladies, so I thought it would be fun to class it up a little bit; think string lights, real food, campfire desserts, mimosas, fancy plate settings and centerpieces (we even had a toaster and an oven). Tent camping at popular destinations has never been my jam. There are tons of people, it can be very noisy (we were woken up in the middle of the night to police sirens yelling at a drunk driver to pull over in our campsite), and the campsites can be littered with trash (I woke up one morning to discover my pup was chewing on a used tampon from a previous camping group). I have always been a fan of backpacking out into the middle of nowhere and surviving on lightweight gear, vodka, a good book and freeze-dried food without being disrupted by screaming babies, drunk people, and tourists. But Big Sur was a special trip because it was my last official Girls Who Hike camping event, so I decided to glam it up, because who doesn’t want yummy mimosas and a campfire at 9 a.m.??
Important lessons from Girls Who Glamp, Big Sur Style
- Do not plan to hike on closed trails as trails are closed for a reason (I about lost my mind regarding this issue).
- Champagne makes everything better.
- Always bring extra cash for parking.
- When the women’s bathroom is out of toilet paper, there are probably 10 rolls in the men’s bathroom.
- There is poison oak everywhere, so mind your footing and keep your dogs on a leash.
- Don’t rent a car with an overly sensitive alarm (our car alarm went off 100 times with Moo, my dog, sitting in the car by herself, and I about lost my mind every single time).
- Plan out when you stop at photogenic locations, because midday light is awful for photos.
- If you are camping with a group, be a nice person and offer to buy firewood.
- Don’t leave your used tampons in your campsite for the next camper (or dog) to clean up.
- Bring extra lens caps for your camera.
- Don’t ever leave home without a wine or bottle opener.
Camping and hiking in Big Sur
Big Sur is a popular destination for everyone (literally everyone and their mom are pulled over on every turnout snapping photos), and as a result, it is difficult to obtain a camping reservation. Most reservations become booked up at least six months in advance, so if you are planning a camping (or glamping) trip to this beautiful destination, start your planning early. There are three state parks with camping in Big Sur (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Limekiln State Park, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park), and all can be reserved online. I have had the pleasure of camping at all three locations, and I think all three are equally spectacular. There are also tons of private campsites that can be reserved through Hipcamp, and some hotels and lodges also offer camping spots. Most of the hiking trails are located within the state parks, so if you do not have a campsite reservation, be ready to pay the daily state park entrance fee (for those with a camping reservation, the daily hiker fee is waived at all state parks). From waterfalls, ocean views and redwood trees, the hiking in Big Sur is outstanding; however, many of the trails are still closed, so check before you go and respect the rules and regulations of all hiking trails (do not try to hike on closed trails).
Road tripping up the coast
One of the best aspects of Big Sur is the actual road trip along Pacific Crest Highway (they call it Highway 1 for a reason). There are so many great places to stop, take in the sights, taste some delicious wine, and snap some beautiful photos.
- Santa Barbara
- Solvang (Danish style town with some great wineries)
- Bubble gum alley San Luis Obispo
- Moro Bay: Check out the sea otters, sea lions and blue herons onboard Captain Stew’s Bay Cruise. Daily cruise times are 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is $10 per person, and it is some of the best 45 minutes you will spend on this trip. Moro Bay also has some wine tasting rooms from wineries located in Paso Robles.
- Paso Robles Wine Tasting: Paso is famous for many great wineries.
- Cambria Moostone Beach: Walk along the beautiful wooden boardwalk and collect colored moonstones off the beach (please don’t bring any home).
- Hearst Castle: Schedule a half-day and be ready to shell out $100 for the full tour of this beautiful famous castle.
- San Simon Elephant Seal Sanctuary: Watch the elephant seals play, swim, and nap along this protected coastline.
- Ragged Point: A great lunch and coffee spot.
Places to visit in Big Sur
- Bixby Bridge: Photo-op and viewpoint.
- River Inn: Enjoy a drink or a bite to eat while lounging on an Adirondack chair and soaking your feet in the river (dog friendly).
- McWay Falls: This is one of two waterfalls that empties into the ocean in North America (Alamere Falls is the other one), and it is a must-see in Big Sur. It can be accessed from the side of the road as a viewpoint and is a great photo spot in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Pfeiffer Beach: Great for a sunset photo-op and a picnic.
- Point Sur Lighthouse: Advanced reservations are required for a 4-hour tour.
- Sand Dollar Beach
- Andrew Molera State Beach: Great day hikes.
- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Some of the best hiking and wildlife viewing in the area.
- Carmel and Monterey: These are great towns, but they should be explored on their own as a daytrip as they are an hour drive from Big Sur.
Food, champs and more food
Glamping requires a lot of prep work (and a lot of champagne). From meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prepping to making sure all the serving utensils, cooking supplies, and decorations are accounted for, I usually spend an entire day getting ready for a big glamping trip. The more time and effort you put into the planning process, the less time and effort is required during the glamping trip.
Meal prepping tips before you hit the campground
- Slice, marinate, season, and individually package all meats and veggies.
- Crack, scramble, season and place egg mixture in plastic sealed bags for breakfast.
- Purchase individual ketchup, mustard and relish packets (or take a few here and there from fast food chains) to save room in the ice chest or storage bins.
- Slice and dice potatoes with seasoning and wrap them in foil (to place over the campfire stove).
- Pour olive oil and camp soap in small re-usable containers for easy access and storage.
- Bring tin trays to keep food warm when cooking for large groups (I covered these with foil and placed them over the campfire while cooking the rest of the food).
- Bring dishtowels, scrub bushes, and a large bucket to wash dishes throughout the trip.
- A large teakettle is always helpful to boil hot water in the morning for your camp crew.
- Don’t forget your camp stove, extra propane, camp pots and pans, cooking utensils, a wine opener, cooking mittens, lighter, avocados, hot sauce, apron, tablecloth, serving utensils, coffee, knives, napkins, cutting board, or trash bags. I store all of my kitchen camping gear in a large plastic bin.
- Don’t forget your champagne, wine, and beer.
We are SO extra
We had everything from plastic re-usable champagne glasses, string lights, mimosas, centerpieces, homemade desserts, tablecloths, and fancy re-usable dishes to a hand washing station, a camp toaster and a camp oven.
- Don’t forget your Bluetooth speakers.
- Remember that most string lights are battery operated and require extra rope to hang from trees (nails are not allowed in the trees).
- Purchase plastic re-usable dishware so you can wash and re-use during the camping trip.
- Plastic re-usable champagne or wine glasses make drinking so much better.
- Encourage each individual to bring his or her own re-usable eating utensils.