Top Ten U.S. Campgrounds

Kirk Creek Campground: California
By Suzanne Dow
  |  Gorp.com
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It's that moment when night turns to day. Overhead, a seabird rides the wind looking for breakfast. Gentle salt-scented breezes ruffle the feathery topped pampas grass. And the sky moves from midnight to azure blue as the buttercup-yellow sun rises over the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Morning has come to Kirk Creek campground in the Los Padres National Forest on the Big Sur in central California.

No question about it: California's Big Sur coastline is a magnificent place—75 miles of untamed coastline with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Stretching from Carmel, in the north, south to San Simeon, the Scenic Coastal Highway 1, built in 1937, follows a narrow slip of land were the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. The towering Santa Lucia Mountain Range offers a rugged contrast to the gentle swells of the Pacific Ocean to the west. Originally known as Roosevelt or Cabrillo Highway, Highway 1 is a narrow, winding road that requires careful attention to driving skills. Between the spectacular views, sharp curves, narrow shoulders, and the need to share the roadway with bicyclists and hikers, many find this drive daunting. But it is a most memorable drive.

The best way to discover the wonders of Big Sur is to stay awhile. And an excellent way is provided by the Los Padres National Forest at Kirk Creek Campground. For campers, either in a tent or a recreational vehicle, who want to experience both land and sea, Kirk Creek is the best campground on Big Sur. Shaped like a lazy figure "8," the campground's 34 campsites lie atop a 100-foot bluff above the Pacific Ocean. The sounds of the waves breaking, the seabirds calling, and the quiet whisper of ocean breezes are heard throughout the campground. Although not all sites overlook the ocean, all have outstanding views of the Big Sur's amazing landscape. With no trees to obscure the towering Santa Lucia Mountains and Ventana Wilderness to the east or the Pacific Ocean to the west, the 360-degree views are outstanding.

Exploring the Forest

Directly across from Kirk Creek Campground is Forest Route 4004. This steep and winding roadway hugs the southern boundary of the Ventana Wilderness and leads to Nacimiento Summit. A drive along this route offers some spectacular vistas and passes through the amazing assortment of ecosystems that make Big Sur so unique.

Hiking is another way to explore the wonders of the Los Padres National Forest and Big Sur area around Kirk Creek Campground. A narrow, steep, unmaintained trail leads from the campground down to the beach for those who want to explore the rocky coastline or to do some surf-fishing. (Caution: Remember to be aware of tides so you don't get caught down there.) Across Highway One are trailheads leading into Ventana Wilderness. Abundant rainfall and the moist coastal weather create lush forests—an outstanding area for hiking.

Los Padres National Forest's Kirk Creek Campground is where the dynamic forces of land and sea meet. Here campers can experience, at their own pace and in their own way, the beauty and wonder of these two opposing forces that have shaped miles of untamed coastline, producing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.


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