Welcome to Family Trip Report number three in the California Central Coast Series. You can find Family Trip Report one on Nojoqui Falls Park here and Family Trip Report two on Montana de Oro State Park here.
In California a great deal of the coastline is privately owned and enjoyed by only a few. For those unable to afford a home overlooking the Pacific, some simple life pleasures may be missed: waking to the sound of the ocean lapping the shore below while drinking a cup of coffee, taking in the warm colors of the morning soaking the ocean and horizon as the sun makes its way to rise over the top of the coast range at your back, or even sipping cocoa before bed in the evening while feeling the cool breeze. All are done in dreams or seemingly out of reach. Or is it?
I’d like to take you to a place where you can enjoy these things. Or where, er, you could enjoy these things. Ironically the Family Trip Report planned for this week is about an amazing campground run by the Los Padres Forest Service. The United States Forest Service. Yep, Kirk Creek Campground is shutdown, along with every other National Forest, National Park, National Monument, etc. Kirk Creek Campground is that place where those who cannot afford to wake up daily or seasonally in a house along the ocean can come to enjoy the amazing views and breezes because this place is already yours! It’s your National Forest! Well, in the mean time we have to go back to dreaming and wondering until it’ll once again be in reach. Here’s a little bit of dreaming for you. It is for us; as, we’d love to go back some day and recommend for you to go too. Unfortunately the enjoyment of beautiful scenery and some of America’s greatest treasures are caught in the midst of politics. In anticipation of federal land opening in the near future, let’s take a peek at Kirk Creek Campground.
Kirk Creek Campground is located on the ocean side of Highway 1 forty miles north of Cambria and sixty miles south of Carmel by the Sea (where Clint Eastwood used to be mayor). Across the highway is the Vicente Flats Trailhead leading into the Ventana Wilderness. Up the road a couple of miles is Limekiln State Park (Family Trip Report on Limekiln coming in the near future), and down the road four miles is Sand Dollar beach (Family Trip Report coming next week). The campground has 34 sites. We were able to easily back our little tent trailer into our spot. The other sites we saw looked comparable in size and also have the ability to accommodate for a small trailer. The campground is sloped towards the edge of the bluff, so even those occupying campsite further away from the bluff still have a spectacular view. It reminded me of stadium seating. Even though it is right next to the highway we didn’t have any road noise. The ocean noise couldn’t be heard above our typical campsite busyness, but during the night the small roar and crash of the ocean is easily heard.
When we were there the bathrooms had flush toilets and running water. Honestly, it was the worst flush toilet campground bathroom we have every been in. Both on the women’s side and the men’s side. In the women’s bathroom one toilet had a huge broken piece out of the front of the bowl. Really, that doesn’t matter now because the campground is dry. I’m not talking about the government shut down, but that there is really now no water service in the campground. The toilets are pits and you must bring your own drinking, cooking, and hand washing water. From observing various locations in Big Sur on our last visit and talking to the rangers, the push now is to make the area dry in order to conserve and replenish water sources. I’m guessing that this may also reduce the money needed, among other reasons, to be spent on maintenance of spigots and bathrooms (as clearly needed with the toilets there when we visited), as well as purification of the water.
The condition of the bathrooms was overshadowed by the spectacular beauty of the location and setting. The campsites were well sized for a family. There is grass for a tent site, picnic table, fire ring, and room to spare. The best part about it though is the breathtaking view, regardless of the time of day or night, it’s amazing. Our daughter was too young to appreciate the setting when we were there, but it was sure a gem of a find for us adults. The dog even enjoyed the sniffing. There are bushes separating the campsites, leaving plenty of privacy for the campers, and plenty of critter hiding places for the dog to search out.
All in all, Kirk Creek is a find! It reminds me of something I’d see in Sunset magazine (oh wait, it is in Sunset as the 6th best campground in CA. See it here). It was a perfect place to stay at one night to explore the area and continue to move on to our next destination. As it’s a little more remote it would be easy enough to fit everything to see in the area in a 24 hour time frame: Sand Dollar Beach, Limekiln, some of the Vicente Flats trail, but because of the prime real estate I’d want to allow for extra time just sitting and enjoying. Because, hey, when else are you going to be able to wake up in the morning and drink your coffee on a bluff above the ocean?
Here are some resources with more information:
- Bigsurcalifornia.org has info on Kirk Creek and other places in the area.
- Make camping reservations at recreation.gov just note that the website will start working when the government starts back up
- Yelp review
- Info from the agency that manages Kirk Creek Campground