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Camping on California's Nacimiento-Fergusson Road
It's a Problem

An article in The Monteray Herald this weekend highlights the problems of camping along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road overlooking the scenic Big Sur Coast. It suggests three reasons for a recent increase in camping along this road.

  • More and more people want to camp along the coast of California, but the number of available public campsites has not kept up.
  • Internet websites have spread the word about "free beautiful campsites along the Big Sur coast".
  • And, sadly, because the U.S. Forest Service has allowed these "campsites" to proliferate.

I was contacted by someone who (has not purchased my California guide but) acused my website and guides of contributing to this problem. So, I'd like to set the record straight.

I have recommended Nacimiento-Fergusson Road for the views but not for camping. In fact, I totally agree with Duane Hyde, the article's author. The following is a direct quote from my Frugal Shunpiker's Guide for the California Mountains and Coast:

Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd meets Hwy 1 just south of Kirk Creek Campground and runs east into the National Forest. It’s a steep narrow winding paved road. If you do decide to climb east on this road, you may be committed for at least 7 miles before you can turn around safely. It does provide great views and various roadside turn-outs offer a place to pull off to let slower traffic pass or take a photo.

I confirmed with the Monterey Ranger District that, wherever it’s safe to do so, you may also park in one of these spots and spend the night in your RV but I don’t recommend it – in my opinion, none of them are far enough away from traffic to be safe and many are at blind curves.

After approximately 7 miles, you’ll reach South Coast Ridge Rd (Forest Rd #20A05) where there’s finally room to turn around. A gravel road to the right leads from here to better dispersed camping areas but it is very rough and not suited to vehicles without four-wheel drive.

I also agree with Mr. Hyde that there are far too few legal camping options along the coast. I'm sure the high cost of most campsites is also a contributing factor.

If the Forest Service and the public are indeed concerned for the reasons cited by Mr Hyde: public saftey, human waste, and fire danger, then perhaps they'll give serious consideration to an almost no-cost solution:

Remove some of the many "no overnight parking" signs at existing day-parking areas along Hwy 1 where there are often already toilets and garbage cans. Permit 24-hour parking instead. Do not permit fires or only in enclosed metal containers (RVers often carry them). Many RVers would choose this option, freeing up sites in the campgrounds for tent camping.

My California guide offers advice on the most affordable campsites as well as recommending the few free camping areas that exist along the coast. But Nacimiento-Fergussson Road is not one of them.

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