Where to Camp in Big Sur

With 90-miles of pristine coastline, Big Sur is just about the dreamiest place to cruise out of cell service and pitch a tent. There are redwoods and waterfalls, craggy alcoves and socked-in canyons, and on a clear, late summer day you can see whale spouts off in the distance.

Look up in the sky to spot a condor – you can’t miss them, they’re the ones with the 10-ft wingspan – or peek over the cliffs to watch the otters bob in the waves. From the birds to the bakery (THE Big Sur Bakery – get the brown butter cookie), the mossy rocks and the babbling brooks, the silent hikes to the crashing swells – here’s our guide to the best campsites in Big Sur. Don’t forget your long johns.

BLM & FOREST SERVICE ROADS  

The Los Padres National Forest is home to Big Sur and there are lots of places on the side of the road that you are allowed to camp for free. Big Sur campgrounds can fill up months in advance, so car camping on public BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is a great back-up or last-minute trick. BUT — and this is a big but — be sure to check the LPNF website before going to check rules and restrictions. Please be cautious of changing weather and wildfires and always listen to officials. And always respect the no campfire rule and PACK IN, PACK OUT.

Nacimiento-Ferguson Road

Nacimiento-Ferguson Road is a windy, steep road a few miles south of Lucia. It’s got stunning views and many small “campsites,” aka flat spots off of the road where people have been setting up small tents and car camping for years.

Plaskett Ridge Road 

For the more rugged campers (or at least the ones with an AWD vehicle), this dirt “road” heads straight into the Big Sur interior. It flattens out toward the top of the hill and there are and grassy meadows and hillsides aplenty.

Prewitt Ridge

Another roadside attraction, what Prewitt lacks in toilets and running water it makes up for in sprawling ocean views. Get there early to watch the sun go from high in the sky to right into the Pacific. Make PB&Js and whiskey for dinner and call it a night.

BACK COUNTRY CAMPING

There are over 50 backcountry trails and “campsites” that will take you off the crowded tourist tracks of Big Sur. It’s a great way to connect with Big Sur’s wildlife, but if you plan to build a campfire or use a stove or barbecue outside of a developed campground area, you need a free campfire permit.

Sykes Hot Springs

A 10 mile hike in from the Ventana Wilderness visitor’s center (along the Pine Ridge Trail) are the stellar hot springs and even more stellar primitive camp sites. The hot springs may be a bit crowded in the day but come late afternoon the crowds clear and you have the Big Sur River and the 100° F pools to yourself. Get an early start on this hike-in so you can savor the waterfalls along the way – and get your pick of the best sites.

*Note: Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail may be closed so check beforehand

Cook Spring Camp 

Less of a commitment, the North Coast Trail hike to Cook Spring Camp is only a 5 miles hike in with sweeping views of the coast and mountains. This hike leads to a primitive backcountry camp under a canopy of sugar cone pine trees. 

CAMPGROUNDS

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

This is the Big Kahuna of campsites. With over 170+ camping and RV sites, this campground is where most people come when they come to Big Sur. Sure, it can be crowded sometimes, but if you get a spot next to the Big Sur River in the way back you’ll be none the wiser to the chaos (there are also some cute cabins if that’s your jam). Each spot has parking, a fire ring and access to bathrooms and showers, so it’s not exactly “roughing it.” But the site is friendly for families (and dogs!) and it’s centrally located so you’ll have your pick of all that Big Sur has to offer.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

If Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the jumbo site, Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the blue moon. With just 2 environmental (no showers, no running water) campsites available, these two sites have ocean views and a private 80ft waterfall. They are a HOT commodity and are almost always booked, but if you see an opening, seize it. You won’t be sorry when you’re drinking coffee with whales, dolphins, and sea lions.

Andrew Molera State Park 

This is the only real “first come, first served” campground in Big Sur, so prepare to get there early to snag one of the 24 sites. Set in a dreamy meadow, these hike-in campsites are about ⅓ mile from the parking area but still offer a lot of the typical campsite amenities (bathrooms, picnic tables, fire pit, etc.). It’s also surrounded by multiple hiking trails that wander through meadows, rolling bluffs, rocky beaches, and stunning hilltop views. We like the Andrew Molera Loop trail – a significant 8.8 mile loop with a 1100 ft elevation gain and a whole bushel of scenic switchbacks. 

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln feels like you stepped into Fern Gully. With 33 campsites that span the coast to the redwoods, the best part of Limekiln is the hike back through the redwoods up to the old late 19th century limekilns and Limekiln Falls (100ft waterfall). Snag a spot that overlooks the creek and stay for a few days – no need to go anywhere else.

Kirk Creek Campground

If Julia Pfeiffer is filled up (which is likely), check out the oceanside Kirk Creek Campground. This site has 34 spots that sit between Highway 1 and the Pacific – so it’s literally jutting out into the ocean. This may be the best view camping view in all of Big Sur (when the fog lifts) but be wary of Poison oak – it is EVERYWHERE. If you bring a dog, keep it on the leash. You’ll thank us later.

Even if you have a reservation, always check with the campgrounds and the Forest Service for any updates regulations or guidelines before you show up. California is often affected by Natural Disasters so you need to be aware of Mother Nature’s many mood swings. And crazy weather or not, always enjoy campfires in designated pits and be sure to snuff out every ember before bed (and we mean EVERY ember). Pack in, pack out, and leave not trace. Oh, and have fun!

Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour: The Best Breweries in the U.S.

Ah, beer. That nectar of the gods, that hops scotch, that oh-so-potent potable…today on International Beer Day, we cheers to YOU. Now we’re not here to claim cicerone status, but the Toads have been known to enjoy mighty good beer and yes, we have a kegerator in the office (which definitely gets used more than our fax machine). We’ve also been on the road as part of our national Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, so we’ve had the pleasure of stopping into some of America’s best breweries. We checked in with Drew, Rob, and Rachel (our trusty captains and volunteer beer tasters) for their favorite beers across the states:

Drew in truck

Drew’s picks:

  • ALABAMA – Good People Brewing in Birmingham; according to them, the first micro-brewery in the state. They host Birmingham Mountain radio in the brewery, so check them out while you’re drinking. Say hey to the owner, Mike—he’s a good dude.
  • SOUTH CAROLINA – Birds Fly South Project in Greenville (Pronounced “Green-vull” by the locals); tons of beers on tap and a great grass field to chill with your dog. Bonus: Epic food trucks, like Golden, Brown and Delicious.
  • NORTH CAROLINA – Vecino Brewing in Carrboro; Vecino means “neighbor” in Spanish, so they’re staying true to the name by supporting local non-profits and hosting lots of fundraisers. Dave, the owner, is an awesome guy.
  • PENNSYLVANIA – Victory Brewing (a few locations). I went to the one in Kennett Square; great food (pretzels on point!), wash it down with a Golden Monkey, a spiced Belgian-style ale.

 

Rob and Rachel in trailer

Rachel and Rob’s picks:

  • MAINE – Maine Beer Company in Freeport; “A Tiny Beautiful Something” is their signature pale ale for a reason.
  • VERMONT – Foam Brewers and Zero Gravity Craft Brewery in Burlington, VT ( the Little Birdy is delish), and Fiddlehead Brewing in Shelburne, VT (Awesome hazy NEIPAs and according to Rachel, “the Ghost Hits is hands down best beer I’ve had on the tour so far”).
  • OHIO – In Cleveland, Platform Beer Co. is great (go there after hitting up the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame!). In Columbus you’ve got lots of options: Antiques on High, North High Brewing, and Seventh Son are all great and in the super cool Short North Neighborhood.

 

Basically, we love beer almost as much as we love sustainability. If you’re like us, you’ll want to wear your heart on your sleeve. This 100% organic cotton tee can help.

 

STP Drink Nude

And we’re still on the road, headed west through the Midwest and into the Pacific Northwest. So where should we grab a beer?? Follow along on Instagram and send us your favorite beer recs by messaging or tagging us @toadandcoclothing.

 

Basque Country

We’ve partnered with AFAR magazine and the Adventure Travel Trade Association to sponsor the Adventure in Motion film contest that debuted at the recent ATTA Summit in Chile. We were honored to present the Modern Travel Award to the film that we thought best embodies our criteria of modern travel: A sense of adventure, an appreciation for culture and tradition and a deep love for all things culinary and community.

And now, we present to you the Modern Travel Award winning film, The Basque Country by Kabi Travel! Pour some vino and pass the pintxos!

Modern Travel: Santa Barbara

 

Wk18B_Email_MT-SantaBarbara_blog

This month Outside Magazine’s Best Towns 2015 competition kicks off, pitting 64 towns against each other in a bid for the Best Town in America title. We’re big fans of all the nominated towns, but there’s a special spot in our hearts for one town in particular: Santa Barbara, CA – our home sweet home!

Nestled amongst the hills where the Santa Ynez mountains kiss the Pacific, Santa Barbara is anything but a sleepy beach town: Artist colonies, renowned universities, international non-profits, muchas taquerias autenticos, loads of small businesses and a blossoming tech industry mean there’s something for everyone. And with more than 300 days of sunshine per year, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities – smell the roses at the Queen of the Missions, hike around the Lost Padres National Forest, kayak the sea caves of Channel Islands National Park, bike State Street or cruise along East Beach, hit the local wineries, splash around at Butterfly Beach or get barreled at Rincon Point. If you’ve still got energy after a day of activities, catch a show under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl, because where else can you dance the night away with a view of the ocean? So come check out our town and who knows, maybe you’ll think it’s the Best Town Ever too.

WHAT TO DO IN SANTA BARBARA

Channel Islands National ParkClose to the mainland but worlds away are five islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara – that make up the Channel Island National Park. This relatively untouched archipelago is absolutely stunning and one of the richest marine biospheres in the world with many species that live nowhere else on earth. And getting there is half the fun. Head over to Channel Island Outfitters in the Santa Barbara Harbor and they’ll hook you up with everything you need for a day on the water – scuba or snorkel the great kelp forests, kayak through the sea caves (the Painted Cave is pretty spectacular) or leisurely take in the wildlife from your SUP. Hike around the islands for an afternoon or pack a tent and stay a while. Boats leave every morning from the harbor, so be sure to check in with CIO and set your alarm.

Tacos El ReyOne of the best parts of Santa Barbara is the mix of Native American/Spanish/Mexican heritage, and no where is this more evident than in the culinary traditions. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a killer Mexican cafe in this town, but we’re digging Tacos El Rey, a tiny hole-in-the-wall, cash only taqueria just off State Street. Served on handmade tortillas that are made daily, this might be one time when your eyes won’t be bigger than your appetites: The tacos al pastor come topped with grilled pineapple, catch of the day fish tacos mean you’ll always try something new, the portobello mushroom taco is seasoned to perfection and top it all off with the best salsa in town (spicy peanut salsa, anyone?). Grab a watermelon agua fresca to-go and a walk it off – it’s only 5 blocks to the beach!

Handlebar Coffee RoastersLocated just across the street from the historic Spanish Presidio, Handlebar Coffee Roasters is good coffee and good people. Started by a couple of local pro-cyclists who combined their love of biking and coffee, grab a great cup of joe for the road or linger at a sidewalk table and get wrapped up in good conversation. But be warned, their coffee packs a mean punch. It’s made from sustainable beans from three different continents and roasted and brewed to perfection on site. Go for a straight up shot of the best espresso you’ll ever try or a fancy macchiato. Bring your dog (they’ve got dog treats and water bowls), and there’s lots of bike parking for those who roll up on two wheels. Delicious coffee and nice folks, plain and simple.

Telegraph Brewing CompanyA favorite of the Toads, you’re in good company when you’re at Telegraph Brewing. With the tapping of their first keg in 2006, Telegraph has steadily grown to be one of California’s best craft breweries and one that’s committed to using sustainable ingredients and brewing methods. They also happen to make excellent beer. Telegraph typically has 10 different beers on tap and they’re constantly rotating: Currently, the Cervza de Fiesta Pilsner lives up to its name as a party for your taste buds, while their award-winning flagship California Ale will have you savor every last drop. Family style tables, big open garage doors, pub games, food trucks and environmentally friendly oats – we’ll cheers to that.

Los Padres National ForestExtending from Ventura to Monterey across roughly 2 million acres of varied wilderness, the Los Padres National Forest is nothing shy of stunning. From the beautiful Big Sur Coastline of the north to the Matilija Hot Springs of the south theres no limit to the breathtaking views, wonderful hiking trails, epic bird watching and overall good vibes. Our friends at the Los Padres ForestWatch can tell you all about it (they’re the non-profit tasked with keeping the forest thriving), but if you need a place to start then check out the Santa Ynez Mountain Range in Santa Barbara’s backyard. Pick up hiking trails to popular spots like Inspiration Point, Rattlesnake Trail and La Cumbre Peak (the highest peak in town!), or take scenic Highway 154 out of town about 30 minutes to scramble around the rocks at Lizard’s Mouth and take a dip in the pools at Red Rock. Sunscreen, water, sneakers, GO.

WHAT TO WEAR IN SANTA BARBARA

Rivulet TeeChoose a more colorful path. That’s the spirit of Santa Barbarans and the art of our Rivulet Tee. Offered in three sunny colors, it’s miles beyond basic tees – with a flattering silhouette, wide scoop neck, cap sleeves, solid color front, and cool striping up the center back. It’s made from our Slubstripe fabric, a dream-weight knit of pure organic cotton with cool slubby texture so you’ll be cool as a cucumber as you cruise the beach.

Cetacean TrunkNow you can surf, swim, sail, paddle, snorkel, spike and swig Mai-Tais with one pair of shorts. In fact, if there’s liquid and action verbs involved, our Cetacean Trunks are up to the task. They’re made of 4-Ply Supplex, our performance-proven nylon fabric that’s tightly woven for extreme durability, treated for quick-dry convenience, and wavy striped for aquatic vitality. Clean styling lets you wear them in town too, and handy zip side pocket mean you’ll never lose your keys (no matter how wet and wild you get).

Capellini DressThe Capellini Dress dances and sways with a life all its own. No surprise, it’s made of our famous Samba fabric, a slub-textured jersey knit of silky Tencel®, oh-so-soft organic cotton, and a smudge of spandex for stretch. The cool slub texture looks like sun shimmers on water, giving the fabric a little motion even when you’re standing still. A simple A-line dress with a built-in shelf bra and  stealth stash pocket let you can go from coffee shop to beach to date night and never miss a beat.

Fletch shirtStand out from the plaid. Street smart organic cotton with a cool crossfire of printed arrows and sharp details make you cool without being too trendy. Comfortably cut with just the right amount of room in the torso, this shirt hits the mark and looks awesome when paired with slacks or swim trunks.