Big Sur's last free beach campsite closed due to an excess of "human waste"

Couple on hiking trip resting on top of the mountain looking at ocean view
Overnight visitation to the beach surged after it was revealed that camping was free (Image credit: MargaretW)

A California beauty spot that has become popular with campers in recent years has been forced to ban camping and campfires due to what officials call an excess of "human waste."

San Carpoforo Beach is a sandy beach off Highway 1 in northern San Luis Obispo County. According to a California Coastal Commission report on the situation, it was the last remaining beach offering free camping in the Big Sur area. Overnight visitors to the beach surged when this became known, however, the beach lacks the facilities required to handle crowds such as toilets, fire rings, trash cans and trash collection and potable water.

With campers seemingly unable to pick up after themselves, human waste has been building up at the beach, which is also home to several endangered species, including the Western Snowy Plover, a shorebird found on the Pacific coast of North and South America.

The beach only has three reviews on the review site Tripadvisor, with visitors describing the area as "beautiful" and "secluded," however those wishing to spend the night on a beach in the area will now have to fork out anywhere from $25 to $100 per night to camp at the area's beaches, according to a list of nearby beaches by The Dyrt.

Bonfire burning on beach

In some ways, camping at the beach is like camping anywhere in that you should always pack out everything you bring with you (Image credit: Lindsay Upson)

Beach camping tips

In some ways, camping at the beach is like camping anywhere in that you should always pack out everything you bring with you and leave no trace. However, you'll also want to bring tent pegs meant for sand, know how to read tide charts and bring a camping tarp to block the breeze. Learn more in our article on the 10 best beach camping tips for coastal capers.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.