Southern Big Sur, Monterey County
35 miles south of Big Sur
80 miles north of San Luis Obispo
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Kirk Creek Beach is a long narrow strand of rocks and sand at the mouth of Kirk Creek and a short distance north of Mill Creek Beach. Access to the beach is through the Kirk Creek Campground. Parking is available in two small pull-outs along the highway next to the campground entrance. A trail from the north end of the campground leads down to the beach.
At low tide it is possible to hike a fair distance north along the base of the cliffs, but anyone venturing this way should keep track of the time and when the incoming tide will arrive. Long sections of beach are covered by waves at higher tides. The ocean is dangerous along this part of the coast. Rogue waves and rip-currents make the water and the shore line hazardous.
Kirk Creek campsites are on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Most of the campsites are well spread out and have grass. 33 campsites are available for RVs or tents, and each comes with a picnic table and fire pit and grill. Due to water quality problems, Kirk Creek Campground no longer has water. Their restrooms have been changed to portable toilets.
About half of the campsites may be reserved through Reserve.gov - Kirk Creek Campground. The other campsites are on a first come, first served basis and may not be reserved. Ignore the information on their website that the campground is within walking distance of Sand Dollar Beach. Sand Dollar is 5 miles to the south.
Fees: $35 per night, bicycle or walk-in camping $5
Tiny Mill Creek Beach is found ½ mile south of Kirk Creek Campground. A paved road just north of the Mill Creek bridge leads to a small parking lot overlooking the ocean. Portable toilets are found there, but no water. There are picnic tables. A short, easy trail leads to the water.
Immediately below the parking lot is a rocky shore, while to the north is a small sand and rock beach. Visitors should keep track of the tide to avoid being trapped on the beach by dangerous waves. A similar beach can be found to the south by hiking over a low ridge. The ocean at Mill Creek Beach is too hazardous for swimming or wading. Most visitors are fishermen, photographers, or surfers.
Willow Creek Beach is small beach near the outlet of Willow Creek. It is a day use area with parking and restrooms. There is parking just off the highway or, if you follow the road down, more parking available under the shadow of the bridge. Portable toilets are located at the lower parking area.
Follow the gravel bar around to the north to a dark rock and sand beach at the foot of the sandstone cliffs. Keep an eye on the tide to be sure you don't get caught on the beach. The beach is most often visited by anglers, photographers, surfers and those looking for a nice stopping place along the highway to spend a few hours.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety