Pfeiffer Beach Day Use

Area Status: Open
[Pfeiffer Beach]

ALERT - After winter rain events, there is a high possibility for intermittent closures of Sycamore Canyon Road to Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach is located in the Big Sur region of California. It is one of the most popular beaches on the Central Coast and is well known for Keyhole Rock. Due to the steep terrain prevalent along the Big Sur coast, it is one of the few ocean access points within Big Sur.

The entrance to Sycamore Canyon Road, a single-lane, 2.2 miles (3.5 km) long access road, can be difficult to find. The road and the beach are within the Los Padres National Forest. The road is named for the Western Sycamores that grow along the road and near the beach.Because it is so narrow, pedestrians and recreational vehicles are not permitted on the road. The Forest Service has a superior easement on the road.There are only five spots along the road where two vehicles can pass each other. Visitor traffic along the road is seven to ten times that of local traffic.

The parking lot accommodates 65 vehicles and is usually full on summer and holiday weekends. When available, parking is $15 per vehicle.

The beach is open 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. No camping or fires are permitted. There are four picnic tables available. Swimming can be hazardous due to the cold water, rocks, and strong currents.The weather from June to August can be foggy and cold. No overnight camping.

The 1 mile (1.6 km) long beach is known for purple patches of sand that are occasionally visible, especially after rain. The purple color is caused by Manganese garnet that is eroded down from nearby hillsides.

The Pfeiffer family built the first home in Sycamore Canyon near the coast in the winter of 1869. Micheal and Barbara Laquet Pfeiffer were on their way to the south coast of Big Sur when they were forced to stop for the season in Sycamore Canyon. 

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Open daily.
Reservations: None
Area Amenities: Picnic tables, Toilets, Parking
Fees: $15.00 day use fee or you can purchase and display the Parks Management Company (PMC) Annual Pass $50.00. More info at: The Parks Management Company manages Pfeiffer Beach Day Use Area for the Forest Service. The Golden Age Pass, Access Pass or the Interagency Senior, Access or Annual Pass cannot be used for day use.
Open Season: January - December
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Best Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Busiest Season: Summer
Restrictions: Sycamore Canyon Road Use Restrictions Use of Forest Road No. 19S05 (Sycamore Canyon Road) by pedestrian traffic or any other form of traffic other than persons within a motor vehicle, as defined by 40 C.F.R. § 85.1703, between its intersection with State Highway 1 and its terminus at Pfeiffer Beach Day Use Area, as shown on the attached map. 36 C.F.R. § 261.54(b). Expires December 19, 2024
Closest Towns: Nearest supplies approximately 5 miles away at Big Sur area.
Water: None
Restroom: Vault
Operated By: Parks Management Company for the Forest Service
Information Center: Monterey Ranger District office: 831-385-5434 ext 0 or call the‚Äč Big Sur Visitor Center: (831) 667-2315 ext 0. Forest Service - Monterey Ranger District email contact: or Parks Management Company

General Information


Highway 1 to Sycamore Canyon Road. The road is difficult to see. It is in between the Big Sur Ranger Station and the Post Office.

General Notes:

Policy on Pet Dogs

Always keep your dog leashed, except when inside a vehicle, tent, dog crate, or portable kennel. Do not allow your dog to wander freely.

While on the beach or on a trail or picnic areas, dogs must be kept on a leash (unless caged or crated) no longer than six feet.

Dogs must wear a collar with current tags at all times, as state and county laws apply on National Forest System lands.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information



Beach walks

Sand Play


Salt Water Fishing

Viewing Scenery


There are 4 small picnic tables. Picnic tables are first-come, first-serve. No resrvations. Or, you can picnic on the beach. If you picnic on the beach, please pack out all of your trash.

No. of Sites 4



Picnic tables: There are 4 picnic tables or you can picnic on the beach
Parking: Small parking lot. Limited parking especially on weekends and every day during the summer. $12/parking fee
Toilets: Vault toilets

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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