Photo: Michael Andrew Just/Shutterstock

Another Free Campground Shuts Down Due to Too Much Human Poop

California Sustainability Camping
by Matador Creators Mar 19, 2024

Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places on the West Coast, and one of the most in-demand when it comes to places to camp on the beach. While most campsites in California require reservations, and sometimes have steep nightly fees, there was one gorgeous campsite available completely for free: San Carpoforo Creek Beach, called San Carpo, in the northern part of Hearst San Simeon State Park just south of Big Sur. It operated on a first-come, first-served basis, with absolutely no fees.

But now, that option is no more. In March 2024, the California Coastal Commission approved a request from the US Forest Service to ban camping for two years due to environmental degradation caused by campers. And it gets even more specific: there was just too much human poop everywhere.

The concerns were laid out in January 2024 report by the California Coastal Commission based on data from the US Forest Service, which studied the campground’s usage. It found that the recent increase in usage had led to problems, including an inability for local authorities to regulate and manage the campground, damage to coastal habitats used by endangered and threatened species, and an increase in trash, waste, and debris, since the campground doesn’t have enough amenities to accommodate the current usage.

Sadly, some of that waste includes human waste.

“The USFS reports that campers and other visitors have sometimes left large amounts of trash, debris, and human waste at the beach, and have cut or removed vegetation – some of which is considered ESHA or provides habitat for Western snowy plovers – for campfires or to build shelters or windbreaks,” writes the report.

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) - San Carpoforo creek Beach campground

The Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) lives on shorelines in central California. Photo: Nick Pecker/Shutterstock

It also reflected concerns about fish populations near the coast, noting that the increase in pollution and human waste was running into the oceans, which could harm steelhead trout in central California.

The ban will go into effect immediately, though it bans only overnight usage; San Carpoforo Creek Beach is still open to day visitors. Campers hoping to stay overnight in the area will have to instead head to one of two nearby campgrounds. Roughly 30 minutes to the north is Plaskett Creek Campground, reservable in advance at $45 per night on, and to the south are two more campgrounds of Hearst San Simeon State Park, which offers campground reservations through CalParks online.

Another option is camping on BLM, or Bureau of Land Management land. Dispersed camping is allowed almost anywhere on California’s BLM land, but be sure to practice Leave No Trace principals and follow and local campground and regional regulations.

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