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35 Best Camping Spots in San Diego (Beach & Forest Views)

Explore the top 35 camping spots in San Diego for stunning beach and forest views! Perfect guide for travelers seeking the best outdoor experiences.

Tobi Miles
August 7, 2022
35 Best Camping Spots in San Diego (Beach & Forest Views)

Camping is an adventure that we believe every family should try at least twice. It's the perfect opportunity to get away from your daily, mundane tasks.

The San Diego area is the perfect spot to search for a campground, as it offers sites in the forest, on the beach, or in the mountains. All of these are within less than a 2-hour drive! You can't beat it-- there's something for everyone.

Come along with us while we take you through the top 35 best-camping sites in all of San Diego.

1. San Elijo State Beach Campground

San Elijo State Beach Campground is paradise on earth for those who enjoy drifting off to sleep to the sound of crashing waves.

There is no need to settle when you are in the perfect place with breathtaking beach views and plenty of space. Unrestricted ocean views of the 2-mile strip of coastline are available from one-third of the 26 bluff-top campsites.

Couples, beachgoers, vanlifers, and RV campers all enjoy this park, and it fills up quickly, so make your reservation as soon as possible!

Phone Number: (760) 753-5091

Address: 2050 S Coast Hwy 101 Cardiff, CA 92007

2. New Camp

The Salton Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world with 130 miles of shoreline, is a well-liked location for camping, canoeing, and bird observation.

Additionally, the eerie environment is one of southern California's most distinctive and stunning locations for photography.

The Salton Sea's shoreline is home to a few campgrounds, but most people say that New Camp is the finest due to its location and amenities.

It's also known for its views of the surrounding landscape and accessibility to the main trails and attractions. Choose whether you want to awaken next to a beach, in the shade of a forest, by a lake, or in the desert.

Phone Number: (760) 393-3059

Address: 100225 State Park Rd, Mecca, CA 92254

3. South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

There is nothing better than waking up to such breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Because it's close enough to the city to walk to get groceries or other necessities while still being remote enough to appear like you're away from the action.

South Carlsbad is the ideal location for camping with friends or family. From the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, wooden stairs provide easy access to the beach.

Phone Number: (760) 438-3143

Address: 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008

4. Sycamore Canyon Campground

The Sycamore Canyon Campground, which is situated in the untamed Santa Monica Mountains, provides access to the gently sloping hills and is close to Point Mugu beach.

In contrast to the busier Malibu campgrounds further south, the campground is calm and less crowded and is studded with sycamores and oaks.

Phone Number: (310) 457-8143

Address: 9000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Related Read: Best Time to Visit San Diego

5. Bluff Campground

Credit: Colleen Greene / Flickr

San Onofre State Sand is one of the less crowded beaches south of Los Angeles due to its 3,000 acres of land and 3.5 miles of unspoiled beach.

The Bluff campground is a haven for those looking to escape from the masses and enjoy a calm seaside stay, even though there aren't as many amenities. There are no RV hookups here or water, but it's still amazing!

Phone Number: (949) 492-4872

Address: Old Pacific Highway, San Clemente, CA 92672

6. Leo Carrillo State Park Campground

Just north of Los Angeles, Leo Carrillo State Park offers 1.5 miles of breathtaking coastline perfect for water sports and discovering tidepools, coastline caves, and corals.

Giant sycamores give shade and solitude to the 135 sites at the campgrounds, which are only a short stroll from the beach.

In addition to the beachfront, the park has lovely hiking paths in the wilderness, notably the Yellow Hill Trail, which provides a fantastic perspective of the ocean.

Phone Number: (805) 488-1827

Address: 35000 West Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

7. Bow Willow Campground

Anza Borrego is a stunning desert state park in eastern San Diego that boasts unbeatable stargazing, hiking trails, and slot canyons. In addition, there are these awesome, giant metal sculptures of creatures rising from the sand.

It's a local all-time favorite place to camp in San Diego because it's such a drastic change in scenery from the coastal city. Plus there's so much to explore!

Bow Willow campground with only 16 sites, will still feel like you're remote. It's important to note that the campground doesn't always have running water, so always come prepared with drinking and all necessary water.

Phone Number: (760) 767-4205

Address: Bow Willow Rd. / Sweeny Pass Rd. Julian, CA 92036

8. Serrano Campground

Embrace the spirit of summer camp at Serrano Campground. Serrano Campground is located on the north side of gorgeous Big Bear Lake. It is a great jumping-off point for tons of family fun and summer lake activities.

Here is where you can enjoy outdoor spots like fishing, standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and swimming. With over 100 campsites and easy access to the lake, Serrano Campground gives off the nostalgic feeling of summer camp.

Phone Number: (909) 866-8021

Address: 40800 N Shore Dr, Fawnskin, CA 92333

9. Paso Picacho Campground

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a giant playground for any outdoor enthusiast! The state park, which lies east of San Diego has tons of hiking trails. It is also one of the premier mountain biking areas in the county.

The most popular hikes, Stonewall Peak and Cuyamaca Peak (the second-highest point in the county), have trailheads right in Paso Picacho Campground!

Phone Number: (760) 765-3020

Address: 13652 CA-79, Julian, CA 92036

10. William Heise Campground

Credit: Mingte Kao / Flickr

William Heise County Park Campground boasts 104 campsites as well as 14 cabins who prefer to sleep in a bed with a roof over their heads.

The campground has all the amenities you could hope for, including horseshoe pits, making it the ideal camping experience for the whole family.

Besides the hiking and mountain bike trails in the campground, you can also easily make a quick trip into the historical town of Julian to grab a famous pie.

Phone Number: (760) 765-0650

Address: 945 Heise Park Rd, Julian, CA 92036

Related Read: 20 Best Hiking Trails in San Diego

11. Idyllwild Campground

Credit: Eric Gillingham / Flickr

To stay in a tranquil, charming mountain town, you don't even need to exit San Diego county. Idyllwild provides the sensation of calm and quiet that can only be found in quaint mountain settlements.

Nature enthusiasts can reap the benefits of the trails and wildlife viewing opportunities in this community that is tucked away in the alpine forest high in the San Jacinto Mountains.

The Idyllwild Campground is ideally situated in the center of town and offers access to nearby trailheads. The locations are tucked away among the woods, which offer solitude and shade.

Phone Number: (951) 659-2607

Address: 25905 CA-243, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549

12. Doane Valley Campground

In addition to being a fantastic place to camp, Palomar Mountain State Park is also a great place to take a day trip! It is located in northern San Diego County.

It's one of the few places where you may camp in a Sierra Nevada-like setting without leaving Southern California. It also has an average altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level!

The idyllic basecamp for exploring the alpine forest and meadows, fishing at Doane Pond, and hiking to Boucher Hill Fire Lookout is Doane Valley Campground. The best part is that it's tucked away in a coniferous forest.

Phone Number: (760) 742-3462

Address: 19952 State Park Drive, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

13. Font's Point Wash Dispersed Camping

Credit: Visit California

Would you like to spend the night out in the desert without a reservation? You can do that with no issue! With dispersed camping, there is no need to make a reservation.

Dispersed camping is a fantastic choice if you don't require any amenities. This is the best option if you have a large group or catch the camping fever but can't find any open spots.

However, make sure to pack lots of water, safety gear, and extra caution because you can get stranded in the soft sand along the wash.

Phone Number: (760) 767-4205

Address: 200 Palm Canyon Dr, Borrego Springs, CA 92004

14. Moro Campground

Credit: Crystal Cove State Park

Three miles of coastline and 2,400 acres of rugged wilderness are both features of Orange County's Crystal Cove State Park. There is nothing quite like relaxing in front of a bonfire and enjoying the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

Moreover, Moro Campground is situated in the region atop an ocean-front cliffs that gives beautiful views of the ocean.

The special feature of Moro campground is that in addition to the typical tent and RV sites, the area also has rustic hike-in tent camping in the forest. This option offers a tranquil retreat from the city.

Phone Number: (800) 444-7275

Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

15. Ryan Campground

A great site for exploring Joshua Tree National Park's attractions and a campground with few services. One of the nearest national parks to San Diego is Joshua Tree.

In Joshua Tree, there are a ton of things to do and explore, including a breathtaking landscape. Although Joshua Tree's largest and busiest campground is Jumbo Rock, people tend to choose the more intimate Ryan Campground.

Although it lacks facilities like showers or running water, the camping area is lovely, cozy, and near to several trails.

Phone Number: (877) 444-6777

Address: Ryan Campground Park Boulevard Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

16. Campland on the Bay

Credit: moonjazz / Flickr

Families in the San Diego region should choose this, in our opinion. You might be visiting Campland on the Bay for an entire of jam-packed family fun in less time than it takes your child to get to the humor of a story!

Prepare for nonstop fun to start once you set up your tent near Mission Bay's shoreline. Camping at Campland on the Bay involves removing the potential of monotony for you and your family.

The camp is equipped with two on-site swimming pools, horseshoe pits, a skate park, and an amazing kids activity calendar.

Phone Number: (800) 422-9386

Address: 2211 Pacific Beach Dr, San Diego, CA 92109

17. Mount Laguna

There are a number of campgrounds available in the Cleveland National Forest on Mount Laguna for people who desire to reconnect with nature. However, you need access to basic necessities.

The campgrounds in Boulder Oaks and Cibbets Flat accept first-come campers, but Burnt Rancheria accepts reservations if you're a more organized camper.

Numerous mountain bike, hiking, and backpacking paths can be found nearby, and the Laguna Mountain Lodge is a great place to get supplies.

If you decide against camping completely, it contains rooms and cottages as well as a community store that sells everything from beer to firewood.

Phone Number: (800) 832-1355Address: Los Huecos Rd, Mt Laguna, CA 91948

18. Tram Camping

Take a 2.5-mile trip up the mountain in one of the largest rotating tramcars in the world by boarding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. In under seven miles of the tram, you can trek to six campgrounds from the top. The cost of a camping permit is only $5.

You should bring plenty of supplies because none of these campgrounds have water and there are undoubtedly no businesses close. You can trek up to San Jacinto Peak, Southern California's second-highest peak, while you're there.

Phone Number: (888) 515-TRAM

Address: One Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA. 92262

19. La Jolla Indian Campground

Credit: Berenice Ochoa / Flickr

The La Jolla Campground is a short drive from SD County. This is a terrific place to enjoy some fresh air, build a campfire, and bake some s'mores. Or you could always go floating down the San Luis Rey River if you want to spend the weekend in the water!

Because of the gold spotted oak borer, bookings must be made online and outside firewood is not permitted. However, there is a general store next to the campgrounds where it may be bought along with gas, food, ice, and other supplies.

Phone Number: (760) 742-1297

Address: 22000 CA-76, Pauma Valley, CA 92061

20. Catalina Island

Catalina is much more than just Avalon. There are camping areas both on the beachfront as well as further inland where you can take in Catalina's beauty without having to cope with a crowd of tourists.

Before you catch a ferry all the way out there, you should book a number of spots on the island up to a year in advance. Additionally, you can rent equipment there if you don't want to take your entire camping setup on the ferry.

Once more, do this beforehand to avoid having to sleep with your head buried in the sand. You can choose from tent cabins, rustic campgrounds, and quiet boat-in camping, among other accommodations.

Phone Number: (310)-510-1445

Address: N/A

21. Lake Arrowhead

Instead of setting up camp, you should go to the lakeside to swim, water ski, or launch a boat. You are surrounded by San Bernardino National Forest pine trees as you get closer to Lake Arrowhead.

There are several sites with fire rings, bathrooms, and other amenities available at the North Shore and Dogwood Campgrounds, all of which are close by.

However, if you want to get far from it all, remote camping in the forest is also a possibility with the proper permits. Both parties should make use of the network of trekking routes that crisscross the woodland.

You'll arrive at the hot springs by way of the Deep Creek Hot Springs/Goat Trail. Along the route, the Pacific Coast Trail follows the creek, which you'll also come across.

Phone Number: (909) 336-1511Address: 27984 CA-189, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352

22. Mission Springs PCT Trail Camp

Come out here if you genuinely want to escape from everything. The Pacific Coast Trail is the sole hiking route that leads to this campground (access via the Fish Creek Trail is currently closed).

There are two outlying campsites are really nothing more than a picnic bench and a fire ring, but they provide a lot of fresh air and solitude.

To camp here, you don't necessarily have to be hiking the full PCT Wild-style, but you might run into some fascinating thru hikers who are taking the night off.

Phone Number: (909) 382-2790Address: Angelus Oaks, CA 92305

23. The Ranch at Bandy Canyon

Credit: Stephen Kruso / Flickr

Try out this 144-acre ranch in San Pasqual Valley if you need your camping to include a swimming pool, guesthouse, and petting zoo. There's also horseback riding instruction, and individually designed cabins.

Each cabin has a distinct layout and a rustic ambiance, such as the loft in Eagle Cabin, or the wraparound porch in Bluebird Cabin. There's also the brick and lantern décor in Firehouse Cabin.

The largest cabin on the property, Dove, features a hot tub and can accommodate eight people if necessary. Bluebird Cabin is the most secluded cabin on the property if you're looking for some peace and quiet.

Phone Number: (760) 871-6494Address: 16251 Bandy Canyon Rd, Escondido, CA 92025

24. Indian Cove Campground

Set up camp amidst the distinctive alien rocks and rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park. The essentials are there in this campground—fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses—but there is no water or camp shop.

Plan ahead because there is spotty or no cell phone reception. It's worthwhile if you're willing to rough it. You may tour Joshua Tree during the day, locate a quiet area tucked away among the red rocks, and enjoy the breathtaking stargazing at night.

Phone Number: (760) 367-5500Address: 2601 Sunfair Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

25. Ruben's Camp and Kiki's RV

These two locations, which lie near to one another on the Sea of Cortez in San Felipe, Baja, offer a variety of lodging options. While Ruben's Camp offers vehicle camping spots, each with its own palapa, Kiki's offers combined motel rooms and RV sites.

You can see the sun rising over the water from your tent because San Felipe is located on the east coast of Baja.

Phone Number: +52 686 114 3634

Address: Golfo de California 703, Segunda Secc, San Felipe, 21850 San Felípe, B.C., Mexico

Related Read: 20 Best San Diego Beaches

26. Lake Jennings Park

For the family who like fishing, this lakefront choice in the interior is fantastic. On-site rentals for paddleboats, rowboats, and motorboats are offered, along with a sheltered play areas for children.

Bring your license and permit since this area offers some of the best quality water fishing in the county. Adults can purchase day passes for on-site use, while youth groups who make arrangements can cast their lines at no charge.

Phone Number: (619) 390-1623Address: 9535 Harritt Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040

27. El Capitan Canyon

El Capitan Canyon makes camping simple. Families have what seems like an endless number of glamping options here, from wood cabins to adventurous yurts to safari tents.

Your team has enough to do at this camp spot, which is surrounded by deer, birds, trees, and wildlife. Take a morning stroll to greet the llamas and animals or a 30-minute climb to the beach.

Phone Number: (866)-352-2729

Address: 11560 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA

28. Roar and Snore at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Take a VIP tour of the Safari Park at the San Diego Zoo! Stay the night and awaken to sleeping rhinos and gazelles. Without ever leaving San Diego, campers may experience an African safari at the Roar and Snore Safari at the Safari Park.

You can get face to face with the free-roaming animals at the campground, which looks out over the 50-acre savanna of the park. Although there is an admission fee for this type of camping, we believe it is worthwhile.

There are several cozy tent options, including Classic, Vista, and Premium. All sleepovers come with camp activities, a look at the park's animals after hours, guided tours, and a fireside program.

There's even supper, an evening snack, breakfast, and a keepsake from the park. This is a perfect choice for animal lovers, and families with kids.

Phone Number: (619)-718-3000

Address: 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd. Escondido, CA

29. Santee Lakes

Santee Lakes may be the ideal starting point for families who are new to camping. There are 10 cottages that provide home comforts within a short drive from the city. All cabins come with fully functional kitchens, air conditioning, and even WiFi.

Seven playgrounds are available for children, including a boulder adventure course, a playground ($2 during the week and $3 during the weekend for a wristband). There's also a tot lot, a mega tower, and an inclusive playground for children with impairments.

Phone Number: (619)-596-3141

Address: 9310 Fanita Pkwy. Santee, CA 92117

Related Read: 25 Romantic Getaways in San Diego

30. Chula Vista RV Resort

Credit: Chula Vista RV Park / Facebook

This Chula Vista resort is located on the bayfront and has full hookup RV sites with private patios, stone paver fire pits, and outdoor kitchens. Further more, there are tables & chairs, lovely landscaping, picnic tables, free television, and Wi-Fi.

A splash pad, jacuzzi spa, poolside lounge and grill, movie screen, and an outdoor pool with cabanas are just a few of the impressive resort features.

There's also a café and bar on the premises. So whatever it is, so whether it's food, or a beer, you can have both without venturing off.

Phone Number: (619) 489-3950

Address: 825 E Street, Chula Vista, CA 91910

31. KQ Ranch RV Resort

Credit: K.Q. Ranch Resort

At the KQ Ranch Resort in Julian, the rustic charm of upland camping in the mountains is everything. Four miles from the center of town, a five-star RV resort in a remote area provides guests a genuine encounter with nature.

The opportunity to rent roomy trailer cabins with sleeping accommodations for 4 to 8 people and complete kitchenettes.

There are restrooms available to even those without an RV. Tent campers will enjoy sleeping outside, surrounded by the fresh mountain air and breathtaking scenery.

The resort's amenities include two enormous rock fireplaces, a sizable clubhouse with scheduled events and films, pancake breakfasts, steak dinners, and board games. The resort has a lake for fishing as well as an outdoor heated pool and a large Jacuzzi.

Phone: (760) 765-2244

Address: 449 KQ Ranch Road, Julian, CA 92036

32. Jumbo Rocks Campground

When you spend a few nights camping here, it's simple to understand why Joshua Tree is such a beautiful spot. The biggest campground in the park, Jumbo Rocks Campground, offers you the best opportunity to get a space.

Its name boulders and rock formations surround it, allowing for simple exploration of the bizarre desert area. Additionally, spending the night allows guests to take in the enchanted sunsets and astoundingly black sky of this boulder-rich area.

The 124 sites at Jumbo Rocks can accommodate both tents and RVs, although there are no power hookups.

Visitors may use the vault restrooms, but they must provide their own water. The campground is situated close to notable landmarks including Skull Rock in the park's center.

Phone Number: (877) 444-6777Address: Jumbo Rocks Campground, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

33. Green Valley Campground

Credit: San Bernardino Nat'l Forest / Flickr

Less than an hour west of San Diego, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers relief from the summertime heat of Southern California. The park is located at 4,000 feet in height within the Peninsular Range.

With more than 80 campsites close to the Sweetwater River and its several swimming holes, the park's Green Valley Campground is a well-liked family campground.

The campground offers direct access to trails like the Pine Ridge Trail, and all overnight visitors have access to fresh water and coin-operated amenities.

Phone Number: (207)-923-3000

Address: 14592-14674 CA-79, Julian, California

34. Manker Flats Campground

Credit: Nick Shah / Flickr

A high-altitude campground called Manker Flats is located not far from Mount Baldy, commonly known as Mount San Antonio. It's a frequent starting point for the roughly 10-mile Baldy Loop, one of Southern California's top hiking paths.

Within the boundaries of the Angeles National Forest, the campground provides basic lodging. The Mt. Baldy Bowl Trailhead, which offers a difficult approach to the neighboring peak, is also conveniently located nearby.

The campground is located at a height of more than 6,000 feet. The 21 available spots are first-come, first-served, and although they are rarely fully occupied, they can get busy on the weekends. Each overnight user has access to drinkable tap and pit toilets.

Phone Number: (626) 335-1251Address: 7980 Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA 91759

35. Tamarisk Grove Campground

With more than 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is one of California's biggest and best state parks. Anza-Borrego is best visited between October and May, when the oppressive summer heat lessens.

The Tamarisk Grove Campground is among the best in the park. In addition, it is situated in the middle of Anza-Borrego National Park and is one of the most developed campgrounds there.

Both cabins and camping areas are accessible. Despite the fact that drinking water can be purchased, visitors should carry their own.

Phone Number: (760) 767-4205Address: 5960 Yaqui Pass Rd, Julian, CA 92036

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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