From beaches to mountains, primitive camping to glamping, these are the best campsites near San Diego.
Situated on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego, also known as “America’s Finest City,” is simply a lovely vacation spot (and a beautiful place to go camping).
San Diego is known for both its natural beauty and non-stop exciting city atmosphere.
With miles of white sand beaches and marine preserves on one side, to forested mountains and freshwater lakes on the other, there’s no shortage of trails to meander and peaks to bag here.
If you’re planning a San Diego camping adventure I have all the info you need to pick the perfect campsite for you.
From beach vacations and jet ski rentals to forest retreats and desert vibes, there’s something for everyone in San Diego.
Click through to discover the best campgrounds near San Diego including where they are and what to expect.
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San Diego Campgrounds Map
Best Time to Camp in San Diego
San Diego’s weather is characterized by a long, warm summer and a short winter that’s slightly cooler and oftentimes partly cloudy.
The average year-round daytime temperatures range from about 50-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures much higher or lower than that are rare.
The one part of the year to look out for is “June gloom.” This refers to the cloudy, cool weather in late spring and early summer.
Often the clouds burn off around mid-day, but foggy, overcast mornings are the norm during this time of year.
My personal favorite time to camp in San Diego is in August since it’s the warmest month and the days are long. I don’t know about you, but I need hot temperatures to enjoy the beach!
Best Campgrounds Near San Diego
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: Amazing beach access and warm, sunny water.
Address: 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Phone number: (760) 438-3143
Cost: $35-$50/night (premium sites by the beach are on the higher end).
Amenities: Flush toilets, picnic table, fire ring, pay showers, general store, RVs and campers up to 35 ft, RV hook-ups, dump station, and campfire programs.
If you’re looking to experience a stereotypical Southern California beach vacation full of sunbathers and surfers look no further than South Carlsbad State Beach Campground.
As the name suggests, the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground offers beautiful beach camping near San Diego.
Located at the impressive South Carlsbad State Beach, the campground is 30 minutes from downtown San Diego.
South Carlsbad State Beach is known for its wide, sandy beaches and warm water, and is a popular spot for families and surfers.
The state beach is three miles from the town of Carlsbad, CA (which is also well known for its Flower Fields).
The campground offers all the basic amenities you’d expect, including flush toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings, but can also accommodate RVs and campers up to 35 feet. As a bonus, there are staff-guided campfire programs as well.
Note: while dogs are allowed in the campground, they aren’t allowed on any of the state beaches.
Silver Strand State Beach
Why it’s worth camping at: Stunning ocean views and water sports.
Address: 5000 Hwy 75, Coronado, CA 92118
Phone number: (619) 435-5184
Cost: $50/night (standard), $65/night (premium).
Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring, electric and water hookups, and dump station.
Silver Strand State Beach Campground is located just a short 20-minute drive south of downtown San Diego.
This state beach is on a very thin slice of land (a “strand”) that creates a barrier between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. In order words, it’s a stunning place surrounded by water.
This is one of the more unique campgrounds near San Diego in that it’s only open for fully self-contained RVs and camper vans that have their own bathroom.
There’s a dump station in the campground, but otherwise, you’ll need to rely on yourself for most other amenities. Tent camping is not allowed and you cannot sleep outside your RV.
Also, note that as this is a state beach pets are not allowed on the beach – but they can be leashed at your campsite.
If that’s not a problem for you, the ocean views here are second-to-none and the location is excellent for all kinds of water sports.
There are 120 sites open year-round at Silver Strand State Beach, and reservations can be made here up to six months in advance.
The Crown Cove Aquatic Center is also located on Silver Strand State Beach and rents paddling, sailing, and surfing equipment.
Additionally, the beach is directly across the bay from the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge and right next door to Coronado Cays Park.
Alter Experiences Glamping
Why it’s worth camping at: Forest camping near the city with creature comforts and giant hammock tree houses.
Address: 468-470 Los Huecos Rd, Mt Laguna CA 91948
Phone number: (619) 642-7015
Cost: $100+/night (tentsile tents), $150-$250/night (canvas tents).
Amenities: Flush toilets, showers, furnished glamping kitchen, plush mattresses (for canvas tents), picnic table, fire pits, camping chairs, first aid kits, games, and solar-powered lights.
If you’re looking for glamping near San Diego, look no further than Alter Experiences.
Alter Experiences Glamping has two retreat facilities: one in the high mountains of Cleveland National Forest (and the only glamping facility in a national forest in California), and one in Baja California.
In this article, I’m focusing on the Cleveland National Forest location, which is just over an hour from San Diego.
The Cleveland National Forest site is located off Sunrise Scenic National Highway in the Laguna Campground, which is run by the national forest.
The entire facility is very close to Little Laguna Lake and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (a wonderful place to see wildflowers in the spring and early summer).
And, despite sharing the bathroom and shower facilities, all sites are totally private.
One of the things Alter Experiences Glamping is most known for is their “Tentsile tree tents,” which are large, multi-level hammocks suspended between the trees.
For those of us not psyched about sleeping in tree canopies, they also offer canvas bell tents equipped with comfy mattresses, sofas, and carpets.
Finally, Alter Experiences is located near plenty of trailheads and popular hiking trails.
Looking for more glamping experiences? Read our guide to California glamping.
San Onofre Bluffs Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: It has three classic California surf locations, which are great for all levels of surfers.
Address: 5200 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, San Clemente, CA 92672
Phone number: (949) 492-4872
Amenities: Fire pit, picnic table, cold outdoor showers, vault toilets, and dump station (but no RV hookups).
Located in San Onofre State Beach, San Onofre Bluffs Campground sits on 3.5 miles of natural beachfront overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The campground itself is perched on lovely sandstone bluffs and is just a quarter-mile from the beach, which is very popular with swimmers and surfers.
There are three classic surfing locations located in San Onofre State Beach: Lower Trestles, Old Man’s (a good place for new surfers), and Trails (the most popular beach area).
In addition to the great surfing, San Onofre State Beach is known as an ideal place to view wildlife like whales and dolphins.
If you’re lucky, you might also spot the endangered plover birds nesting (which is why dogs are not allowed on the beach).
The eucalyptus trees around the camping area host monarch butterfly swarms at certain times of the year as well.
This campground has 157 campsites, but you should plan to book early if you want to stay here as it fills up fast in the summer.
You can make reservations here.
Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay
Why it’s worth camping at: You get all the amenities of a resort with the quiet benefits of a wildlife refuge next door.
Address: 825 E St. Chula Vista, CA 91910
Phone number: (619) 489-3950
Cost: $94+/night (RV), $230+/night (rental cottages).
Amenities: Picnic tables, propane fire pits, full RV hookups, free WIFI, Bayside Cafe, pool and cabanas, camp store, splash pad, and community hall.
Sun Outdoors Dan Diego Bay offers beach camping in San Diego that’s right on the San Diego Bay.
The facility is located adjacent to the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge and offers small vacation rental units as well as RV sites.
The RV sites can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet long and have full hookups that include cable and free WIFI.
The fully furnished rental cottages come in a few different sizes and all have full kitchens, AC/heat, gas grills, plus tables and chairs outside.
Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay is much more of a resort than a typical campground. It has a cafe and pool with cabanas available for private rental.
And if you’re traveling with kids, the resort has activities the whole family can enjoy like a splash pad next to the pool. Their community hall also offers trivia nights!
Due to the fact that a national wildlife refuge is just a few seconds away, you can easily access hiking and mountain biking trails, including the Sweetwater March Nature Path.
Santee Lakes Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: Enjoy family-friendly activities in a floating cabin.
Address: 9310 Fanita Pkwy, Santee, CA 92071
Phone number: (619) 596-3141
Cost: $125-$220/night (cabins), $60-$78/night (tent and RV sites).
Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring, full hookups, free WIFI (at deluxe sites), two pools, spa, and RV rentals.
Santee Lakes Campground in Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is a very popular camping and recreation destination near San Diego.
Santee Lakes is located on the very edge of northeast San Diego and is of those San Diego camping spots that has family fun written all over it.
Fishing, boating, picnicking, playgrounds (they have seven!), a splash pad, pools, a spa, walking trails, and paddleboats. You name it, and Santee Lakes has it.
There are 300 tent and RV sites at Santee Lakes as well as seven lakefront cabins and three floating cabins with pedal boats at the ready. There’s also a private patio.
All the cabins are equipped with full kitchens plus a flat screen TV, grill, and AC.
Campland on the Bay
Why it’s worth camping at Campland on the Bay:
Address: 2211 Pacific Beach Dr., San Diego, CA 92109
Phone number: (800) 422-9386
Cost: Varies by season. $60-$440/night in summer and $55-$428/night in winter.
Amenities: Picnic table, fire pit with grill top, full hookups, and a pool.
With 562 campsites, Campland on the Bay is one of the largest places to camp in San Diego.
Located on the shores of Mission Bay, Campland on the Bay also offers extended stays during the off-season.
This facility offers ten pricing tiers according to site type and season.
They start with standard “dry” sites for tents only. And they go all the way up to “supersites” with an enclosed outdoor kitchen, laundry, hot tub, bathroom, and shower with full hookups.
Because of these uniquely outfitted supersites, this is the best camping near downtown San Diego for long-term stays.
Campland on the Bay also has a marina, meaning you can store your boat there as well as moor there and sleep on your boat.
As a bonus, the facility is adjacent to nature areas including the Northern Wildlife Preserve and Mission Bay Park.
Despite this, expect to have a somewhat urban feel as the resort is also within view of hotels and other city features.
Campland on the Bay has a very social vibe and in the summer they even host live music events.
They also have a recreation center with pickleball, horseshoe pits, yoga, kickball, dodgeball, and more, as well as a cantina on-site and water sport rentals galore.
Kumeyaay Lake Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: It’s reasonably priced, nestled within San Diego, and great for families with small kids.
Address: Two Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119
Phone number: (619) 668-2748
Amenities: Fire pits, picnic tables, flush toilets, potable water, and a campfire program amphitheater.
Kumeyaay Lake Campground in Mission Trails Regional Park offers San Diego campsites on 8,000 acres of great outdoors.
Mission Trails Regional Park is nestled in northeast San Diego. It’s a great place for new campers to try out their gear for the first time or families with small kids since it’s relatively close to civilization.
Alcohol and smoking are not permitted in the campground so you can expect a quiet, family-friendly atmosphere. Pets are allowed in the campground but must be leashed.
Kumeyaay Lake Campground offers lake camping near the city with 46 campsites (tent and RV sites) that are only available on Fridays, Saturdays, and some three-day holiday weekends.
The park also offers boating on Lake Murray, as well as excellent biking and hiking trails.
Campsites can be booked up to six months in advance and instructions on booking sites can be found here. Note that sites must be booked a minimum of 48 hours before your intended stay.
San Elijo State Beach
Why it’s worth camping at: A convenient location in north San Diego County, plus it’s a great place for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Address: 2050 S. Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007
Phone number: (760) 753-5091
Cost: $10/night (hike and bike), $35/night (standard), $50/night (standard hookup sites), $60/night (premium oceanfront with hookups).
Amenities: Flush toilet, camp store, fire rings, RV rentals, and can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet.
Located just south of Encinitas, San Elijo State Beach Campground is half an hour from downtown San Diego.
San Elijo State Beach is well-known for being the home of a beautiful reef, meaning it’s a prime spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
In fact, the state beach is right off the coast from Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area, which preserves an entire ecosystem of kelp forests and reefs to help improve ocean health.
The campground is perfectly located right on the water and has easy ocean access.
Although it’s good to note that the beach here is a bit narrow and it’s important to watch out for large waves and rip currents.
One unique service that San Elijo State Beach offers is RV rentals, where you can have an RV delivered and set up at your campsite!
Or, if that isn’t your thing, there are some hike and bike campsites and standard tent camping as well.
Reservations can be made here, up to six months in advance.
Mission Bay RV Resort
Why it’s worth camping at: Campsites are located right on the water and it’s very dog-friendly.
Address: 2727 De Anza Rd, San Diego, CA 92109
Phone number: (877) 219-6900
Cost: $110-$145/night (standard), $140-$175/night (super size), and $205-$225/night (beachfront).
Amenities: Restrooms, showers, recreation lounge, watersports rentals, and access to the amenities at Campland on the Bay (including a pool, fitness center, skate park, full bar, playground, and dog park).
The beachfront offers paved walking and biking trails, as well as watersports rentals during the summer.
If you’re looking for dog-friendly camping in San Diego, this is a good option because you’ll have access to the off-leash dog park at Campland on the Bay.
The campground accepts class A, B, and C motorhomes, travel trailers, and 5th wheel trailers, as well as smaller teardrop campers.
Their fee schedule is tiered based on weekdays vs weekends and includes five different options based on proximity to the water and size of the site.
I’ve included their summer rates above, but their winter rates are about $30 lower for each category.
Paso Picacho Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: At 5,000 feet, this is a great escape from the summer heat during the warmer months.
Address: 13652 CA-79, Julian CA 92036
Phone number: (760) 765-3024
Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring, flush toilets, coin-operated showers, potable water, dump station but no RV hookups, ranger-led programs, and firewood and ice for sale.
Located in the mountain town of Julian, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has two campgrounds: Paso Picacho and Green Valley.
With 85 sites, Paso Picacho is more popular because several well-known trails start from this campground, including Stonewall Peak and Cuyamaca Peak.
However, Green Valley is also a great campground with 81 campsites and a creek going through the middle of it.
Both campgrounds are just over an hour from San Diego and a mere two miles south of Lake Cuyamaca.
Mountain biking is also very popular at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The park has 41 miles of mountain bike trails that take you past serene forests, flower-filled meadows, and even all the way up Cuyamaca Peak.
Lastly, Paso Picacho Campground is located at 5,000 feet of elevation (Green Valley is 4,000 feet), making both campgrounds a place to escape the worst of the summer heat.
You can make reservations here.
Looking for things to do in the area? Read our complete guide to the best things to do in Julian.
Stone Creek Campground and Idyllwild Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: Mount San Jacinto offers a stunning wilderness to explore.
Address: 2118 CA-234, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549 (Stone Creek); 25905 CA-243, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549 (Idyllwild).
Phone number: (951) 659-2607
Cost: $25/night (tent), $35/night (electric hookup), and $45/night (full hookups–Idyllwild only)
Amenities: Picnic tables, fire ring, barbeques, amphitheater, pit toilets (Stone Creek), flush toilets (Idyllwild), electric hookups, RVs up to 24 feet, full hookups (Idyllwild only), and showers (Idyllwild only).
Mount San Jacinto State Park has two developed campgrounds within about five miles of one another.
To give you an idea of location, Idyllwild Campground and Stone Creek Campground are two hours northeast of San Diego, off Highway 243 near Palm Springs.
Idyllwild is the more developed of the two campgrounds and includes showers, flush toilets, and full RV hookups. It has 28 tent and RV sites and is frequented by Pacific Crest Trail hikers.
Stone Creek Campground has 44 sites and is a bit more primitive, but still has vault toilets and potable water, along with standard campground amenities like picnic tables and fire rings.
Both campgrounds follow the same fee schedule.
Reservations for either campground can be made here.
Bow Willow Campground
Why it’s worth camping at: Experience desert solitude with amazing star-gazing.
Address: Bow Willow Rd, Julian, CA 92036
Phone number: (760) 767-5311
Amenities: Fire ring, picnic table, potable water, flush toilets, and showers.
The Bow Willow Campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is desert solitude at its finest.
Located an hour and forty-five minutes from San Diego in the southern part of the park, Bow Willow Campground provides breathtaking views of the night sky since it’s so far from cities.
In fact, the park has achieved International Dark Sky status, meaning it is one of the darkest places in the country!
If night skies aren’t your thing, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is known for amazing wildflower blooms after spring rains.
The campground here is not only in a fairly remote part of the park, but with only 16 campsites, you’re almost guaranteed to have a quiet experience.
Best Free Camping Near San Diego
Free camping near the city is possible to find, but prepare to do a little extra planning if you want to snag free tent sites.
Often, an outdoor enthusiast looking for free camping will search for land that’s administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Unfortunately, San Diego doesn’t have a lot of BLM land nearby, just the McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area where dispersed camping isn’t even allowed.
With that said, the Cottonwood Campground is only $6/person, if you’re willing to go for cheap instead of free.
One of the best areas near San Diego for dispersed camping is Cleveland National Forest.
You can camp for free at Corte Madera Mountain, which is a strenuous hike in, and Pine Creek Road, which allows for car camping.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for more dispersed camping in San Diego County check out Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which has eight primitive campgrounds. These primitive campgrounds also have the luxury of pit toilets (excluding Yaqui Pass).
These are the eight campgrounds that allow dispersed camping at the state park:
Note: Pets aren’t allowed anywhere in the backcountry in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. And, honestly, the desert with all of its pokey plants isn’t a great place for pups to roam anyway.
What to Pack for Camping in San Diego County
- Sun hat and/or beanie
- Beach towel
- Water shoes/flip flops
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Toiletries and personal medications
- Tent – Read our guides to the best 4-person tents, 6-person tents, 8-person tents, 10-person tents, 12-person tents, large camping tents, 3-room tents, instant tents, pop-up tents, inflatable tents, tunnel tents, canvas tents, waterproof tents, insulated tents, winter tents, and cabin tents.
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Inflatable camping pillow
- Earplugs and eye mask (if you’re a light sleeper)
- Bug spray
- Camp food + camping mess kit
- Water bottle and hydration pack (if you plan to go hiking)
- Warm layers and breathable hiking clothes
- Camping Cot
- Camp chairs
- Outdoor watch (like a Garmin watch), handheld GPS, or hiking apps downloaded to your phone ahead of time
- A durable phone case
- Biodegradable soap
- Quick-drying microfiber towel
- First-aid kit
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!
Looking for more San Diego travel and California camping inspiration? Check out these related posts below!
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