Camping Destinations

The 4 Best Campgrounds Near San Diego

by CampspotterJan 18, 2023

If you’re looking for the best campgrounds near San Diego, then you’ve come to the right place. This list of four campgrounds will have you planning your next camping trip in no time. So pack up your camping gear and get ready for an adventure!

La Jolla Cove beach and cliffs

What’s to Love About San Diego?

San Diego, California, offers a wide variety of outdoor activities perfect for all ages, making it an ideal destination for a memorable camping trip. From kayaking and surfing in the Pacific Ocean to biking along the sunny San Diego boardwalks, there is something for everyone.

Paddleboarding

paddleboarders in San Diego Bay

This exciting sport can be done from any beach in the area and requires little experience to enjoy. Those looking to take their San Diego adventure up a notch may want to try catching some waves at Swami’s Beach or touring La Jolla Cove.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park or SeaWorld Adventure Park

aerial view of Safari Park in San Diego

Both of these San Diego attractions offer families an array of exciting activities and attractions that are sure to keep the whole family entertained throughout their stay.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

sunset at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego

Nature fans flock to this incredible spot. Boasting spectacular views of the ocean as well as hiking trails with magnificent landscapes, this San Diego park makes for a great spot to spend the day outdoors.

Mission Bay Park

aerial view of Mission Bay Park in San Diego

This area is full of beaches and public parks, including Fiesta Island where visitors can rent canoes and kayaks for water adventures or find their own fun on four-wheelers, dirt bikes, or skateboards.

With countless amazing outdoor activities available in San Diego year-round, there’s no denying why it remains one of California’s top vacation spots!

What Are the Best Campgrounds Near San Diego?

desert wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Campgrounds near San Diego offer visitors a variety of activities and amenities to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to relax on one of the many sandy beaches, explore the stunning coastal bluffs, or hike in the nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you’ll find something to do at these campgrounds.

1. Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay

campground near San Diego with pool and RVs parked near

This upscale RV Resort is located in the picturesque coastal town of Chula Vista, California. With the beautiful San Diego Bay at your doorstep, this campground offers a unique experience with its wide range of amenities and stunning vacation rentals.

From private cabanas, to swimming pools, to an onsite juice and breakfast bar, this resort has it all. On-site activities include movie nights by the poolside, top-of-the-line fitness centers, bike trails weaving throughout the area, and guided nature tours showcasing the local wildlife.

Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay also provides easy access to all the exciting attractions of nearby San Diego—including SeaWorld, Balboa Park, Coronado Beach, Ocean Beach Pier, and more!

lily pond and flowers at Balboa Park

2. El Cajon Elks Lodge 1812

dining area at campground near San Diego decorated for event

Located in charming El Cajon, this campground is just 15 miles east of San Diego. With breathtaking views of two mountain ranges and nearby access to the Pacific Ocean, desert landscape, and Mexican border, this campground offers its guests a truly unique and memorable experience.

While this campground does not have tent camping sites or lodging, they do offer RV sites for Elk members. Be sure to visit their site to learn more.

The park itself features a wide range of amenities, including public golf courses, swimming pools, walking trails, and picnic areas—perfect for an outdoor enthusiast looking to enjoy all that nature has to offer. In addition to these great recreational activities, San Diego visitors can also take advantage of the dozens of local attractions.

From hiking in the mountains to taking a day trip to Mexico or simply lounging by the pool, El Cajon Elks Lodge 1812 promises to deliver!

3. Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort

kid jumping onto boogie board at San Diego beach

Head to Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort and have the best beach vacation ever! Located in Oceanside, California, this resort offers the perfect waves for surfing and all the amenities of a classic beach destination with a modern twist. While this San Diego campground does not offer tent camping, it does have a wide variety of RV sites.

Enjoy luxurious resort-style amenities such as a pool and hot tub, restrooms, showers, free HD Cable TV, and Wi-Fi. Relax on pristinely white sandy beaches right next door or explore nearby attractions such as the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park or LEGOLAND California. Take a stroll through coastal towns such as Carlsbad and Encinitas, all just minutes away from your RV paradise!

Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure while you’re camping in San Diego, Paradise by the Sea offers something for everyone. With stunning sunsets over the ocean, you’ll feel like you’re in paradise no matter what season it is here!

So come on down to Paradise by Sea Beach RV Resort—because nothing beats a Southern California beach vacay!

4. Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District

lake Cuyamaca in San Diego

The Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District campground is the perfect place to stay when visiting the picturesque San Diego mountains. The array of camping options caters to all kinds of campers, offering RV sites with full hookups and tent camping sites with access to nearby bathrooms and showers. For those looking for a bit more comfort, cabins are available as well. No matter what type of camping is desired, it will be surrounded by breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Additional activities available while staying at the campground include fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, bird watching, and picnicking. The park district also provides two boat launches for non-motorized boats during certain months of the year. There are plenty of trails that can accommodate hikers of all levels and skill sets, from short nature trails to long, rugged terrain with more advanced challenges. A general store offers basic food items as well as souvenirs and supplies needed for an enjoyable stay in the San Diego area. 

Are There Public Lands With Campgrounds Near San Diego?

Lake Morena County Park

Trail through Cleveland National Forest, with green hills on either side

This is a great spot for camping near San Diego. Set within the Cleveland National Forest at an elevation of about 3,000 feet, this park offers some truly stunning scenery for visitors to take in. There are plenty of trails to explore in this area, as well as several lakes for fishing, boating, or swimming during warmer months. Visitors can even enjoy horseback riding here!

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

dry plains in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego

This is another fantastic option for campers near San Diego. This incredible park features over 100 miles of trails offering gorgeous and varied views throughout its 26,000 acres.

With its rolling hills and sprawling meadows, it’s easy to forget that you’re just a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Diego. The park also boasts several streams and reservoirs with opportunities for fishing or kayaking, plus plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities too!

Silver Strand State Beach

sunset at Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego

This site is ideal for beach lovers looking for a camping spot near San Diego. Here, visitors will find a lush stretch of coastline stretching seven miles from Coronado southward to Imperial Beach, making it one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in Southern California!

In addition to water activities like surfing, swimming, and kayaking, San Diego visitors can also explore tide pools full of interesting sea life and relax while taking in stunning ocean views.

What Should I Pack?

camper unpacking car trunk in nature

When packing for a trip to San Diego, it’s important to be prepared for the coastal climate and its unpredictable weather. The temperature can range from hot and sunny in the summertime to cool and foggy in the winter, so having a variety of clothing options is key.

Pack layers of lightweight, breathable materials such as T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, joggers, and activewear that can be added or removed as needed. A lightweight jacket or sweater can also come in handy if temperatures dip at night.

As far as footwear goes, bring a pair of sturdy shoes or boots for long hikes, sandals for visiting beaches or poolside lounging, and comfortable flip-flops for days on the boardwalk or around town. Don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the San Diego sun!

For San Diego camping gear, make sure you have:

  • A tent and sleeping bags suitable for four-season use if you’re going tent camping
  • A first-aid kit
  • Water bottles
  • Flashlights and headlamps
  • Sunscreen
  • Campfire supplies such as firewood and matches
  • Cooking items like a portable stove
  • Cookware and non-perishable food items
  • Insect repellent spray
  • Toiletries like biodegradable soap and any other personal items you may need while out in nature

With this comprehensive list of items packed up, you’ll have everything you need for an unforgettable trip to San Diego!

What Are Some Things I Should Avoid Doing While Camping Near San Diego?

campfire at dusk

When camping near San Diego, there are a few important things to keep in mind. It’s important to avoid campfire accidents; always be sure to have an adult supervising any open flames.

Additionally, areas surrounding San Diego are known for having rattlesnakes and scorpions, so it’s important to wear protective gear like long pants and thick shoes when walking around or setting up camp. Be sure to check your sleeping bag for insects before getting in, and avoid leaving food out as this could attract wildlife.

Pro Tips for Rattlesnake Encounters

"watch out for rattlesnakes" sign

If you see a rattlesnake while camping near San Diego, remain as calm as possible and back away slowly, giving the snake plenty of room. Do not run or make any sudden movements, since this could cause the snake to become agitated and strike.

If the rattlesnake is near your tent or campsite, try to gently move it away with an object like a thick stick or shovel. Never try to grab or handle a rattlesnake directly, as they are venomous and dangerous. If in doubt, contact wildlife officials who may be able to safely relocate the snake for you.

Beach camping can be dangerous because of the tides, so make sure you’re aware of tide schedules before going out and setting up camp away from shorelines during high tide times.

Where Are Some of the Best Places to Eat in San Diego?

Urban Solace

Located in South Park, this modern American restaurant is known for its eclectic menu that creatively fuses flavors of the Southwest with hearty comfort food. The menu changes often to feature the freshest ingredients, but popular dishes include their grilled pork chop, roasted cauliflower steak, and slow-roasted short rib.

Cucina Urbana

This Italian San Diego eatery is located in Bankers Hill and offers classic Italian dishes with a California twist. The open kitchen serves up house-made pastas, wood-fired pizzas, seasonal salads, and hearty sandwiches. Don’t miss out on their signature dish, the crispy polenta fries topped with truffle oil.

La Puerta

Located in the heart of Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, this Mexican restaurant has some of the best tacos in town. Choose from beef brisket tacos, smoked pork tacos or even vegan tacos filled with mushrooms and potatoes—nomz! 

Gaslamp sign in downtown San Diego

Prepkitchen Little Italy

This indoor-outdoor eatery is located in Little Italy near downtown San Diego, and offers a great selection of small plates and seasonal entrees prepared with local ingredients sourced from nearby farms and farmers’ markets. Popular menu items include seared scallops with jalapeno brown butter sauce and pan-seared duck breast served over creamy risotto. 

Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar

Situated in Mission Hills, this critically acclaimed San Diego neighborhood bistro offers an impressive selection of wines paired with modern yet comforting dishes like beef short rib stroganoff or wild mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce.

Juniper & Ivy

This New American cuisine restaurant is led by Chef Richard Blais who was voted as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2013.

The constantly changing menu features unique creations, like tempura crispy sea bass cheeks served over kimchi edamame puree, or fried chicken biscuit sliders topped off with pickles, slaw, mustard aioli, and cheddar cheese fondue—perfect if you’re looking for something outside the box in San Diego! 

Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar

Located in Little Italy, this seafood spot offers some of the freshest seafood around, thanks to its proximity to the docks where they source most of their fish straight from fishermen every day!

Dishes range from tartare made with locally caught yellowtail, to delicious grilled Mahi Mahi served over roasted brussel sprouts, to grilled calamari steaks accompanied by garbanzo beans cooked in garlic butter sauce. They’re all worth trying out! 

Cali Comfort BBQ

If your idea of a good time includes eating plenty of barbecue, then head over to Spring Valley where you’ll find Cali Comfort BBQ serving up mouthwatering meats like pulled pork sandwiches smothered in Carolina mustard sauce or beef brisket topped off with Texas-style white BBQ sauce. Both are definitely must tries!

Alongside these classics, they also offer ribs which are marinated overnight before being smoked slowly over hickory wood, creating tender morsels that almost melt away in your mouth. It’s truly an amazing experience not to be missed in San Diego.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly camping destination, these campgrounds near San Diego can’t be beaten. With Campspot, you can easily search campgrounds and book your trip in no time at all!

Not only will you have access to campgrounds and amenities, but you’ll also enjoy the beauty of California’s golden coast. Plus, it’s a great excuse to indulge in delicious Mexican cuisine from San Diego’s many amazing restaurants. So why wait? Get out there and camp near San Diego with Campspot!

Image credit by appearance: Adobe Stock user Thanasith, Adobe Stock user Gloria Moeller, Adobe Stock user Dmitri Kotchetov, Adobe Stock user Thanasith, Adobe Stock user Unwind, Adobe Stock user Rachel, Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay, Adobe Stock user Nataliya Gryban, El Cajon Elks Lodge 1812, Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort, Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District, Adobe Stock user Steve Cukrov, Adobe Stock user Autumn Sky, Adobe Stock user Gottfried Reidler, Adobe Stock user astrosystem, Adobe Stock user James Thew, Adobe Stock user PJ Garrett, Adobe Stock user bennymarty