San Diego Camping Locations from Beaches to Mountains

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Time to reclaim the outdoors! Once the rain stops, there’s nothing to stop you from heading out and exploring the many environments that San Diego has to offer. Whether you’ve never been camping in your life or you’re a seasoned camper, we gathered up some of the coolest spots around the county to spend a night under the stars.

Cleveland National Forest

Located east of Escondido, Cleveland National Forest is a quiet and tranquil destination for a camping trip. All three districts of this of this park offer remote camping in addition to their campsites, so you can pitch your tent anywhere you’d like within the forest. While you couldn’t build a fire at a campsite you choose yourself, it’s a great way to feel like you’re truly in the wilderness. Make sure you get a permit before heading out. Hike the Cedar Creek Falls trail near Ramona for a moderate day hike to a waterfall. This hike would be best in the spring, so you aren’t baking in the summer, desert heat.

Campland on the Bay

For a camping trip just outside of downtown, head to Campland on the Bay in Mission Bay, located right off the 1-5 and I-8 freeways. Activities are plentiful at Campland. You can play volleyball at the sand courts, horseshoes, or arcade games. Entertainment and live music are on schedule at the park, and you can rent all sorts of water sport activities from their facilities. In addition to all that Campland has to offer to you within the park, you’re right next to all the other excitement the bay has to offer, like biking or walking the trails or getting access to the ocean beaches.

San Elijo State Beach

Make your reservations to camp on the beach at San Elijo State Beach in Encinitas. Go swimming, surfing, and snorkeling in the waves that are just steps from your campsite. The park offers rentals and lessons, so you won’t be at a loss for things to do. A camp store and snack bar are located near the entrance of the park, where you can buy firewood or snacks Bull Taco snack bar. Join a summer surf camp or weekend escape and learn how to surf with Eli Howard Surf School! This beach park has everything you might need right on site for you to enjoy an amazing camping trip.

South Carlsbad State Beach

Very similar to San Elijo State Beach, but just up the coast, South Carlsbad State Beach offers a beachside camping experience. Bike the trails around the park, or find a place to set up a picnic. Bring your pets and some drinks to enjoy, but not on the beach. With all the same amenities that San Elijo offers, you can experience a new beach with familiar and fun activities.

Silver Strand State Beach

While Silver Strand State Beach just south of Coronado is another state run park, it offers a different experience than that of South Carlsbad and San Elijo. With beaches on both the calm bay and the exciting ocean, you can enjoy two different bodies of water. Swim in the cold water of the ocean, or the warmer waters of the bay. You have easy access to both sides of the park, with pedestrian walkways that take you under the highway from side to side. The Silver Strand Beach Cafe, which operates in summer, can provide you with your ice cream cravings, as well as other summer time treats.

Any of these parks would be an amazing place to pitch your tent. Get out there before the tourist rush comes in during the summer to enjoy the smaller crowds, and we hope you get to plan a trip of your own soon!

Drew has lived in San Diego going on two years, and can't imagine living anywhere else. She loves the city's beaches, food, and shows. You can contact her at

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