Top 8 Places to Camp in San Diego

Our Top 8 list of San Diego campgrounds include everything from rustic camping experiences to resorts with paved roads, outdoor movies, and pools.

By Inigo Figuracion, TripSavvy

San Diego's outdoor beauty makes it a perfect region for car camping, tent camping, RV spaces, and cabin rentals. What makes it even more unique is you don't have to venture any farther than a few minutes from downtown to find yourself enjoying the great outdoors.

Whether it's on a picture-perfect beach shoreline or nestled in the foothills within city limits, camping in San Diego can be a very "city" thing to do. Here are some campground suggestions that are all within 30 minutes of the San Diego city limits.


San Elijo State Beach

Located on the San Diego coast between Cardiff and Encinitas, San Elijo State Beach offers swimming, surfing, showers, and picnic tables. The narrow, bluff-backed stretch of sand is situated on one of the most desirable parts of the San Diego coastline and has a nearby reef popular with snorkelers and divers.

The campgrounds accommodate tent camping as well as RVs and trailers up to 35 feet. One of the most popular sites in the county, San Elijo sells out early each year, so reservations are a must during the summer season and can be made online.

San Elijo State Beach extends along Coast Highway 101, three-quarters of a mile north from San Elijo Lagoon's entrance channel.


Silver Strand State Beach

If you want to camp right on a flat, sandy beachfront, Silver Strand State Beach is for you. Silver Strand offers extensive beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.

Camping, swimming, surfing, boating, water-skiing, volleyball, and picnicking are popular activities. Anglers can fish for perch, corbina, grunion and yellow-fin croaker.

Camping is available only for self-contained vehicles, motor-homes, or trailers. Vehicles that are not fully self-contained will be turned away. There is no tent camping available.

The beach is located 4.5 miles south of the city of Coronado on Highway 75. The park is located on the sand spit that forms the outer edge of San Diego Bay between Coronado and Imperial Beach.


Campland On the Bay RV & Tent Camping Resort

If you don't mind a densely packed campground, Campland on the Bay gets you outdoors without leaving the city core. Located on the shores of Mission Bay and part of Mission Bay Park, Campland has been a vacation spot for families since 1969.

The property campsites range from primitive to full hook‑up RV. The campground is well-appointed and well-maintained with lots of amenities to keep the family occupied, including a marina with 124 slips plus watercraft and bicycle rentals.

The campground is located at 2211 Pacific Beach Drive, on the northern shores of Mission Bay.


Mission Trails Regional Park

If more primitive amenities are your idea of real camping, then the Kumeyaay Lake Campground within Mission Trails Regional Park is the experience for you. Open on Friday and Saturday nights only, campers have their choice of 46 sites that have no water or electricity for tents or recreational vehicles.

Each site contains picnic and food preparation tables, a firebox, tent pad, and parking space. Water, bathrooms and hot showers are provided nearby.

The campground is part of more than 5,800 acres of chaparral, oak woodlands, mountains and grasslands that make up Mission Trails Regional Park, and the setting makes it hard to believe you are within the city limits.

The campgrounds are located off Mission Gorge Road at Two Father Junipero Serra Trail in San Diego.


Santee Lakes

Camping at Santee Lakes is like camping in your own backyard. 300 full hook-up campsites are nestled in the foothills of Santee, just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego.

The chain of small man-made lakes and the recreation preserve are an acclaimed water reclamation project.

Well-known for its convenient day fishing, the campground includes swimming pools, playgrounds, boating, and fishing.

The campground is located at 9310 Fanita Parkway in Santee.


Sweetwater County Park

If you prefer to take along your horses on your camping trip, Sweetwater County Park offers you a perfect campsite only 20 minutes from downtown.

The Summit Site, atop a hill overlooking the Sweetwater Valley, offers modern campsites including some with corrals for equestrians who want to bring their horses and explore the miles of trails in the area.

Campers, trailers, motorhomes and tent camping are options at the sites, all of which have water and electricity. Trailers as long as 45 feet will find plenty of room here. Hot showers are available for all campers.

The campground is located at 3218 Summit Meadow Road in Bonita.


San Diego Metro KOA

If you're a frequent camper, then you've probably been to a KOA campground. The San Diego Metro KOA offers resort-style camping, with landscaped grounds, a pool, paved roads and 200 full-hookup RV sites with free cable TV and Wi-Fi.

There are also well-appointed cabins to rent. It's a great family camping experience with special activities in the summer months that include hayrides, all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts, outdoor movies, entertainment, and lots of other fun events.

The KOA is located at 111 North 2nd Avenue in Chula Vista.


Lake Jennings Campground

If fishing is a big part of your camping experience, then the Lake Jennings Campground is ideal. The campground at Lake Jennings Park has a variety of campsites available including hookups and primitive tent sites. A large group site is also available with terrific views of the lake and surrounding area.

The campground is open year-round. Lake Jennings Park campers are also just a few steps from some of the best freshwater fishing in San Diego County. Fishing is available from the shore below the campground seven days a week or by boat during regular operating hours. A fishing permit and license are required.


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Travel Magazine: Top 8 Places to Camp in San Diego
Top 8 Places to Camp in San Diego
Our Top 8 list of San Diego campgrounds include everything from rustic camping experiences to resorts with paved roads, outdoor movies, and pools.
Travel Magazine
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