Five Places to Camp Near San Diego

Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Photo credit to slworking2 on Flickr.

As the weather is warming up, it is the perfect time to go on a weekend camping trip. San Diego is a wonderful place to explore with its central location to a variety of terrains. The mountains, beach, forest and desert are all easily accessible from Point Loma Nazarene University. 

Here are five places to camp near San Diego: 

1. San Elijo State Beach Campground  

Distance from PLNU: 41 min. 

Amenities: flushing toilets, pay showers, picnic table, potable water, fire rings and RV hookups. 

2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007

Fall asleep to the sound of the waves at this beach campground. Enjoy swimming, relaxing on the sand and surfing. Campsites are $50 a night and $70 for the premium spots located closer to the water. There are eight people maximum per site. This is a popular spot, so getting a reservation can be difficult. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible. 

2. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park 

Distance from PLNU: One hour 

Amenities: fire ring, pay showers, picnic table and water faucets at some sites.

12551 Highway 79, Descanso, CA 

Enjoy nature in this campground located next to the Sweetwater River in an oak forest that sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet. It is $40 a night for Green Valley and Paso Picacho sites. If you are up for an adventure, trek a 3.9 mile trail up Stonewall Peak or hike the 7.7 mile loop up Cuyamaca Peak. Both hikes offer stunning views of the park when you reach the top. 

3. Mount Laguna 

Distance from PLNU: One hour 15 min. 

Amenities: flushing toilets, fire ring, picnic table, paid showers and potable water.

468-470 Los Huecos Rd, Mt Laguna, CA 91948

Spend a weekend in the Cleveland National Forest at Laguna Campground. Campsites are $28 per night. Some of the sites are reservation only and others are first come, first serve. Spend your time outdoors by hiking to Little Laguna Lake and Big Laguna Lake. Pacific Crest Trail is also nearby. There are also mountain biking trails and wildflowers in the spring. 

4. Bow Willow Campground, Anza Borrego 

Distance from PLNU: Two hours 

Amenities: fire rings, vault toilets, picnic tables and covered areas. 

200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004

Located in the desert, Bow Willow is the perfect place for hiking and stargazing. It is first come, first serve, and there are only 16 sites. If you are looking for a secluded spot, this is the place for you. There is also no running water, so make sure to bring your own. During the spring, Anza Borrego is one of the best places to see wildflowers. 

5. Idyllwild Campground, Mount San Jacinto 

Distance from PLNU: Two hours 30 min.

Amenities: fire ring, flushing toilets, picnic table, pay showers, RV hookups and potable water

25905 Highway 243, Idyllwild, CA 92549 

Up in a quiet mountain town, you can find this relaxing place to camp in the trees. Hike the trails around Mount San Jacinto State Park. Explore the charming town and visit the local antique shops and art galleries. There are 31 sites total and nine sites specifically for tent campers. Reservations can be made from two days in advance to six months in advance. It costs $25 a night with a reservation fee of $7.99, and there is a maximum of eight people per site. 

Reservations for all of these campgrounds can be made through reservecalifornia.com. If you lack camping materials, check out Loma Rentals with Loma Outside. They offer tents, stoves, backpacks, pots, lanterns, sleeping bags and more at a daily rate. Get outside this spring and enjoy a peaceful time in nature or an adventure with friends.  

To rent camping materials from PLNU, visit https://lomaoutside.com/lomarentals 

Written By: Isabel Cheeseman