5 Places to Camp Near San Diego: Quick Weekend Getaways

There are few things better than escaping the hustle and bustle of San Diego for a weekend, and luckily, these spots make it easy to avoid traveling long distances and racking up gas costs in order to get away for a while. All five of these campsites are within a 2 hours’ drive of the city. Check out our list of the top 5 places to camp near San Diego and start planning a fun weekend getaway!

1. Cuyamaca State Park

places to camp near san diego

Cuyamaca’s beautiful park offers camping and hiking in an oak woodland forest, with a sprinkling of pines and lovely meadows with creeks. There are over 100 miles of trails that accommodate hikers, bikers, and equestrians.  The two family camps, Paso Picacho and Green Valley, are open spring through fall. Green Valley has 81 campsites and sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet; a creek runs through the middle of the campground, making for a relaxing atmosphere.  The day-use area offers sets of cascades and shallow pools, great for water play on hot days. Paso Picacho, 5 miles north, has 85 campsites and sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Reservations are definitely necessary in the summertime, so head to their website and reserve via phone or internet. The sites are also dog-friendly, so don’t worry about leaving your beloved pooch at home! The park is located east of San Diego on Highway 79, five miles north of I-8.

2. Lake Jennings

Lake Jennings is an East County hidden gem; a bit under the radar in terms of camping, but a well known site for fantastic fishing and ample hiking trails. The campground is open year round and several of the campsites (tent and full hook-up) offer incredible views of the lake, so be sure to ask for permission to drive around the campground to see which site has the best view.

Fishing Monday through Friday is limited campers with a fishing permit and only along the shoreline. Luckily for the rest of us non-permit holders, the lake opens up to boat fishers at 5:00 pm on Friday and continues through Sunday at 8:30 pm. This is a perfect site for a quick weekend getaway, and isn’t more than an hour away from downtown San Diego – the main grounds are located on Harrit Road in Lakeside. You can make reservations to camp online or by phone.

SEE ALSOLooking for more fun outdoor activities?

3. Palomar Mountain State Park

There are a few different camp areas within the State Park, but the most notable is the Doane Valley Campground which boasts a total of 31 campsites, each with its own picnic table and fire ring. This particular area also has full restrooms, including flush toilets and hot showers for those who are less inclined to go full-on wilderness camping!  The other area, Cedar Grove, is a group campground site that includes three separate areas. Camp 1 will accommodate up to 25 people, while the other two can easily handle up to 15 each. There are a variety of hiking and nature trails throughout the park and a majority of them are easily accessible from all campsites. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance of arrival date and sites fill up fast – so book early! The park allows you to book online as well as by phone. The campgrounds are located at 19952 State Park Rd., Palomar, 92060.

4. Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve

Perfect for a family summer stay-cation, Santee Recreation Preserve is located just east of San Diego and consists of 190 acres surrounding seven scenic lakes. The Park provides a tranquil setting for camping, fishing, picnics, fitness, bird watching, boating, and biking in a natural and scenic environment. The sites are kid- and dog-friendly: there are 7 playgrounds, including a Boulder Adventure Course and a mini Water Park, and plenty of hiking trails that allow dogs. Choose from 300 full hook-up campsites, all of which have free WiFi for those who don’t want to leave the real world too far behind! Campers get exclusive fishing in two lakes that aren’t open to day-use guests. As usual, spots fill up fast – so visit their website at santeelakes.com to book early.

5. Laguna Mountain

Laguna is a great getaway just an hour east of San Diego. The Laguna campground sits at an elevation of 6,000 ft. in the Laguna Mountains and is home to an extensive network of foot trails, plenty of pine trees, and beautiful meadows. If you’re looking to spend time near some water, Little Laguna lake is located just a short distance from the campground and is a popular hiking destination. The Recreation Area is known for great horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking trails; if you’re feeling more adventurous, hikers can actually access a segment of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail nearby.

[Images: eastcountymagazine.org, pinterest.com, eastcountymagazine.org, abhiking.blogspot.com, blog.sandiego.org, & sandiegocountytourism.com]

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