San Diego region has year-round camping opportunities, excellent weather, and wonderful places to visit and, when coming here to do both, it’s good and more enjoyable to have a plan, a two-part plan. Over the past eight years, we’ve enjoyed taking our Airstream Safari to our favorite San Diego beach, mountain, and desert camping spots, and while there, we frequently meet people new to the area who are interested in learning more about places to visit in the San Diego metropolitan area and where to stay while visiting friends and places there.
The first part of this suggested plan is to see the many attractions in the metropolitan San Diego area first, while staying at a nearby, local campground. The second part is to move to your ideal camping location away from the city, where you can enjoy hiking, swimming or relaxing at a beachside, mountain, or desert campground, depending on the season. To get your best camping locations and sites, it’s best to make your reservations as early as possible. San Diego County’s Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is a good starting point because it is only 10 miles southeast of downtown San Diego and has 112 campsites and its Summit Campground has 63 new sites with full hookups.* San Diego County Parks have a new look and feel.* The main advantage of this campground is that it’s just 20-25 minutes away from many local attractions such as the beaches, Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Sea Port Village, and Old Town.
While in the metropolitan area, you could bring your own lunch and have a happy time in Old Town.*
(Above photo credit: Charlie Chul Jung)
Or visit San Diego’s beautiful and historic Balboa Park* and its many museums, such as theNAT and see its permanent exhibition, “Coast to Cactus”, featuring an Airstream trailer!* (Parking is available in the park or nearby areas, including the San Diego Zoo parking lot.)
Visit Cabrillo National Monument* with its Old Point Loma Lighthouse, hiking trails and tide pools.
Or take a 45-minute drive north to explore San Diego Zoo Safari Park* (formerly named San Diego Wild Animal Park).
After visiting the local San Diego attractions, you can then move to your preferred beach, mountain, or desert campground that you reserved ahead of time. During the summer, the coolest place to enjoy camping is one of our California State beach campgrounds, such as South Carlsbad State Beach. It is very popular and reservations for beachside camping often need to be made months in advance. Our favorite time to go is in May before the summer crowds.
Our favorite fall and spring campground is William Heise County Park in the mountains near Julian, California. We prefer the wooded, non-hookup sites in Area 2. Dogs on a leash are permitted on the scenic trails.
The desert is a great place to camp during the late fall, winter and early spring months. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park* is popular because of the resources of the nearby town of Borrego Springs.
Our favorite desert campground is Agua Caliente County Park because there is less traffic and it is not so crowded, especially during the weekdays. It has a therapeutic spa and pools, but dogs are not allowed on trails.