Love time spent by the water? You'll love time spent in this multicultural gem of a city.
Just 30 minutes from the California/Mexico border, San Diego is an iconic Southern California city. This coastal destination borders the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay. Man-made Mission Bay is one of the West Coast's best destinations for water enthusiasts. Extreme-sports fans should check out Ski Beach Park. As the name implies, jet and water skiing is tremendous here! Looking for a beach campground with spectacular views? Check out San Elijo State Beach. This accessible location sits on top of a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The reef below offers exploration options for scuba divers and snorkelers. You can also take surfing lessons at the campground's Eli Howard Surf School. If you prefer dry land adventures, go for William Heise County Park. This quiet woodland spot is a bit inland from San Diego proper. Forty-two tent sites and 57 RV sites give you some overnight options. Campers can also rent one of 14 cozy cabins with wifi, propane heat and full lighting. History buffs shouldn't miss the fascinating exhibits at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. This park traces the interplay of 19th-century Mexican and American settlements in the area. Take a walking tour of the historic buildings here.
Yes, you can go beach camping in San Diego in certain areas, but camping in the sand is pretty much forbidden on public land. Still, bluff-top beach campsites and RV spots can be booked at South Carlsbad State Beach and San Elijo State Beach, while Silver Strand State Beach offers only RV camping with water and electric hookups. It is illegal to sleep overnight at Mission Beach. Find more beach camping near San Diego.
Most dispersed BLM camping near San Diego is free, but some campsites do require a fee, and Leave No Trace principles always apply. Cleveland National Forest allows permitted, dispersed camping, and within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near Julian (a 2-hour drive from the city), Fish Creek and Blair Valley Campground are popular primitive camping spots.
San Diego County Parks are open for camping, as are California state parks near San Diego like Cuyamaca Canyon State Park and Palomar Mountain State Park. Within San Diego County, you can go camping at nearly a dozen regional parks, including William Heise County Park, Agua Caliente County Park, and Guajome Regional Park, all of which have either camping cabins or tent campsites.
San Diego is home to a number of camping goods stores, where you can buy camping supplies, backpacking gear, and RV essentials. Big names include REI in Clairemont, Walmart, 5.11 Tactical off of I-8 in Mission Valley, and Big 5 Sporting Goods (near Old Town), all in addition to the locally owned Nomad Ventures in Escondido. TopoTerra is a downtown San Diego outpost for camping gear rentals.
Car camping is illegal on San Diego city streets. Different from temporary camping, the city has a "vehicle habitation ban," meaning it is illegal to sleep overnight or live in a car in San Diego. It’s also illegal to park an oversized vehicle or RV overnight (between 2 and 6am) on public San Diego streets without a permit. Your safest bet for car camping in San Diego is in designated camping areas, like a private Hipcamp campsite just outside of town.
No, you cannot camp anywhere in San Diego County (even if car camping or backpacking), but camping is allowed in San Diego in some state parks, on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and on some private lands where you can find professional campgrounds, RV parks, or Hipcamps.