Camping near San Diego

Enjoy year-round beach camping with sun, sand, and surf in America's Finest City.

95% (5478 reviews)
95% (5478 reviews)

Popular camping styles for San Diego

Value Prop
Value Prop

Camping near San Diego guide

Overview

It's easy to enjoy the best of the southern California lifestyle in sunny San Diego, just 30 minutes north of the California-Mexico border. A multicultural metropolis, it’s also blessed with a rich history, natural beauty, and more than 60 beaches and 70 miles of coastline. Mild temperatures and sunny weather makes it ideal for year-round camping and outdoor recreation. Numerous camping options within San Diego county and nearby make it easy for campers to spend the night under the stars, fall asleep to the soothing sound of the surf, or wake up under a canopy of trees.

Frequently asked questions about camping near San Diego

Can you camp overnight on the beach in San Diego?

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.

Where can you camp for free in 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.

Are San Diego County Parks open for camping?

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.

Where can I buy camping gear in San Diego?

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.

Is car camping legal in San Diego?

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.

Can you camp anywhere in San Diego?

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.

Where to go

San Diego and Coronado

Stay close to downtown San Diego at a private camping, glamping, or RV park, like the family-friendly Campland at Mission Bay. Across San Diego Bay, Silver Strand State Beach offers RV sites near Coronado, and further inland, Sweetwater Summit Regional Park has campsites with hookups and an aquatic playground. Stay in a floating cabin, or lakeside tent or RV site at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, or head near the border, where the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park offers campground, yurts, and a diverse ecosystem. For a unique experience, camp overnight in the San Diego Zoo.

Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and San Clemente

Head north along the coast for endless waves, sandy stretches, and the ultimate beach camping experience, with several public oceanfront camping options. Many beach campgrounds are situated on bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and offer great ocean views and water access, along with picnic tables, fire pits, restrooms, and camp stores. Options include the popular San Elijo State Beach near Cardiff, South Carlsbad State Beach, San Onofre State State Beach, and San Clemente State Beach. In Oceanside, camp with your RV at Harbor Beach.

Julian

For a camping trip getaway in the mountains, head inland to the gold rush town of Julian. Go hiking and biking along the extensive trail network at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, or play in Lake Cuyamaca, with spacious camping spots at Green Valley and Paso Picacho. William Heise County Park offers tent camping, RV camping, and cabins, while you can enjoy a high desert camping experience at Vallecito County Park. Nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers hundreds of miles of trails, great stargazing, and developed, primitive, and dispersed campsites. For forests and wilderness camping, head north into the Cleveland National Forest.

When to go

San Diego's mild weather and many sunny days make it a year-round destination. It's especially busy over the summer when everyone flocks to the ocean and beaches, and the city hosts numerous festivals. Visit in spring and fall to escape the crowds, but still enjoy nice weather. Spring is also a great time for wildflowers in nearby Coronado, Carlsbad, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Expect some rain showers and cold ocean water in winter.

Know before you go

  • Although San Diego has a public bus and trolley system, you'll want a car to get around easily, especially to venture further up the coast or inland.
  • Beach campgrounds are very popular, especially in summer, so book campsites well in advance. 
  • Be aware of fire restrictions and bans. Some beaches do not allow campfires.
  • Bring or rent a wetsuit if you plan on being in the water in winter.
  • Pets are prohibited at many San Diego beaches and park trails.

Safety at Hipcamp

Inclusion Policy
Inclusion Policy
Inclusion Policy
Hipcamp Hand

Safety partners

Recreate Responsibly

About us

Hipcamp is the most comprehensive resource for beautiful private campsites.

Discover and reserve tent camping, RV parks, cabins, treehouses, and glamping.

Download the Hipcamp App

Hipcamp is created with ❤️ and hope for our future.