The best camping near Cleveland National Forest

Discover the most magical spots to pitch your tent or park your rig on your next Cleveland National Forest adventure.

The best camping near Cleveland National Forest

Discover the most magical spots to pitch your tent or park your rig on your next Cleveland National Forest adventure.

Camping near Cleveland National Forest

95% (76 reviews)

Discover the most magical spots to pitch your tent or park your rig on your next Cleveland National Forest adventure.

Hike, camp, or gaze up at the Milky Way in California’s southernmost national forest.  

Popular ways to camp

Community favorites near Cleveland National Forest

Top-rated campgrounds reviewed by the Hipcamp community.

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Public campgrounds in the park
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Stay at a public campground in Cleveland National Forest

Top-rated campgrounds near Cleveland National Forest

94%
(983)

Magical Harrison Serenity Ranch

21 sites · Lodging, RVs, Tents67 acres · Palomar Mountain, CA
This land has been a community gathering space for the Native's Ceremony and Healing Space for over a thousand years. Feast your eyes upon the Matates and traces of the people that once gathered here so long ago.Upon the mid 1800's we had a Settler named Nate Harrison find this to be the ideal space, and he set up homestead here, and lived an amazing full life. He was to become the first African American to aquire land here in San Diego County, and his homestead remains to this day; studied by archaeology students to this day.Sensitive habitat and magic lies within our gates, and we must approach the mountain as we would any sacred space; with RESPECT.We welcome you to enjoy Nate's land and inspire who you are deep inside your heart.
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$60
 / night
96%
(173)

San Diego Canyon Creek

5 sites · Lodging, RVs, Tents1 acre · El Cajon, CA
As you enter into our little oasis, you'll see why we want to share the space. It is a great environment to get away from the city or pass through on your road trip. The driveway enters down to our creek-side camping where a hammock under a tree awaits a quiet reader or a bird watcher. We have multiple species of song birds. It's just a 30 minute drive to the beach, or mountains, a short walk to the neighborhood park- equipped with a playground, or a five minute drive to a local ecological reserve containing multiple trails. If you'd like to hang out on the property, we offer a table and chairs with each campsite to lounge in while enjoying the fresh air and nature. In addition, we have a propane-powered fire pit, an outdoor kitchen with full amenities, including, hot water, a two burner stove, a toaster oven and a BBQ area. The bathroom now includes a flush toilet, sink and shower. Fun Fact: Harbison Canyon was named after John Stewart Harbison - aka the King of the Bee Keepers. He arrived with over one hundred colonies of bees in 1874 and within 7 years he became the worlds largest honey producer. Today there are just a few bees in the area.
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$42
 / night
99%
(344)

Campo Nopalito

5 sites · Lodging15 acres · Valley Center, CA
Welcome to Nopalito Farm! We’re so happy you’ve decided to spend some time on this beautiful property! In case you’re interested, here are a few interesting things about our farm. Nopalito Farm has been in operation since late 2014, but the property itself has been a working farm for over 50 years. Lemons and avocados were the primary crops from the 70’s through the 00’s, and are still prominent throughout our 15 acres. Our predecessors then diversified the growing operation by planting a wide range of fruit trees ranging from guavas and passion fruit to peaches and figs. For a decade, hops were grown on 2 acres and were sold to breweries throughout southern California. We’ve since replaced the hop yard with perennial flowers, but continue to cultivate a wide variety of delicious fruits.
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$100
 / night
96%
(25)

GoodVibes Ranch & Farm

104 sites · RVs, Tents74 acres · Jamul, CA
Discover the Joy of Nature at GoodVibes Ranch & Farm: Your Ultimate Mountain Escape! At GoodVibes Ranch and Farm, we offer a variety of camping options to suit your preferences. Whether you prefer traditional tent camping, glamping units, or eco-friendly trailers, we have something for everyone. We also have a stargazing deck, picnic areas, bathrooms, showers, and commercial kitchen available for use while camping. Our campground is nestled in the breathtaking mountains of Jamul, California, providing a serene and picturesque backdrop for your camping adventure. In addition to camping accommodations, we offer a range of activities to keep you entertained. Explore the surrounding hiking trails and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Challenge your friends to a game of disc golf or unwind with a friendly game of billiards. We pride ourselves on providing an affordable camping experience, making it the perfect choice for families or friends looking to gather and create lasting memories. Come and discover the joy of nature at GoodVibes Ranch & Farm, your ultimate mountain escape!
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$35
 / night
94%
(133)

San Diego Mountain Lodge

45 sites · Lodging, RVs, Tents40 acres · Santa Ysabel, CA
San Diego Mountain Lodge is a beautiful escape to nature sprawled out over 40 acres of land on Hideout Mountain, a breathtaking spot in Santa Ysabel, CA. With a combination of offerings ranging from glamping in our vintage camper trailers, RV sites with full hookups, and campsites, to a luxury experience in our remodeled cabins each with a fireplace. Gather and share ideas with fellow guests at our community firepit and picnic tables. What makes Hideout Mountain a magical place? The stunning views of Lake Henshaw and the valley and surrounding mountains, stretching as far as the eye can see. We also have a one-of-a-kind restaurant and bar on the property, Josie's Hideout Saloon. We are located just a few minutes drive away from downtown Santa Ysabel and Julian, with easy access off Hwy 76.
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$35
 / night
95%
(254)

Saddle Up Camp

20 sites · RVs, Tents6 acres · Aguanga, CA
Saddle Up Ranch is a horse rescue that is ever growing. We have over 180 trees on the property (mostly beautiful flowing California Pepper Trees) and have gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and horse pastures.We offer horseback riding, goat yoga, and goat milking. You can also volunteer and help care for the animals while you are here by feeding, grooming or simply petting them. TJ, our owner, is working her way through the race track. Our campsites are managed by Tony. He works closely with guests to expand our campsites. TJ and many of the guides volunteer hard hours to rehabilitate the horse and give them a good home. You should see how the animals flock to TJ. The ranch also has goats, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats. You can support our mission of rescuing horses by booking one of our horseback riding or other services! Thank you for your support! Guests love staying here: "Second stay and looking forward to returning again! <3 We were the only campers during the weekend, it was so serene. It gets very cold at night but the star filled skies are breathtaking. This time during our stay we had 3 kitty visitors and 3 dogs that rolled up to our camp multiple times, it felt like they were checking up on us. It was so cute. The sweet Aussie poked his head in our tent to say "you good?" haha It was so cute and they were extremely friendly and social! The black kitten stayed at our camp all night and cuddled on our laps by the fire. It was such a lovely experience. TJ and her crew have done an amazing job with this place, I don't have enough words to explain. Just see for yourself! You'll love it!! Can't wait to visit again!"
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$30
 / night
99%
(52)

Coastal Rancho Soledad

4 sites · RVs, Tents2 acres · Chula Vista, CA
Today's Noon Weather (June 14, 2024) 71 degrees Farenheit/21 degrees Celcius Your perfect base camp to relax, "work" remotely, and explore San Diego from a coastal micro-climate. Designed to welcome RVing guests in a "city-close but just far enough away" ranch-style setting. A must-stop refuge whether returning from your Baja expedition or starting a new one! ******************Conveniently located :-) 3 miles from bay marina/boat ramp 4 miles from Pacific Ocean beaches and State Park 15 miles (30 minutes) from San Diego Zoo 5 miles from US/Mexico border Convenience and grocery stores within walking distance Public transportation and trolley line accessible *******************What to expect: County residential estate at the end of a private gravel road in a tree-lined valley through "rural looking" properties. Ample turn-around on site suitable for trailers and larger vehicles. Neighboring residential subdivision 200 feet away separated by hillside. A screened area with "classic" trucks and "legacy" equipment next to two shipping containers. An ambitious landscape design with planting in progress. ******************What we hope you find: A glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and a coastal breeze to greet you on arrival. Spaces for solitude and reflection. Spaces for conversation. Space for celebration. Please note 3D view from space on most mapping services is outdated (zombie-land-like landscape is no longer).
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$50
 / night
92%
(163)

The Crest Co-Op

3 sites · RVs1 acre · Spring Valley, CA
Hi! We look forward to the opportunity of hosting you! Please make sure you read this entire section to ensure a mutual fit. Please also make sure that you message us the type and length of your vehicle/camper/RV when sending a booking request. People that stay with us love our views. The view from our large driveway where you'll be parked faces north where you will see the 3 largest peaks in the region, and at the top of our driveway you can see the ocean and downtown San Diego. The sunsets are unreal! Our guests also love the recommendations. As avid travelers that fell in love with San Diego, we can offer recommendations for the best restaurants for any dietary situation, beaches, breweries, bars, surf spots, distilleries, coffee shops, hikes, or whatever you are into. When you submit a request or message, please let us know what kind of vehicle you have, especially the length. Please note that if the total length of your vehicle (for those with trailers that includes the length of the truck nad hitch) should be under 33 ft. This is a general guideline since we've found some people with larger vehicles struggle to turn around in our driveway. Also please let us know if you plan to use electricity or water, and add on the electricity since this costs us a lot of money. San Diego Gas and Energy charges the most for energy than anywhere else in the country (our average electricity bill is over $700 per month) so we unfortunately have to pass on some of these costs if you decide to plug in. Wifi and water are free. Last, if you tell us a little about yourself and what you're looking to do in San Diego we can try to make your stay more enjoyable with conversation and recommendations. A little about us: After spending a few years traveling around the world (mostly in a 20ft converted sprinter campervan) and working remotely, we chose San Diego to settle down and start a family. Our house is a fixer-upper with about an acre of land. We recently added a garden, citrus trees, grill, patio, and plan to add more amenities for campers. We love our home and the land around it, and we hope you do too! We are open to both short-term and long-term stays. We thank you for sharing our space that we call the Crest Co-op, and we thank you for contributing to our never-ending-projects-fund.
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$40
 / night
93%
(7)

BaseCamp at Palomar

6 sites · Lodging, RVs, Tents26 acres · Pauma Valley, CA
Experience excellence at BASE CAMP PALOMAR Campground. Whether you seek a cozy campsite or desire to rent our cabins, retro airstreams, or glamping tents, we have precisely what you're looking for. Our amenities include a newly retrofitted game room, a playground for the little ones, a WIFI Hot Spot, and well-stocked vending machines for ice and firewood. Choose to relax in one of our rental cabins, enjoy a spacious RV site, or pitch your tent amidst our oak groves. Our campground offers a fantastic opportunity to view the Milky Way or keep an eye out for UFOs. In fact, our location is world-famous for being the site of the first documented UFO encounter.
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$45
 / night
98%
(203)

Stallion Oaks Ranch (Retreat)

18 sites · Lodging, Tents243 acres · Descanso, CA
In 2003, the Grosvenor Family Foundation donated the 238-acre retreat property located in Descanso to The Unity Center. Much of the land, including more than 12 structures were destroyed during the Cedar Fires in October of 2003. In the years since the fire, members of our community have lovingly tended to the land and slowly nurtured the trees and flowers. The result is acres of pristine wilderness, with hiking trails, a small lake and even a hill of daffodils that bloom every Spring.Our vision is to create a world-class retreat center and campground that promotes spiritual renewal and personal growth in a natural setting, by providing a location for education, inner reflection, positive recreation and acceptance. The Ranch is owned by The Unity Center, a progressive spiritual community that emphasizes living consciously and making a positive difference in the world. This is a sacred and special place . So whether you're planning a retreat, a wedding or a special event, we hope you'll come away from the Ranch feeling renewed.
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$35
 / night
100%
(12)

Dutchman Canyon

7 sites · Lodging, Tents150 acres · Dulzura, CA
This 150 acre slice of heaven contains an isolated private perennial stream that has run the last two years from January to July. Located down a bumpy dirt road off of Highway 94 Dutchman Canyon is at 1300 feet above sea level, The temperature in Dulzura remains nice year round. There are many Oaks, Sycamores, Eucylptus, Pepper and Pine Trees on the property. The fire road has been cleared to the top of the grade and a slight ocean view is available down the Otay Valley Road view line for hikers of mountain bike enthusiasts. A hiking trail has also been cleared to a stand of Eucylptus trees on the hillside with a pond area at their base on the west facing slope. The Dulzura winery is located across the valley and we are only 1/8 mile from the General Store of Dulzura. The Tecate Border crossing to Mexico is 10 miles south of the property. Located a few miles west of Deer Valley we have had deer in the canyon year round looking for fresh water from the creek.
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$35
 / night
93%
(96)

Apple Blossom Farms

2 sites · RVs20 acres · Bonsall, CA
Our farm is quiet and private but still central to all the fun of Southern California. We are 15-20 minutes to the beach (13 miles) Disneyland: 68 miles San Diego Zoo Safari park: 29 miles Legoland: 18 miles Sea World: 47 miles We are fun, friendly farmers who are looking for friends who can support us in our journey to revitalize the trees on this amazing property. Apple Blossom Farms recently got our certification as CCOF Organic but it has been organically growing with different owners for 20+ years. If you like the movie, Biggest Little Farm, you will love what we are doing with restoring this regenerative farm to its former glory before fires and aging owners.  If you like the movie, Biggest Little Farm, you will love what we are doing with restoring this regenerative farm to its former glory before fires and aging owners. We wanted a place for our sons to learn how food was grown, hard work, and to appreciate nature. It felt like a miracle when our offer was accepted to buy it. We are learning so much and have more to learn but we can see how God has led us here and is sending lots of amazing people to help us overcome the obstacles and succeed! Thanks for being a part of our dream.
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$40
 / night

The best camping near Cleveland National Forest guide

Overview

About

The southernmost national forest in California, Cleveland National Forest encompasses nearly half a million acres of dry, hilly brushland. It's a popular getaway for San Diegans in the summer months, offering a small number of Forest Service-run campgrounds plus ample opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and off-roading. The oftentimes clear skies and high elevations found throughout the park lend themselves particularly well to stargazing, and San Diego State University uses the forest for astronomical activities ranging from scientific research to public stargazing parties. The forest is also the site of the university's Mount Laguna Observatory.

Notable campgrounds

  • Best for getting away from it all: Blue Jay Campground offers 50 spaced-apart sites surrounded by brush and grasslands for a wilderness feel.
  • Best for stargazing: Laguna Campground attracts astronomy fans in the summer months, with regular San Diego State University-sponsored star parties.
  • Best for gorgeous views: At 6,000 feet above sea level, Burnt Rancheria Campground offers epic views over the desert. On clear days, you can see the Salton Sea.

Tips for snagging a campsite

  1. Most of the campsites in the Cleveland National Forest are only available on a first-come, first served (FCFS) basis. Arrive in the morning for the best selection.
  2. Reservable campsites can be booked up to six months in advance on the National Park Service website. Reservations open at 7am Pacific Time. If you have your heart set on a specific site, then it’s wise to wake up early to secure your spot.
  3. Weekend FCFS camping can be challenging to secure, particularly in summer, but if you can come earlier in the week to claim your spot, you’ll have better chances.

When to go

Cleveland National Forest offers year-round recreation, though it's at its most popular in the summer months, particularly for campers and hikers. The period between the Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day is busiest, so it's a good idea to visit in September or early October to strike a balance between good weather and fewer crowds. The forest gets some snowfall in the winter at higher elevations, and chains can be necessary to navigate the roads.

Know before you go

  • Cell service can be spotty in parts of the Cleveland National Forest, so it’s a good idea to download offline maps before you set out.
  • You are allowed to collect firewood in the forest, but you will need to obtain a permit through the Descanso, Palomar or Trabuco Ranger District offices in order to do so.
  • Wildfires are an issue in the Cleveland National Forest, and fire restrictions are frequently put into place. Portable stoves are generally allowed during fire bans. Check with a ranger station or on the Cleveland National Forest website before starting a fire.

Nearby attractions

  • Experience the wonders of camping at William Heise County Park, a hidden gem nestled in nature's embrace. Set up camp amidst towering trees and enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings.

  • Escape to Agua Caliente County Park for a rejuvenating camping experience. Camp amidst tranquil surroundings, soak in natural hot springs, and enjoy stargazing under clear night skies. 

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