San Diego Beach Camping

Seagulls at Cardiff

San Diego Coastal Campgrounds
Mission Bay & North County
SD Beach RV Parks & Camping

RV camps camp

San Diego’s mild climate means camping is available all year round. From north county where the coastal cliffs overlook the ocean, to downtown bay side marinas w/ RV camping, to camping right on the sand w/ ocean crashing just feet away. Bike paths are common around downtown San Diego, so you can bring your bike or skates.

San Diego has 2 BAYS, both located along Interstate 5: The main bay downtown is called San Diego Bay (one of the deepest on the west coast) and the other a few miles north, is named Mission Bay (a man-made coastal waterway w/ green parks and paved bike trails).

Reservations are required at almost ALL coastal campgrounds, especially around holidays, any 3 day weekends, and all summer long. Tons of tourists flock to Southern California and this is a very popular coastline – with busy little cities and crowded beach towns. Beware: if you are seeking secluded camping – this would not be the place.

Best Beaches

listed from south to north

Carlsbad Cliffs

There are numerous private RV resorts, some quite large, like KOA and GoodSam parks located in and around San Diego county. Most are metro-close and not located on the beach. This list is primarily coastal camping options for the San Diego region.

camping SoCal

see also
San Diego Campground Camping

see a list of all
San Diego cities & towns

baybridge

San Diego Camping

Hiking California Coast

California Coast Trails

Big Sur Coast Coastal hikes are the mildest trails California has to offer, ranging from scenic strolls along the base of beach cliffs to steep redwood forested canyons. From Torrey Pines in San Diego to the multiple redwood parks along the North Coast, there is no shortage of hiking near the coastline. Southern California has more beaches than parks, with tide pool areas being a favorite destination for many. Central Coast has lush, fern canyons with year-round flowing creeks and numerous bluffs and rugged beaches. Bay Area has hiking trails nearly everywhere – along the bay, in the woods or on the coast. NorCal has all the wilderness, parks and remote beaches one could ever hope for. What are you waiting for? Get out there.

Pacific Valley Hiking

San Francisco Bay Area Hiking

Limekiln Hikes

hiking trail maps

NorthMarin
Channel Island National Park Map
Los Angeles Hiking Maps
Los Padres NF South (Ojai, Santa Barbara, Frazier)
Los Padres NF North (San Luis Obispo, Big Sur)
Marin Hiking Maps
Mendocino National Forest Map
Six Rivers National Forest Map
Redwoods Map
Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak

Sand Dollar Beach

Culp Valley

vegculpvalley

Anza Borrego Camping

Culp Valley Campground

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Southern California, high desert; in between Temecula & Borrego Springs, CA

Culp Valley Primitive Camp Area, Anza Borrego

San Diego Deserts, San Ysidro Mountains
Montezuma Grade
Montezuma Highway, Hwy S-22

High desert elevations, large boulders, highway w/ primitive campground. No trees, but much vegetation; flat parking, large tent spots, picnic tables, vault toilet. High desert mountain pass, with boulders, canyons and many dirt roads to explore.

• Elevation: 3,350′
• Number of Sites: 10
• Vehicle Accessibility: all
• Campsites Reservation: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Length of Stay: 10 Days
• Season: October – May
• Trailheads: Grapevine Canyon, Pena Springs, Anza Borrego & PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)

culp valley

hike highcountry borrego

Culp Valley Trail, Grapevine Canyon, Montezuma Valley, Pena Springs, San Ysidro Mountains.

  • bouldering
  • camping
  • climbing
  • hiking
  • mountain biking
  • off-roading
  • picnic
  • stargazing
  • wildflowers
  • culptoilet

    2018 Wildfire Walk – Culp Valley
    https://www.parks.ca.gov/Events/Details/9825

    Summit Post for Culp Valley
    https://www.summitpost.org/culp-valley/931432

    culpvalleyOHV

    OHV trails SoCal Deserts

    Anza Borrego 4×4 Trails

    anzawashes

    Being the largest State Park inside California, Anza Borrego has certain advantages. Lots of land to explore, abundant dirt roads, free camping and a very diverse terrain. Located in SoCal, this desert has lots to offer the outdoor enthusiasts, all year round.

    Anza Borrego Desert

    with hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore

    SUV / 2WD / AWD / 4WD / 4×4 / OHV

    The Anza Borrego desert, in east San Diego County, is quite large and very easily accessible from Southern California. The park spans mid-elevation, mountain foothills (3000′ elevation) down to dry lake beds near sea level. Large, vast and varied terrain – and full of vegetation in certain spots. Borrego Desert Wildflower blooms attract thousands of visitors between March-May each Spring.

    Borrego Valley

    Wildflower Camping

     

    While the majority of the dirt roads inside the ANZA DESERT are passable with a regular passenger car (on most days), some specific areas and routes are indeed considered “too hairy” and may require a 4 wheel drive. Rains change landscape fast in this region, so know before you go.

    FLASH FOOD WARNING: Wet weather (anywhere nearby) can make a mild, soft, sandy wash into a wild, flowing river. On occasion desert washes are ‘washed out’ during big rain, often becoming mini rivers that can swallow your vehicle; Road and weather conditions can change suddenly in the California deserts. Wind can also play a huge factor in a selecting a decent camp site. Know the weather report in advance and always be on the watch for big clouds on mountains to the west.

    Deep sand washes, steep sandy hillsides, boulder passes, rock yards to boulder hopping, soggy bottoms to straddling ruts, the deserts of SoCal are indeed fun and challenging. Enjoy your public lands responsibly and pick up some litter, stay on the trail and do not target shoot inside park boundaries.

    To find these off-roading areas: OHV routes, camp areas and gear heads galore. Or try avoid them. Keep reading.

    the well known spots

     OHV routes

    Anza Borrego Desert State Park itself is NOT AN OFF ROAD PARK. If you want the free-for-all, open, OFF-ROAD areas, with sand dunes and terrain to explore, then the list above should help. Some places can be secluded and private for camping, and only one Jeep may pass by (for the whole weekend).

    On the other end of the spectrum, most OHV camping areas are closer to paved routes and busy w/ motorized activity. On weekends, traffic, events and crowds are the norm.  ATV, dirt bikes, buggies, quads, jeeps, families, RVs. Often, a big noisy scene.

    Seeking to travel to distant places to avoid crowds? then this site can help point to the best destinations. Follow links, browse images, get a decent topo map – and discover private desert camping for free.

    Canyon Sin Nombre

    Bad land canyons, easy SUV exploring – off of San Diego Co Road S-2

    other awesome anza trails & canyons

    most w/ 2WD access; high clearance vehicle is preferred (and as usual, 4WD may be needed in storm conditions). Not all 4×4 routes will be signed. Signs get washed away in desert areas, so don’t count on them. Have a good hard-copy, topo map handy – just in case.

    culpvalleyOHV

    Out exploring the Culp Valley Area, one fine Sunday afternoon.

    Anza Borrego Desert Maps

    Tom Harrison Anza MAPSDBKCO Recreation Map

    The Tom Harrison Map of Anza Borrego Desert is actually called the San Diego Backcountry Recreation Map and is by far the best seller of the region.

    hike anza

    Wilderness Anza Borrego Map

    Wilderness Press makes an excellent topographic map for the Borrego Desert, with all the details on terrain and info for camping, hiking & off roading.

    MORE AREA MAPS

    The infamous west coast backpacking route, the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail runs above the desert (a few thousand feet), on the ridges of Mount Laguna.

    Cleveland National Forest borders the west side of Anza Borrego Desert, on the rugged steep slopes of the big mountains (7000′ elev). More Maps links are provided:

    Diablo Drop

    The Diablo Drop

    Muck to Stagecoach
    Wetlands in the desert? Not that rare, water does flow downhill. Some established well-traveled roads may have added gravel to the soggy marsh areas, but many water crossings are bare, and vulnerable to erosion. Try to avoid driving in and around water. DRIVE SLOW through water where route crossing is obvious. Wildlife need these water sources to survive, so don’t muck it up.

    Palm canyons and large boulders are numerous in this desert, water sources scarce. Camping near palms can be limited to walking distance. Several palm oasis camps along San Diego County Road S-2, some RV accessible. Even the county-run Hot Springs Park has some palms. Of course, Palm Canyon is the State Park Campground. Visitors Center headquarters in downtown Borrego Springs has the most popular hikes, hotels, restaurants, with abundant campground camping. Very walk-able town. Super hot during summer, triple digits!

    back roads: weekends

    Weekends are always busier than week days, in general, all over Cali. Keep that in mind when seeking seclusion. Camping in Anza Borrego desert is always best at least 2 miles off the pavement, well away from the traffic on the highway and for those masses seeking the easy camping.

    Campfires require a metal bucket in Anza!

    Campfires always require a metal bucket in Anza!

    camping back roads

    OPEN-CAMPING: camping outside of developed campgrounds, also referred to as ‘primitive camping’ is quite common in Anza Borrego desert. Many Borrego Camping Areas are accessible with regular cars, close to main roads and usually have no bath rooms, or facilities. The further you drive from the pavement, the more likely you are to encounter obstacles like boulders, deep ruts, soft sand and uneven terrain.

    Campgrounds Find Campgrounds & freebie spots in Borrego, CA

     

    A top the Slot

    nearby towns:

    other off-road areas in the vicinity

    wilderness areas in the vicinity

    • Anza Borrego Desert State Wilderness
    • Jacumba Mountains Wilderness

    Mecca Box Canyon


    Borrego Camping

    Anza Borrego Park / Anza Borrego Campgrounds

    DSCN0034

    California Highway 78 cuts across Southern California and right thru the middle of the largest State Park in the lower 48. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a place that must be visited more than once to really take in all the beauty it has to offer. Free camping in Southern California is abundant here, if you are willing to follow the primitive camp fire rules of the park and you are comfortable camping away from developed campgrounds.

    North-South: San Diego County Road S2 skirts the western border with Laguna Mountain towering above. It starts at Ocotillo @ Interstate 8 and heads Northwest to Lake Henshaw at Warner Springs.

    East-West: a major route S22, connects Ranchita /Montezuma Valley to the Borrego Valley, and continues East to the Salton Seawhataview. The center of the parks is pretty much the town of Borrego Springs, where the State Parks visitors center is located. San Diego County Road S3 leads from Hwy 78 down the the town of Borrego Springs Valley.

    developed campgrounds:

    free camping: While the camping facilities listed above provide picnic tables and toilets, or more luxury camping… Total Escape thinks the best part of camping in Anza Borrego Desert is the vast amount of free, open camping available on most back roads. Hundreds of dirt roads lead off in all directions, so you can find the peace and solitude that few inside busy campgrounds ever experience.

  • Anza Borrego Desert Map
  • San Diego Backcountry Map
  • Many Anza desert routes are sandy washes, dirt roads, some for high clearance vehicles only, or 4WD in several canyons. Often there is no signs telling you need 4×4 to proceed. May only find out when its too late and you’re stuck.

    Have a good dirt road map with you and know your vehicles limitations. Passenger cars should be very cautious off road. Cell phone coverage is spotty out here in the most remote wilderness areas. oystercamp