Cibbets Flat Kitchen Creek Cleveland National Forest
Off the 8 east after Alpine, is a valley known as Kitchen Creek. As the edge of Cleveland National Forrest before you hit Anza Borrego, this is one of the lusher areas around San Diego. The campsite is dramatically situated on a creek between mountains. Not only is the location gorgeous, but the campsite is also relatively unknown, meaning it’s not usually overcrowded.
Facilities: Cibbets flat offers paved roads, running water, and even bathrooms, making for a softer camping experience.
Bow Willow Anza Borrego State Park
Bow Willow is both gorgeous and difficult to find, as there are no signs. This means you have to stare at the mile markers and make the turnoff onto a rather sketchy looking sand road. Located at the southern end of Anza Borrego in the shadow of the mountains this camp site makes for a great starting point for exploring the beauty of the desert.
Facilities: Toilets but no running water, Dirt road doesn’t require a jeep (Note: many roads in Anza Borrego require four-wheel drive or at least all-wheel drive)
Palomar Mountain is the most well known of the campsites I’ve listed and because of that I would suggest making reservations ahead of time, as it’s often completely booked. Its popularity however is well-deserved as it is extremely beautiful. It’s said that this is the only part of San Diego that resembles the Sierras.
Facilities: The works. This site is super family-friendly.
San Elijo State beach, Cardiff, CA
Located right on the PCH, Cardiff is your best bet for beach camping. Pack your surfboards and prepare for some pretty sick waves that are less crowded than most of San Diego’s other surf spots. Also be prepared for epic campfire parties and a rowdy crowd. You may need to book in advance, as this site is so popular and easily accessible.
Facilities: Bathrooms, easy beach access