Destination: San Diego, CA
Length of Stay: 14 Nights (August 2018)
Lodging: Listed below (Average $31/night)
San Diego was the city we spent the most time in during our stay in California, both during our road trip in 2018 and during our two week road trip in 2017. It also ended up being the cheapest area we camped in costing roughly $31 per night. During our stay we even took a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico which is only about 20-30 minutes from the city. We stayed at three different campgrounds in San Diego county, here are the price breakdowns for what each offered (accurate as of August 2018):
Campgrounds in San Diego County
Guajome Regional Park (2 Nights):
Water/Electric - $28/night
Kumeyaay Lake Campground (2 Nights):
No Hookups - $24/night
***First Come First Served/Only open Weekends***
Sweetwater Regional Park (10 Nights):
Full Hookups - $35/night
Ocean Beach | Pacific Beach
San Diego county is huge and has a lot to offer, and the same goes for San Diego city. The three main beach neighborhoods of the city are Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, and Pacific Beach. Our favorite is Pacific Beach with OB coming in a close second. After dropping off my cousin Casey at the airport around 6am, we headed down to Ocean Beach to find a café to get some breakfast and work done.
We ended up at Newbreak Café which was right across the street from a free parking lot. There were some spots open around 6am but they fill up pretty quickly because it's free. We visited OB again later in the week and saw some of the same vanlife crowd parking there day after day. However, the catch is there is no parking allowed between 2am - 4am which prevents people from staying camped out there 24/7.
When we weren't at Ocean Beach catching some rays, we found ourselves just north at Pacific Beach. This one is the winner because Molly really loved going to Namasteve Yoga, which is a donation based yoga class at Palisades Park. This park is on a cliff that overlooks Pacific Beach which is a great spot to watch all the surfers from.
Solar Powered Camping
Since Kumeyaay Lake Campground didn't have any hookups we got to use our solar panels again for a couple days. You can see me and Casey trying to put the stands up on the solar panels in the first picture. This turned out to be futile effort since the shadows from the trees didn't leave much room for sunlight on the ground.
After a short attempt at repositioning them a few times, we gave up and put them on the roof of the camper where they were much happier and could soak up that sweet southern cali sun. If you're interested in the details of our setup you can read more about our Solar Build here.
It's always refreshing to go off-grid but it also comes with its challenges, like when a colony of ants decides to move in with you. Fortunately they moved our once we left for our next campground later in the week. Kumeyaay Lake didn't offer as much relief from the heat like Emma Wood State Park did with the sea breeze but hey, we were the ones who decided to go dry camping in the middle of August in Southern California.
As the sun went down the air started to cool and we were actually able to make a fire with some of the firewood offered by the Kumeyaay Lake camp host ($5 per bundle). We were kind of surprised we were allowed to make a fire while half of the state was up in flames, possibly because they require the use of fire pits. Everything ended up being all good and we had a great time.
Sweetwater Regional Park
Most people think of the beach when they imagine San Diego. But the truth is, if you drive inland about 30 minutes you will find whole lot of desert. Sweetwater Regional Park was really only about half an hour from Ocean Beach, but the landscape is vastly different. On Casey's last day we decided to go hiking instead of the beach.
Sweetwater offered a couple different hikes but there was one visible mountain from our campsite we decided to climb, it ended up being Mother Miguel Mountain. This trail is quite a beast at nearly 11 miles and 2400 ft of elevation change so be sure to bring plenty of water/sunscreen because doing this at the end of August was quite a scorcher.
To be honest, we ended up not finishing the hike because the smog was really bad that day and the farther up the mountain we got, the more washed out the views of the valley became. We still got a cool view of Sweetwater resevoir though.