This article about free camping near San Diego is brought to you by Shamma Sandals.


When you take advantage of free camping near San Diego, you will feel as if you’ve stepped out of the modern world and into an ancient one of stone and sand. With wide open spaces, stunning sunsets and sunrises, and incomparable starry nights, you will never forget the time you spent at one of these 7 free campgrounds near San Diego.

The Best Free Camping Near San Diego

map of free campgrounds near san diego

1. Yaqui Wash Primitive Campground

woman reading book by campfire with tent in the background

Image from The Dyrt camper Olivia D.

An hour and a half from sunny San Diego and located in the Anza Borrego State Park, the Yaqui Wash Primitive Campground is a remote, primitive, and free spot to set up your tent or park your RV for the night.





There are no facilities here, just wide open spaces and incredible desert mountain vistas. If you time it right, you can be at this campground for certain celestial events, and with little to no ambient light, it feels as if you can see every star.

“As expected it was very hot during the day and windy at night, but the small, one-mile hike was very much worth it.” – Krisha

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

2. Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

drone shot of tent set up at campsite

Image from The Dyrt camper Brett S.

If you’re looking for a peaceful spot in the desert to find some inner tranquility, Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves is an ideal choice. Two hours from San Diego, these mud caves offer many exploration opportunities.

There are no designated camping spots (or facilities of any sort) but avoid camping directly next to one of the dirt cliffs. With high winds, chunks of rocks and dirt can rain down on you without warning. There are spots of soft sand too, but nothing beats the serenity of camping in the curve of a dry river bed.

“Awesome caves and walking around the area.”Brett S.

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

3. Corte Madera Mountain

rocks and trees on a mountain

Image from The Dyrt camper Elsye W.

The Corte Madera mountain is known as San Diego’s half-dome (referring to the one in Yosemite) that offers stunning views of Baja California and the mountain’s sister peak, Los Piñons.

The hike is steep, and the campsites are at the summit, so bring plenty of water to Corte Madera Mountain as it’s a dry campground with no facilities. You can enjoy stunning sunsets in the shadow of granite boulders when you hike and camp in Corte Madera.

“Campsites, at the summit, are just off trail surrounded by large granite boulders and great views.”Elyse W.

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

Whether you’re hiking around any of these campgrounds, or just hanging out in camp Shamma Sandals Warrior Maximus Hiking Sandals keep your feet protected while still retaining the barefoot feel.

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4. Pine Creek Road Dispersed Camping

pine trees and forest on a mountain top

You can’t beat the views from the top of Pine Creek Road, where you can camp for free. The sites start after you pass the sign that reads, Leaving Mount Laguna Recreation Area.

RVs can make it up the hill, but anything too large or towing anything long will have trouble turning around in these tight spots. Pine Creek Road Dispersed Camping is best for car or tent campers.

“It was still absolutely beautiful and had lots of trails for us to off-road.”Taylor

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

5. Blair Valley

cars camped on the desert floor

Image from The Dyrt camper Katie O.

The only amenity offered at this gorgeous desert campground, an hour and a half drive from San Diego, is a vault toilet, so plan accordingly. The campsites are situated around a dry lake bed, which is a protected area, so you have to admire it from a distance.

Blair Valley has beautiful spring blooms and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Since this campground is within the perimeter of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you can’t have ground fires, but each site has a designated and much-used fire ring.

“Lots of nooks and crannies to camp.”Tim

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

6. Culp Valley Primitive Campground

rocks and mountain in the late afternoon

Image from The Dyrt camper C.J.

If you want to get away from it all, Culp Valley is an exquisite dessert campsite an hour and 40 minutes drive from San Diego. Even if you camp at the site closest to the road, the rolling hills block out any noise, and you feel like you’ve left all civilization behind.

The trails don’t allow dogs, which is probably for the best as you don’t want the cholla cactus to get in between their paw pads. Metal containers for fires and vault toilets are provided on-site.

“One of the best sites in Anza, so beautiful!”Taylor

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

7. Fish Creek Wash Primitive Campsite

man smiling infront of desert

Image from The Dyrt camper Kate W.

This campground is one of the most stunning and is by far the most primitive of all the free campgrounds in the area. Fish Creek is also known as Split Rock Campground, and with jagged rock walls towering over, you feel as if you’re camping on a movie set.

There are pit toilets at the campground, and you need to have a metal fire ring to start a fire as ground fires are prohibited. A truly unique desert experience awaits you when you discover free camping near San Diego.

“It was beautiful and memorable and unique.”Kate W.

Campground Details:

  • Price: Free
  • RV sites: Yes
  • Fires allowed: Yes
  • Pets allowed: Yes

Free camping near San Diego brings you to some extraordinary places off the beaten trail. For more options, check out The Dyrt’s full list of where to camp near San Diego.

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