San Diego State Parks

State Parks in San Diego

California State Parks in San Diego include plant and wildlife reserves, state beaches, recreation areas, wilderness areas and historic parks & homes. Below you'll find a list of popular CA State Parks and ones we personally recommend from the popular surf spot of San Onofre to the historic Old Towne San Diego. Camping is a popular activity with most campgrounds offering beach camping, RV parks and conveniences like flush toilets, running water and firewood.

An entry fee is required at almost all California State Parks. It may be beneficial to purchase a yearly California State Park Pass if planning to make multiple visits to CA State Parks. Several discounts are available including passes for Day Use, Veterans, Handicapped, Surfing, Seniors and more.

San Diego

San Onofre State Beach is located off Interstate 5 in San Clemente. You can't miss it because it surrounds the nuclear power plant. This is mainly a surfers beach with breaks like Old Man's, Churches and Trestles. The northern portion from Trestles to Old Man's has a rock bottom and are day use areas. The southern portion features high bluffs with RV and tent camping and dirt trails that lead down to large sandy beaches. These beaches are known to surfers as 'Trails' for the 6 access trails from the bluffs to the beaches.

San Onofre State Beach
Interstate 5 & Basilone Road
San Clemente, California 92672
(949) 492-4872

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North Carlsbad State Beach

Carlsbad State Beach is located between Oceanside and Leucadia. Carlsbad offers sandy beaches (most with bluffs), several estuaries, sand dunes and a long sandy beach. The most popular beach area is at the end of Tamarack Avenue. The southern portion offers beach camping. Swimming, surfing and sun bathing are popular activities. Carlsbad is a great choice for camping at the beach.

Carlsbad State Beach
Tamarack Avenue & Carlsbad Boulevard
Carlsbad, California 92008
(760) 438-3143

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Grandview Beach, Leucadia

Leucadia State Beach is located off Interstate 5 at Leucadia Boulevard. Leacadia features a series of hard-to-find beaches along Neptune Avenue. Because these beaches are not visible from the main highway, they are usually less crowded than other nearby beaches. Unending stretches of narrow sand beaches are back by towering cliffs. Staircases and steep paths lead down to the sand. These are great beaches for relaxing, surfing and swimming. Leucadia has some of the best surf breaks in SoCal including Beacon's, Grandview and Stonesteps.

Leucadia State Beach
948 Neptune Avenue
Encinitas, CA 92024

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San Elijo State Beach

San Elijo State Beach is located off Interstate 5 south of the Encinitas Boulevard exit. Pronounced San A-lee-ho, it's situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just a short distance from San Elijo Lagoon and the ever-popular town of Solana Beach. San Elijo offers day use parking for swimmers, surfers, snorkelers, scuba divers and sunbathers in the northern portion and a very popular campground to the south. Activities include beach camping, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sun bathing, fishing and bird watching at the San Elijo Lagoon Estuary. Several great surf breaks are situated along San Elijo's shoreline and the big wave producing Swamis is a short distance north of San Elijo. This beach is a great choice for camping at the beach.Eli Howard Surf School is located within the campground. The park concession stand is known for its fantastic breakfast burritos.

TIP: This is a popular campground for surfers, especially at the southern end where there's a break. Swamis is one of Southern California's best surf breaks and is located just a short walk up the beach north of San Elijo.

San Elijo State Beach
2050 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007
(760) 753-5091

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San Diego

Cardiff State Beach is located off Interstate 5 one-mile south of Cardiff on Old Highway 101. Cardiff is a gently sloping sandy beach. Swimming, surfing and sun bathing are popular activities.

Cardiff State Beach
Cardiff by the Sea, California 92007
(760) 753-5091

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Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Reserve is located off Highway 101 between La Jolla and Del Mar. This reserve offers short hiking trails and a bike trial on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. The rarest species of pine tree is protected and abundant at Torrey Pines. A state beach is attached to the northern entrance of Torrey Pines and offers a large sandy beach for swimming and surfing.

Torrey Pines State Reserve
San Diego, California 92037
(858) 755-2063

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Palomar Mountain State Park is located east of Pala off Highway 76. Nestled in a conifer forest resembling Sierra Nevada terrain, Palomar Mountain offers spectacular views to the Pacific Ocean. Activities at Palomar Mountain include camping, picnicking, hiking and fishing. Several hiking trails branch out from the campground leading to nature trails and panoramic lookouts. Visit Palomar Observatory for a glimpse of a massive telescope. Observatory Campground has a designated blackout area and cement pad for amateur stargazers and their telescopes.

Palomar Mountain State Park
Highway 76
Pala, California 92059
(760) 742-3462

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is located on Highway 79 between Highway 78 and Interstate 8, south of Julian. It's located in a forest of oaks & pines with beautiful meadows and streams. A climb to Cuyamaca Peak offers views of Lake Cuyamaca to the north, Anza-Borrego Desert to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The nearby Lake Cuyamaca offers swimming, boating and fishing. Activities at Cuyamaca Rancho include camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, boating, fishing and horseback riding.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
12551 Highway 79
Descanso, California 91916
(760) 765-0755

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Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is located off Interstate 5 south of Interstate 8 in the heart of the city. It recreates life in the region from 1821 to 1872. Features include original adobe structures, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, stable with carriage collection and a mansion built around a garden courtyard. Some of the county's best Mexican restaurants are located within the park. The Whaley House is said to be the most haunted house in the United States and tours are offered, both day and night. There is no entrance fee into the park. A MetroLink station is located behind Old Town offering easy and affordable access to other popular regions of the county.

Old Town San Diego SHP
1 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, California 92110
(619) 220-5422

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Silver Strand State Beach is located 4½ miles south of the upscale city of Coronado on Highway 75. Silver Strand is basically a long sandbar that separates San Diego Harbor from the Pacific Ocean. This is a long, wide beach with volleyball nets, fire rings, RV camping, public restrooms and beach showers. Beaches on the harbor and ocean sides are separated by pedestrian tunnels that go underneath the roadway. Activities at Silver Strand include surfing, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, water skiing, volleyball, biking, skating, boating and beach parties.

Silver Strand State Beach
5000 Highway 75
Coronado, California 92118
(619) 435-5184

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