Where Can I Boondock? 6 Options for Boondocking in San Diego

Finding a place to sleep is very difficult if you are on the road in an RV. Especially if you are driving a larger Class C or Class A rig. Cities just do not want those RVs taking up space on their streets. Then there is the crime issue which is a major reason why cities do not allow boondocking.

Where can I boondock in San Diego? The bad news is that it is illegal to boondock within San Diego city limits. They post signs on every street banning RVs and other oversized vehicles from parking on them.

On top of that, San Diego has passed laws that bar Walmart and other stores from opening up their parking lots to weary travelers.

To learn where you can boondock near San Diego, just keep reading our article. it has the information you need to know about before spending time in this city. It is not going to be easy to find a place to park when you want to tour the city and see all of its sites.

Can You Boondock in San Diego?


There may be about 5 or a little bit more locations where you might be able to stay one night. But these are unofficial locations and you are taking a big risk in getting ticketed if the local police get motivated and go out to those spots.

The spots mentioned were Ocean beach, a couple of casinos, on the road outside of the Mission Bay RV resort and the Sante Fe RV resort, and the Pacific Coast Highway between I8 and Friar road.

However, this is old news and we have not found anything that is current. Some neighborhoods were asking their city council to enforce the San Diego laws of no sleeping in any vehicle but no word on the outcome. That was 2 years ago as well.

Chances are, you are taking your chances to boondock within the city limits as the city does stop big stores with big parking lots from allowing overnight RVs. You may get lucky for one night or find a good hidden spot but then you are also opening yourself up to a potential crime.

Where Can You Camp for Free in San Diego?


Technically, you cannot camp for free in San Diego. The city seems to have strict laws and from our research, the police do love giving out tickets to RVers and campers parked in the wrong areas.

If you need to camp for free, you need to travel outside of the city limits and find BLM land or those campgrounds that allow free overnight parking. Unless laws have changed, and our research does not indicate that a change has been made, you may get in trouble for parking or camping overnight in the city.

The large big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, etc., may allow RV parking in their parking lots but if the police come, those stores cannot stop the police from making you move on.

Then, if you are looking to pitch a tent, most campgrounds in the area do not allow that. They only allow self-contained vehicles to camp on their property, all others will be turned away. There are no facilities for owners of non-self-contained vehicles.

Cities have been cracking down on overnight boondockers as it is not always a safe practice when you come to a large city. The cities do not have the police manpower to offer great protection to all the RVs that stop there.

Finding Free RV Parking in San Diego


We listed some sites earlier but those sites, like any other ones you find in the city, is taking a big risk. The best place to find free RV parking would have been the big box stores, the casinos in the city, and similar places.

However, the last word is that San Diego bans overnight parking even on private property. You will see many RV owners taking the risk but if you are not lucky enough to hit the night the police are not issuing tickets for that area, then you will end up paying for the night anyways.

The thing to do, if you want a comfortable rest, is to go to one of the many campsites or RV resorts and pay their fee. that way you can relax, enjoy the beautiful San Diego views and sleep well.

That way you also have security watching over you and your rig while you sleep. That will ensure you are alert, wide awake, and ready to drive in the morning. While you may have found a nice city street that is partially hidden that is in a quiet neighborhood. A neighbor can and will call the police and direct them to you.

6 Boondocking Sites Near San Diego


We have to go near San Diego as boondocking is essentially illegal within the city limits at the time of this writing.

These sites are close to the city for supplies and site seeing but far enough away that you should not be disturbed.

1. Dulzura / Donohoe Mountain Otay Mountain Wilderness area BLM Land

The road in is dirt only so b prepared to endure a few bumps until you locate an unused campsite or RV space. There are 4 square miles of wilderness but it is very close to San Diego.

You do have to stay 25 feet away from any route and all camping is primitive. What you pack in you must pack out and do not forget to bring lots of water with you. Also, to have a nice campfire, you need to get a fire permit and those are only issued when the area is in stage 1.

Once there you should see some wildlife going about their daily business. There is no mention of how long you can stay and the fee is free.


  • Quiet area
  • Close to the city
  • Fires are allowed at certain times
  • Can view wildlife
  • No cost


  • Need to find a disturbed area
  • May be near a shooting range
  • Needs lots of water
  • Roads are bumpy

2. Viejas Casino

This location is a public casino and it only allows you to boondock in its parking lot. To stay the night you need to get permission from the security office at the east gate. A maximum of 72 hours is all you are allowed to stay and it is also free.

There are shuttles that can either take you to the casino or the shopping center that is supposed to be across the road. The parking lot is well lit and there are garbage cans available if you need them throughout the parking lot.

Plus, there is a strong Verizon 3G EVDO signal so you can stay in contact with loved ones. With approx. 30 campsites there is plenty of room and there is no limit to the length of your RV.


  • Well-lit parking lot
  • No cost
  • Paved road
  • Cell phone signal
  • Shopping center close by for supplies


  • Can only stay 72 hours
  • May get crowded in the summer
  • May be tempted to gamble
  • Policy can change without notice

3. Escondido Walmart

The reviews for this location are iffy. It is the parking lot of a Walmart that is near San Diego so you can avoid the city laws prohibiting overnight parking. However, people do not like the area even though it is supposed to be in the middle of medical buildings.

It will do if you are desperate to find a spot for the night but it is near a high crime area and there are lots of police present. If you park on the west side of the lot there is lots of lighting which should help keep you safe.


  • It is free
  • Lots of police around
  • In a Walmart parking lot
  • Well lit
  • Good for those who have to stop


  • Near a lot of crime
  • No security present
  • No bathrooms​
  • A lot of homeless people around

4. Barona Casino

If you like close neighbors then this casino may be just the ticket for you. It is great for RVs but not so great for travel trailers as parking can get a bit weird. The price is right if you can handle a little inconvenience- it is supposed to be free.

Just check in with the security guards and they will help you park but be careful, some earlier guests may put their lawn chairs out and take up more space than they should. That makes parking more difficult for latecomers.

The security guards do not allow sleeping in your car in these spots and kick out car campers as well. There seems to be no length limit but it is not known how many days you can stay.

You should call ahead to make sure that the up to 15 spots are not already taken.


  • Between Ramona and Lakeside
  • It will do in a pinch
  • Safe and quiet
  • Supposedly there is no cost


  • Out of the way
  • Small parking lot
  • Not good for travel trailers
  • Neighbors may not be courteous

5. Cottonwood Falls

Another free place to park your RV and enjoy the southern California scenery. There are only 5 spots available but you are allowed to stay up to 14 days. This campsite is open all year round and there is a paved road to the site.

Once you get off the pavement though, there is only dirt terrain. best for self-contained RVs as there are no facilities and only one picnic table. What you get in return are some good hiking trails and beautiful views of the California sunsets.

Also, the campsites are 30 feet off the road and out of sight of passing vehicles. Then if you like fishing, there is a hard-to-find lake which you may need locals giving directions to get to it. No signs prohibiting staying for the night or longer.


  • Quiet location
  • Beautiful views
  • Not crowded
  • Can get hiking in
  • Possible to get 4G TMobile and Sprint service


  • May need a visitor’s pass to stay
  • Was used as a construction storage site for awhile
  • Need lots of supplies and water
  • Can get windy at night

6. Corral Canyon Campground - Cleveland NF

If your tanks are full, this site has restrooms for you to use. There are also picnic tables and drinking water. This year-round campsite has roughly 29 campsites you can choose from but it does cost under $12 to stay there. The limit is 14 nights and the RV length is restricted to 27 feet.

You may find the road to the campsite a little long and rough and you will need a pass to stay there. The attitude of the park rangers depends on who you talk to as one says they are nice while the other says the opposite.

Plus, there is a fire ring to have a nice campfire and you should get Verizon 4G signal from this location. But not Sprint.


  • Nice location
  • Some drinking water
  • Hiking available
  • ​14-day stay
  • Another campground close by if this one is full


  • Lots of bugs
  • Iffy cellphone service
  • Few picnic tables
  • Small

Some Final Words

When you want to see what a city has to offer, you may be disappointed. Too many cities are banning boondocking and street parking for RVs. Your best way to stay safe and avoid tickets is to bite the bullet and find an RV campground that may charge a fee and is close or in the city itself.

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