Dog-Friendly and Rugged Coastal Camping Locations in San Diego

After the COVID-19 lock down eased this summer, my neighbors bought themselves an RV. They laughed knowing full well it was a crazy COVID-19 purchase, but they didn’t care. They still got to go on vacation, in the great outdoors and feel safe.

Camping has received a notable boost since COVID-19 has restricted our lives. A Google trends chart shows searches for camping have been roughly the same for the last four years until a big spike in 2020.

This trend has sparked massive growth for all things camping related. The Dyrt, a campground app has seen a 400 percent jump in user traffic since last year, so I signed up to see what the fuss was all about.

Picking a Campground With an App

Picking the Campgrounds tab, I immediately picked filter to customize the many options. Given that I don’t own a nice shiny new RV like my neighbors, I picked tent under the “Site Type” category.

Next, I picked drive-in under the “Access” category since I’m a gear guy and travel heavy. No lugging equipment for miles thank you.

I checked the two most important “Features” for this bare bones trip. Toilets and pets allowed.

The site brought up 30 campsites based on my search by San Diego, CA, but staying true to Coastal Adventurer’s exploration of all things coastal, there were only ten locations that qualified as coastal.

Additionally, I had to eliminate two since I’m not military and they were military only. That left eight campgrounds.

San Diego South Coast – Not so Rugged Campgrounds

Starting in San Diego and counting down from campground # 8 is Silver Strand State Beach, a sliver of land nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.

Although the app says pets are allowed the actual Silver Strand State Beach website states dogs are “not allowed on the beach, in the tunnels, or on the bay side.”

Ok, so that sucks. No point in bringing Parker if he has to stay on the tiny sliver of land in a tent, while we explore the beach, tunnels, and the bay. Scratch that one.

Campground # 7 is  Mission Bay RV Resort. I guess the name gave it away, but the images also left little to be desired as it was basically a big parking lot for RV’s. No tents to be found, so that’s scratched off the list too.

We are off to a disappointing start with only six campgrounds left. Next up is campground # 6 known as  Campland, which would have been fun pre COVID-19, but now is just overpopulated. Yet another location with a clue in its title, anything with land in it has to be populous. Campland is a no go for us too.

Searching through these campground options has made me realize that RV parking lots are not my idea of campgrounds. So, with that in mind I eliminated another two locations, campgrounds # 5 and #4.

San Diego North Coast – Rugged Campgrounds

After these last two eliminations, we are left with three campgrounds. Campground # 3 is San Elijo State Beach, a campground that has more tents than RV’s and definitely has the look of a rugged campground. Yet again, it states dogs are allowed, but not on the beach. Well that’s no fun.

I won’t scratch it off the list because it meets most of the criteria of what a campground should be to me.

Campground # 2 is South Carlsbad State Beach, and yet again it has the same rules for dogs since it’s a state campground as well. However, it does meet the rugged criteria, so it stays on the list.

And lastly is campground # 1, Oceanside RV Resort which of course is an RV resort. Or more aptly, an RV parking lot and definitely not rugged in the slightest. It had no tents, except for the glamping tents which were kind of cool. So, it got to stay on the list for a possible future glamping experience.

So, all in all what started out as a promising list of possible coastal camping locations in San Diego turned in to two state beach campgrounds I’ve driven by for 30 years.

It appears San Diego is not the place for a rugged, dog friendly coastal camping trip. I suspect that will require an adventure to the coast of giants.