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Paso Picacho Campground

Discover a mountain hideaway near San Diego, California

In the slide show above, you're viewing pictures of the Paso Picacho campground, one of two campgrounds in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park east of San Diego, California. On this page, you'll get the info you need for planning a relaxing campout in this forest wonderland.

Photo of a woodsy campsite at the Paso Picacho Campground in Southern California There may be Pacific Ocean beaches within an hour's drive of the Paso Picacho Campground east of San Diego, California, but you'd never know it. If you were magically transported to Paso Picacho with your eyes closed, you'd never be able to guess that your location was Southern California when you opened them. The tall evergreens thickly foresting the scene and the fresh woodsy scent would make you feel you must be camping in a state more noted for its forests than its sandy beaches. Yet, verdant mountain scenes are very much a part of southern California's landscape, too!

The Paso Picacho Campground is one of two camping areas within the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The other campground, Green Valley Camp, is located only 5 miles away. The two campgrounds are similar, but not identical. The Green Valley campground is at a lower elevation and the vegetation is a bit different. Both are quite attractive campgrounds.

On this page, we'll be talking about the amenities you can expect to find within and around the Paso Picacho campground, plus see photos of the actual camping spaces themselves. At the end of the page, you'll find links to several interesting web pages containing campground maps and official information about the Cuyamaca Rancho SP and its two camping grounds.

Paso Picacho Campground Amenities

Photo of tall evergreen trees surrounding a campsite at the Paso Picacho campground near San Diego, California For many camping enthusiasts, just "getting away from the city" is reason enough to plan a camping trip to the Paso Picacho campground. As you can see in the photos on this page, Paso Picacho is in a heavily wooded, mountainous area which will give you and your family a complete change of pace from city life.

Paso Picacho itself is in a relatively isolated area. As you head east from San Diego on Interstate 8, you'll leave even the suburbs behind before you reach the turnoff to Cuyamaca Ranch State Park. As you head northwards towards the camping areas, you'll climb ever higher---the Paso Picacho campground sits at an elevation of 5,000+ feet!

Even the weather at the Paso Picacho camping ground is different from the cities below. The day we made the camping trip on which we took these photos, the city of San Diego was under blue skies with white, fluffy clouds floating along in the air. Up in the mountains, as you can tell, the clouds became thick and grey, and a slight chill was in the air.

Photo of a trailhead within the Paso Picacho Campground in Southern California

One popular activity within the campground itself is hiking. As you can see in the adjacent photo, there are trailheads which start within the Paso Picacho camping area itself. (There are also trailheads which begin outside the campground, as well.)

Paso Picacho is also popular with day-use visitors, where people are welcome to come picnic for the afternoon. (There is small day-use fee charged if you're not camping.) In addition to the picnic tables and firepits provided in the park's camping spaces, there are picnic groves where you can simply come to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Firewood is available at the campground.

Photo of a picnic table at the side of Lake Cuyamaca in Southern California Despite being in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, the campground doesn't actually sit alongside Lake Cuyamaca. (Neither does the park's Green Valley Campground, either.) Nevertheless, Lake Cuyamaca is only a few miles north of the Paso Picacho Campground, making an easy outing for those interested in getting in some fishing. Though a number of fish are stocked in Lake Cuyamaca, it's special claim to fame is that it's the only San Diego-area lake with the chilly waters needed to stock trout all year long!

Families with children will also enjoy taking a peddal boat (paddle boat) ride on Lake Cuyamaca. Flush toilets are available at the lake, as well as a picnic grove, restaurant and small store. Fishing lessons are available every Saturday morning.

If you'd like to learn more about the fun you may have visiting Lake Cuyamaca, you may use the following link to view the Lake Cuyamaca official website.

Photo of an attractive inn; Julian, California About 15 miles north of the Paso Picacho campground is the scenic little tourist town of Julian. Famous for its apple harvest in the fall---when half of San Diego's residents seem to be crowding the town looking to down some of Julian's famous apple cider or sink their teeth into some tasty Julian apple pie---you can actually enjoy a visit to Julian at any time of the year.

Spring is a wonderful time to visit, when spring rains have turned Julian and the surrounding countryside green as an emerald. And, any time of the year is a great time for browsing through Julian's cutesy little shops featuring all sorts of merchandise from clothing to souvenirs to crafts.

If you'd be interested in adding a side trip to scenic little Julian, California, you may wish to follow the upcoming link to Julian's official website, run by the Julian, CA Chamber of Commerce. There, you'll find information about the various activities you may enjoy in town, as well as a bit about Julian's history and special events.

Campsites at the Paso Picacho Campground

Photo of a water spigot at the Paso Picacho campground in the mountains east of San Diego, California

The first and foremost thing that families will want to know is that the Paso Picacho Campground DOES have running water and flush toilets. Camping with little ones along is just so much easier when running water is available!

Water spigots dot the campground. Bathroom buildings are also situated at intervals throughout the camping area, featuring several stalls and sinks. Showers are available in the restrooms that aren't adjacent to the day-use areas.

Photo of a restroom at the Paso Picacho campground in the mountains east of San Diego, Calif

All camping spaces have a picnic table and a fire pit/grill. Each spot has a tent space. Most of the camping sites have a good amount of space between them, helping to preserve a sense of privacy and serenity within the campground.

RV's are also welcome at the Paso Picacho Campground, along with pop-up campers, travel trailers, etc. There are a few pull-through sites at Paso Picacho, but most camping spaces are back-in camping sites. Many campsites can accommodate RV's and camping vehicles up to 30 feet in length. Some can fit even 34 foot rigs, while other camping sites have a maximum length limit of 24 feet. RVer's are certainly welcome at the camping grounds, though there are no hookups. Generators may be used, but only between the hours of 10 am and 8 pm.

If you have a larger rig, you'll want to reserve your camping space ahead of time to make sure that the size campsite you need will be available. The Paso Picacho campground uses the Reserve America system; you will find a link at the end of this page that will take you directly to their website.

Photo of a campsite in the Paso Picacho campground in Southern California Unless you have a large RV or would like to reserve a particular campsite, you won't have to make reservations for Paso Picaso Campground MOST of the year. (On a camping trip in April, we were in one of maybe a dozen campsites that were occupied. The rest sat empty at that time of year.)

During the summer, the park's popularity drastically increases, of course. Nevertheless, campground officials tell me that usually, the campground only fills up on weekends. Otherwise, you can make midweek spur-of-the-moment plans and will most likely find a space awaiting you.

What if a "worst case scenario" happened, and you arrived to find a filled-up campground? First of all, the Green Valley campground, the 2nd camping area in Cuyamaca State Park, is nearby. PLUS, there are also private campgrounds at Lake Cuyamaca. PLUS, there are a number of beautiful, woodsy Cleveland National Forest camping grounds in the hills east of San Diego. There are simply more campgrounds in the mountains than there are campers to fill them all, so you should never have to go home disappointed.

Photo of a camping cabin at the Paso Picacho campground in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, California

The Paso Picacho campground has several dedicated handicap camping sites for physically challenged camping enthusiasts. (There are accessible restrooms as well, of course.) Since there are only several of these sites, you may also wish to reserve them ahead of time.

Still one more option available at the Paso Picacho Campground is renting a camping cabin. These attractive little cabins are made of wood and, though I haven't stayed in one myself, look clean, cozy and comfortable. You can see a picture of a Paso Picacho camping cabin in the adjacent photo.

Paso Picacho Campground: Address, contact information

View Paso Picacho Campground in a larger map
The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park HQ's official address is: 13652 Hwy 79, Julian, California 92036.

The Cuyamaca Rancho SP phone number is 760/765-3020.

Directions to the Paso Picacho campground: From Interstate 8, head east from San Diego. Exit at Highway 79; there will be a sign noting that this is the correct exit for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. You'll travel north on Hwy 79 through an attractive rural area, climbing into the mountains as you go. After 6 1/2 miles, you'll reach the Green Valley campground; then, in another 5 miles, you'll reach the Paso Picacho campground. You can view the location of the Paso Picacho campground in the Google custom map to your left.

Paso Picacho brochure: Here's a full-color brochure for Cuyamaca Rancho State Park from the California State Parks website. It includes information about both campgrounds (Paso Picacho and Green Valley) as well as interesting facts about the park and a list of things to do.

Camping map of the Paso Picacho campground: If you would prefer a printable PDF campground map for Paso Picacho, you'll find it one on the park brochure listed above. However, there's an older black & white brochure that shows the campground map in a much larger size: here's the older PDF Cuyamaco Rancho State Park brochure, which you'll probably agree is much easier to see.

Campground reservations: If you would like to make reservations, you can do that on the Paso Picacho campground page of the Reserve America website (which also includes interactive Paso Picacho & Green Valley campground maps, as well.) There is a small fee for making reservations, in addition to the cost of your campsite.

Paso Picacho Camping Rates: Camping fees at the Paso Picacho campground run $30 per night, as of this update. (Summer, 2012.) This figure is meant for your budget-planning purposes only; the campground is free to raise its rates at any time. As mentioned above on this page, there are no hookups at the Paso Picacho campground: no water hookups, electrical hookups nor sewer hookups.

You may use the following link to browse through the Cuyamaca Rancho official website.



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