Paso Picacho Campground is one of two large family campgrounds in Cuyamaca Ranco State Park, a mountainous area known for its oak woodland forests, pine stands and grassy meadows. Located in Southern California’s Pennisular Ranges, about an hours drive east of San Diego, the campground offers tent and RV sites (no hookups), one large group camping site and four rustic cabins.
The campground is well situated for exploring the park’s many hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The trailhead for the most popular trail in the park, Stonewall Peak Trail, begins just across Highway 79 from the campground.
The campground is open year round and offers 85 campsites, one large group site and 4 cabins. Reservations are highly recommended during peek camping season, from Easter to Thanksgiving. Visitors can book sites and cabins up to six months in advance at ReserveCalifornia.com (search for “Cuyamaca Rancho SP”) or by calling 1-800-444-7275.
Up to eight people can camp at the standard sites and in the cabins, though additional tents can be used at the cabin sites. The size and tent capacity of each site varies. Check the reservation website for specifics on each site.
The large group site is located on the northern side of the campground, and offers tent-only camping for groups of up to 40 people. The site has parking for up to 20 cars.
Check-in time for the sites is 2 pm and check-out time is noon. Pro tip: when reserving a site look for those on the outer side of the loops, where you aren’t sandwiched between other sites.
The camping fee includes one vehicle, and additional vehicles will incure an additional $10 parking fee. Overflow parking is available if you need to park more cars than your site can handle.
Each campsite at Paso Picacho Campground includes a picnic table and fire ring (see below for more info on campfires).
The campground offers restrooms and showers in four different locations, and water faucets are available throughout the campground, every few campsites. The showers run on quarters (a couple of minutes of water per coin), so bring some change. Campers can buy firewood and ice at a small campstore.
Ground fires are prohibited anywhere other than in designated fire rings or in portable camp stoves or firepits.
You can purchase fire wood at the campsite. Don’t gather firewood in the park–wood and other biomass such as leaves, pinecones and plants, provide important nutrients and habitat to the local ecosystem. So if your planning to make smores, bring your own marshmellow roasting spits instead of using branches from live or dead vegetation in and around the campground.
The campsites can accomodate trailers and motorhomes from 24-30 feet in length (check the specifics when reserving sites at ReserchCalifornia.com). The campground doesn’t have hook ups but it does have dump station. Generators can only be operated from 10 am to 8 pm.
Over 100 miles of terrific trails wind through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, some of which have trailhead in or very close to Paso Picacho Campground. These nearby trails include:
This in one of the most popular trails in the area, bringing hikers to a stony summit and sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. A 4 mile out-and-back, the trail climbs about 800 feet to the peak. The trailhead is located just across Highway 79 from the campground (GPS: 32.959669, -116.579142). The trail is well maintained and good for kids, though you’ll need to keep an eye and a hand on little ones at the top.
Cuyamaca Peak, elevation 6,512 feet, is the second highest mountain in San Diego County, and also offers stunning views of the region. The 6 mile out-and-back trail to the peak begins at the southwest corner of the campground (GPS: 32.956535, -116.583649), where it initially follows Lookout Rd. The trail climbs 1,560 feet to the summit, from which you can see all the way to the Channel Islands and Mexico on clear days.