Thursday, December 20, 2012

Campground Review: Santee Lakes Regional Park and Campground

I lived my entire life in San Diego up until this past August and Hans spent 28 years here so with most of our families and many of our friends here we knew we would be visiting regularly. Lucky for us, there are many camping options in this city. One of the best full hookup RV parks in town is Santee Lakes. Winter is the best time to stay in Santee because it can be one of the warmest communities in San Diego during the summer.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District built Santee Lakes in 1961 "to demonstrate the promise of water recycling". Over the years more lakes were added and recreation was introduced. Today, the park includes seven lakes, beautiful day use facilities, a teen center, fishing, bird watching, peddle boating, playgrounds, cabins, 300 camp sites, a pool and hot tub, laundry and covered RV storage topped with solar power that covers 50% of the entire parks energy usage.

We had a lovely site, #163 in the Willow Loop. The loop itself is lightly traveled and our site was adjacent to an expanse of grass that separated us from the main road and the pool and clubhouse/laundry facility. We also had good afternoon shade, something that would be very important here in the summer! It was very dark and quiet at night.

All park roads are paved and camp sites are dirt with a picnic table. This was our first experience with a dirt site and boy were we glad we bought a patio mat while in Quartzsite, because the dirt was annoying. In fact, the dirt was really our only complaint about the whole campground! Too easy to track it in the rig.

The park is situated along and beyond the lakes, up Sycamore Canyon. The first half mile into the park is day use only, then you reach the office building and the camping sections begin, with the first two camp loops flanking lakes 6 and 7, sites in these loops are pretty close together. Willow Loop has lots of nice shade trees but maneuvering into a spot can be a bit tricky due to the trees and curvy roads, the sites are quite spacious with good separation. The Oak Loops are the newest and have very large, mostly pull through, sites at a premium price.

We arrived a couple of days before Thanksgiving and the park was probably 95% full for the holiday weekend. For the rest of our stay the park was only about 50% full, with a surge in occupancy each weekend.

The park holds all sorts of scheduled events to keep campers engaged such as Monday night potluck, Thursday morning coffee and sweets, Friday night family game night. 

San Diego is a destination city so camping is not cheap. We paid $670 for one month, plus a $30 deposit toward our electrical use. Premium sites are a little more.

The park is in a canyon and the farther in you are the worse your cell and internet reception will be. With our booster, we got 4G internet service most of the time, it would have been much worse without the booster. We had the best luck with our cell phones outside the rig. We did not try the parks wifi service.

Site #163 in the Willow Loop
Big sitting area with good separation from our neighbors
View from our door is a big expanse of grass with the pool/restroom building and trash across the way.
We definitely enjoyed having the grassy area nearby.
Sycamore Canyon open space in the distance.

Sample lake view...lots of birding at Santee Lakes!

Rosie is still not completely sure about this leash business!

View of Mulberry Loop along the lake and some of the rental cabins.


  1. Are you guys in Mission Bay now? I went and knocked on a few Montana 5th wheels, but it wasn't you....we're in 154

  2. Great review of the park! The pictures are beautiful. We are really looking forward to moving out of the dirt and mud at our door. But we have really enjoyed our time in San Diego, especially with our personal tour guides! Thanks again for taking time to give us an up close and personal look! See you in Tucson!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. We're LOVING our new signal booster! Excellent tip.