The Cleveland National Forest has over 423,000 acres of wilderness that is divided into three Ranger Districts: Palomar (central and northern San Diego), Trabuco (Orange and Riverside counties), and Descanso (east San Diego). The first inhabitants of this area were the Luisenos, Kumeyaay, Cupeno, and Cahuilla peoples, who lived well on the plentiful animals, acorns, and other plants. The trails that exist in the forest today mostly follow the same routes these first dwellers used. The Cleveland National Forest is a huge natural treasure that offers an experience in the wild that appears to be far removed from urban areas, but, in reality, it is close to the cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, and Palm Springs. The El Cariso Visitor Center offers access to the forest from the north, and the Laguna Visitor Center offers access from the south. The Laguna Mountain Recreation Area is only 40 minutes from downtown San Diego and is a superb example of a desert that transforms upward into a mountainous conifer forest.
Camping in Cleveland National Forest
Taking a trip around Cleveland National Forest in an RV is one of the best ways to see everything this large natural preserve contains. You have the convenience of setting out on your own schedule and staying at fun campgrounds, inside and outside the forest.
Whether you use your own RV or rent one from RVshare, you are assured of being able to plan your trip with a minimum of fuss and just drive where you want and stay where you want. The road trip you have always imagined is easy to achieve with an RV.
Idyllwild Campground is one of two RV and tent drive-in campgrounds in Mount San Jacinto State Park. There are also two primitive hike-in campsites. Idyllwild features plenty of shade from pine trees and large sites, some of which have water spigots. Mount San Jacinto State Park is on the summit of Mount San Jacinto, which is the second-highest mountain in Southern California. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is close by and is an access point for the park. The park is also part of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses three Western states. Idyllwild Campground affords campers access to everything this peaceful and beautiful state park offers.
Number of sites: 33 tent and RV sites
Rates: Call for rates
Type of hookup: Full hookups
Pool/Hot tub: No
Pet-friendly: Pets are allowed
Other amenities: Water faucets at 10 of the sites
Happy Traveler RV Park
The Happy Traveler RV Park lies underneath the San Jacinto Mountains and is close to Palm Springs. You will appreciate the proximity to Palm Springs, with all of its landmarks, eateries, and shops. You will also love the scenic views of the mountains and the numerous hiking, biking, and horse riding trails in the area.
Number of sites: Thirty RV sites with a maximum length of 40 feet; most sites are 20 feet in width
Rates: $60.00/$340.00 (daily/weekly and monthly - $1,120 for January, February, and March)
Type of hookup: Full hookups
Amps: 30 and 50
Wi-Fi: In specific areas
Pool/Hot tub: Yes
Pet-friendly: Pets are allowed
Other amenities: Convenience store nearby, outside games, club room with billiards, seasonal activities in winter months, bimonthly propane delivery (in season), concrete patios with tables
Activities in Cleveland National Forest
Cleveland National Forest is the southernmost national forest in California. Inside its 423,000 acres, there is a wide variety of habitats and native wildlife and plants. Visitors to the national forest can enjoy the abundant wildflowers in the Big Laguna Mountain Meadows, and you will find numerous hiking trails throughout this large preserve. Popular activities include stargazing, hunting, horseback riding, OHV riding, and hiking. Currently, there is no fishing in the forest.
You will have the chance to see abundant wildlife, such as pigeons, quail, turkeys, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, deer, mule deer, wild pigs, badgers, gray foxes, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, moles, opossums, rodents, mountain lions, and more. The habitats are primarily chaparral, with some riparian areas. The climate is dry and Mediterranean.
How to get to Cleveland National Forest
Address: 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127
Fee: Entry pass (per day, per vehicle) $5.0
Fee: Entry pass (annual, per vehicle) $30.0
Fee: Entry pass (per secondary vehicle) $5.0
You can find a wide variety of outdoor recreation in the Cleveland National Forest. Desert and mountain terrains dominate, and there are plenty of trees and other types of plants. The wildlife is numerous and varied, and you will have many opportunities to catch a glimpse of the forest's inhabitants. The trails offer all types of hiking and riding fun, both in the summer and winter months. Taking an RV road trip is the ideal way to experience both the forest and the surrounding areas and offers the best of both worlds.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cleveland National Forest
How many hiking trails does Cleveland National Forest have?
Cleveland National Forest has more than 170 hiking trails for people of all abilities. Hikers can contact the local ranger station if they have any questions about whether a hike they're interested in is suitable for them.
Does Cleveland National Forest offer free camping sites?
Dispersed camping is allowed in Cleveland National Forest and is free unless your vehicle is parked in an area that requires a parking pass. There are also developed campgrounds where visitors can camp for a fee.
Is there a limit to how long you can camp in Cleveland National Forest?
Yes, there is a limit to how long you can camp in Cleveland National Forest. You can camp for 14 consecutive days in one calendar year.
What type of wildlife lives in Cleveland National Forest?
Wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, ringtail cats, long-tailed weasels and desert cottontails live in Cleveland National Forest. The forest is home to many small animals as well as a variety of birds.
What is the closest town to Cleveland National Forest?
San Diego is one of the closest towns to the Cleveland National Forest. Escondido is also a nearby town where campers can stock up on supplies or find a nearby campground while exploring the forest.