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The Cleveland Show

Nope, not the spinoff from The Family Guy but 7 campgrounds in Cleveland National Forest.

After whacking the Mullein at Palomar Mountain State Park I headed south for 50 miles to Oakzanita Campground, another Thousand Trails spot. With my my tent membership still having a few months left, it only cost me $3 a night. Such a deal. I planned on staying for three nights but left after two. You will see why later.

Heading down the mountain there is an overlook where you can frequently glimpse some raptors. None showed while I stopped by but you do get a nice view of Lake Henshaw.


I set up camp, ate some tacos, and hit the sack. Oakzanita Campground is located on CA 79 about 10 miles south of Julian. I was in this area briefly last May and visited Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and it's two campgrounds.


A fire went through this area a few years ago but it has rebounded nicely. In addition to regular campsites,


Green Valley has over a dozen equestrian ones.


A few miles north on CA 79 is Paso Picacho.

Paso-Picacho-Sign Paso-Picacho_062

But that is so last year. This time I drove one of the best loops in SoCal. CA 79 south to Old Highway 80 east to the Sunrise Highway north which joins back up with CA 79. The elevation varies from from 3000 feet to over 6000.

On the Sunrise Highway (AKA County Road S1) there are two big Forest Service campgrounds in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area bookending the tiny town of Mount Laguna.

First up is Burnt Rancheria.


The campground was closed when I walked through it. There were oak leaves and acorns all over the roads and campsites. It was GREAT! The empty acorn shells crackled under my boots. Several squirrels stopped doing whatever it is that squirrels do and checked out the interloper. The colors were beautiful and so were many of the campsites.


OK, that site had no acorns or leaves. But it is nice. (#17)

I stopped next at Laguna Campground.


This place has direct access to the Big Laguna Mountain Meadows. Especially site #14.


Hikers paradise. Yes, that is a reservation sign (or two) that you see. The Meadows Loop is very popular so make your picks early.

If you have a 40 foot rig, here is the hot ticket. Site #86. No reservations needed. Just get there midweek.


It's a straight back-in and level. Easy turn around to exit as well.

I spoke to a gentleman in site #87 and he told me that his outdoor thermometer dropped to 17 degrees on Sunday night. I had noticed that it was a little chilly for me 1200 feet lower. With the sky clearing, Monday night was going to be cold.

Very cold.

Ice-2 Ice-1

Those are pictures of my tent fly the next morning. Frozen condensation. Cold night. So I took off a day early and visited 5 more campgrounds on the way home.

I left at 7:30 am and took some photos at Lake Cuyamaca on the way north.


I noticed some mist rising from from the lake so I zoomed in a bit.


Made me feel cold again so I jumped in my car and continued north on CA 79. Back to warm (er) high desert.


Just off the side of the road in Oak Grove was the conveniently named Oak Grove Campground.


I was pleasantly surprised with this one. A short drive south from Temecula gets you a very nice campground.


Two days before turkey day there were only 2 sites occupied. By brothers with big trailers. They and their families were going to spend Thanksgiving there. And loving it. They also asked me not to promote this campground so don't tell anybody.

Closer to Temecula is Dripping Springs.

Dripping-Springs-Sign Dripping-Springs_010

I could really use a trailer like that. If you must have lots of shade, site #19 has you covered.


They have revamped the upper loop to improve the equestrian sites.


From there I skipped north to CA 74 (Ortega Highway) to check out 3 more campgrounds on the last part of this trip.


I have driven by these three campgrounds for over 20 years and never really checked them out. There used to be a Lower San Juan that I thought I camped at but that was back in the 70's. Enough said. Maybe it never existed.

Blue Jay is 5 miles down a narrow twisting road near the crest of CA 74. Well worth the drive.


The scenery reminds me of the oaks around Santa Barbara. Particularly on Paradise Road near the Cold Spring Tavern.

There were 50 campsites but I could only get the first 39. Seems that some old goats were getting frisky.


I didn't want to bother them and risk getting head butted.

Back on the 74 right below the road to Blue Jay is El Cariso.


It has only 24 sites but is within walking distance of El Cariso Village and the Cleveland National Forest Visitor Center. More oaks and acorns as well.


Last up was Upper San Juan Campground a few miles down the road.


A small campground with only 15 sites, but there is a seasonal stream that runs through it. Some nice campsites like #7 make this a popular place.


We are in the pre-planning stage for the big trip next year. Stay tuned as it will be spectacular!

Regards, Park Ranger


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