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Cleveland Nationwide Forest Tenting Information

There’s an simple magnificence to be explored inside nationwide forests, and Cleveland Nationwide Forest isn’t any exception. Situated simply an hour’s drive east of San Diego, it gives unimaginable tenting within the southern California mountains.

Right here’s how you can get probably the most out of your Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting expertise!

A picturesque waterfall inside Cleveland National Forest.

What to Anticipate in Cleveland Nationwide Forest

Cleveland Nationwide Forest is break up into three “ranger districts” every overseen by a unique ranger. These districts are Descanso, Palomar, and Trabuco.

Descanso is the furthest north, Palomar is within the center, and Trabuco is the furthest south.

Crucial issues to organize for in your Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting journey are the laws on setting campfires.

Marah macrocarpus, or wild cucumber, growing in Cleveland National Forest.
Marah macrocarpus rising in Cleveland Nationwide Forest.

No wooden or charcoal fires will probably be allowed if you happen to plan to distant camp.

Should you e book a website in a campground, you’ll be allowed to have a wooden or charcoal fireplace, however solely in designated areas. Hearth rings and grills are offered in most campgrounds.

This nationwide forest is weak to wildfires. Don’t set fires—even small, “protected” ones—the place you aren’t alleged to.

Tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest

Beautiful view of snow-covered mountinas are part of a Cleveland National Forest camping trip.

What To Take into account Earlier than Reserving

There are a lot of issues to pay attention to when reserving a Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting journey.

First, you may solely go to for as much as 14 consecutive days yearly.

Second, you’ll wish to resolve what time of yr you wish to go to. There’s some debate over the very best time to go to Cleveland Nationwide Forest.

Most sources appear to agree that fall, winter, and spring are the very best occasions to go to. California summers are notoriously scorching and may make tenting actions much less gratifying.

Others say it’s higher to keep away from the winter months as a result of drop in temperature, particularly for tent campers or backpackers.

Foggy weather in Cleveland Nationa Forest.

General, it appears greatest to keep away from visiting throughout the summer season months. Many trails are recognized to get uncomfortably—and even dangerously—scorching in the summertime.

Should you do select to go to throughout the summer season months, attempt to plan any mountaineering excursions or different strenuous actions for the sooner hours within the day. Warmth stroke isn’t any joke!

Finest Spots for Group Tenting

There are three fundamental group campgrounds within the Descanso district: El Prado Group Campground (Large Sage, Buckwheat, Manzanita, Whitethorn, and Yerba Santa); Horse Heaven Group Campground (Buttercup, Hollyhock, and Lupine); and Wooded Hill Group Campground.

In Palomar, you’ll discover Crestline Picnic Space and Falcon Group Campgrounds (Lupine, Sage, and Yarrow).

Finest Spot for Tent and RV Tenting

The Burnt Rancheria Campground, positioned within the Laguna Mountain Recreation Space of the Descanso district, is probably the most extremely really helpful for tent campers.

When you can camp right here together with your RV, you received’t discover any hookups—electrical or in any other case—nor will you discover any dump websites.

Nevertheless, there’s a dump station positioned close by.

Should you select to arrange your tent right here, excellent news! There are restrooms, showers, and potable water all out there to you.

Extra excellent news for these hoping to get some tourism in: the Laguna Mountain Recreation space is lower than an hour away from San Diego!

Finest Spots for Distant Tenting

In all three districts, you’re required to have a allow to interact in distant (also referred to as “free” or “dispersed”) tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest, relying on the place you go.

(Should you aren’t conversant in free tenting, you may study all about it in our Information to Free Tenting.)

Within the Palomar district, you’ll want a allow irrespective of the place you select to pitch your tent for distant tenting.

In Trabuco, there’s just one space the place you’re allowed to distant camp. Should you have been hoping to arrange store wherever outdoors the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness space, you’re out of luck.

Regardless that distant tenting is simply allowed in a single place inside this district, you’ll nonetheless want a allow.

Within the Descanso district, you may distant camp nearly wherever. Nevertheless, you continue to want a allow to camp outdoors the Laguna Recreation Space.

The one time you’ll not want a allow to distant camp is if you happen to keep contained in the Laguna Recreation Space.

You possibly can print out the allow for Descanso and Palomar and take it with you. If you’d like a allow to remain in Trabuco, you’ll must apply for it on-line.

Issues to Do

A sign for the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mountain climbing

The highest attraction of the Cleveland Nationwide Forest is the Pacific Crest Path! This 110-mile stretch of path might be explored in every kind of how.

You possibly can backpack, day hike, and even discover on horseback!

You possibly can select your personal journey, so to talk, by selecting totally different routes in response to the problem degree you’re snug with.

Nevertheless, bear in mind that you could be want a mountaineering allow in sure areas. Even if you happen to’re solely planning to day hike, double-check the allow necessities!

Fishing and Searching

Fishing and looking are permitted in season inside Cleveland Nationwide Forest with the correct licensing.

Horseback Using

Horseback using is permitted throughout the PCT if you happen to want to journey quite than hike. Nevertheless, this isn’t your common leisurely path journey. It’s essential to organize your self correctly earlier than enterprise an equestrian journey like this.

Should you do select to discover the path on horseback whereas tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest, excellent news! There are many choices for equestrian tenting there, too.


A spotted owl sitting in a tree.


In your Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting journey, you may count on to identify many chook species.

Some species are not often seen outdoors California, together with California Quail, California Thrashers, and the California Towhee.

Should you’re very fortunate, you would possibly even catch a glimpse of a Noticed Owl, thought of a near-threatened species.


You’ll want to be careful for one explicit insect when tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest. There’s a prolific pest dwelling within the space known as the Goldspotted Oak Borer.

This insect is taken into account an invasive species. It settles in sure sorts of timber (primarily Coast Stay Oaks, Black Oaks, and Canyon Stay Oaks, therefore the identify!) and kills them slowly.

Goldspotted Oak Borers are the explanation for firewood laws all through the Nationwide Forest. Campers are inspired to not transport firewood outdoors the world the place it was bought.

Cleveland Nationwide Forest can also be house to the Laguna Skipper butterfly. That is an endangered species, so if you happen to see components of the forest cordoned off to be able to defend it, steer clear!

A brown and white spotted mountain skipper butterfly.


When you received’t have to fret about bears in your Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting journey, do remember that that is mountain lion territory.

Whereas encounters with these large cats are very uncommon, ensure you maintain your children shut. You need a watch on them always.

On a extra pleasant word, you additionally could spot mule deer, varied species of bat, and black-tailed jackrabbits!


Whereas mountain lions are a uncommon sight, rattlesnakes usually are not. It’s extraordinarily frequent to identify a snake whereas tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest.

It’s really helpful that you simply hike in thick, high-top mountaineering boots. (You possibly can take a peek at our suggestions if you happen to want them!) It’s additionally really helpful that you simply wield a protracted stick and poke it forward of you on the trail.

Higher a rattlesnake strikes the stick than your leg!

If bitten by a rattlesnake, take away any tight clothes as rapidly as you may in preparation for swelling.

Preserve the chew beneath coronary heart degree and speak to emergency companies.

Opposite to fashionable perception, you shouldn’t apply a tourniquet when bitten by a rattlesnake.

Make Certain To Convey

Once you depart on your Cleveland Nationwide Forest tenting journey, you’ll want to convey alongside…

  • Any required licenses or permits
  • Loads of water
  • A water filter in case of emergency
  • High quality mountaineering boots with excessive tops
  • A mountaineering stick

Take pleasure in Your Cleveland Nationwide Forest Tenting Journey!

View of hills at sunset in Cleveland National Forest.

Whether or not you benefit from the surroundings by means of backpacking, parking your RV, or using on horseback, tenting in Cleveland Nationwide Forest is a can’t-miss alternative!

To study extra nice nationwide forest locations, take a look at our different Nationwide Forest Tenting Guides!

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