REVIEW updated as of latest stay Jan 2012
This was one of the first parks we stayed at in San Diego and continues to be one of our absolute favorite in the area. It’s a public park run by the water district, but has all the feel of an upscale, yet very natural private park. When we’re looking for green and space, this is where we stay.
- Site Quality = 4.5/5
Lovely, large, spacious, green sites especially in the back camping areas intermixed with trees, grass and streams. Easy access for large rigs. Most sites are dirt which makes them a bit muddy if it rains, but this being San Diego that’s not a big issue most the year. Good water pressure with full hook-up (50 AMP/water/sewer - some also have cable) and picnic table at each site. There are 300 total campsites and several camping areas each with their own “feel”. From south to north (campsite map HERE):
a) Lakeside Loop – This loop is situated beautifully right on the lake, but is also the oldest loop in the campground. For that reason it has the smallest (and tightest) sites. If you’re small enough to fit into a lakefront site (~25-30 ft max) definitely go for it, but for big rigs I’d recommend the other loops.
b) Mulberry - This small loop in the middle of the campground is the only one with paved sites. Some of the far back sites (62-73) have lake views, but we find them too tight for our liking. We generally never stay in this loop.
c) Sycamore Loop - This loop has shaded, dirt sites but does get some road traffic since there is a camp gate entrance right in front of the loop. The middle pull-throughs (even numbers 102-110) are the most spacious.
d) Willow Loop - This is our favorite loop in the whole campground and where we aim to stay most of the time. Lots of green and space with sites well separated (and we fit into all of them). Definitely the most “natural” feel of the entire campground. Willow Loop has trees and shade and some gorgeous sites especially in the outer side of the loop (151-168 facing out). East Willow Loop has more regulated rows, but large, spacious sites several of which back-up to the stream.
e) West Oak/East Oak Loop – These are the newest loops in the campground and therefore also the largest. Plenty of space here and all of the sites are well landscaped with bushes, trees and flowers between. Trees are generally younger here so not much in the way of shade except for sites near the stream in Old Oak. It is also very quiet here since you’re furthest away from traffic. If we can’t stay in Willow this is the area we chose.
- Facilities = 4/5
Squeaky clean facilities. A slightly older feel, but otherwise in great shape. Showers have heaters which is a bonus, but are missing a bench/shelf for your stuff (hooks only).
- Amenities = 4.5/5
There is SO much to do here for the entire family. Pool/jacuzzi, clubhouse, 7 huge (enormous) lakes with picnic areas, walking/biking paths, fishing, boat rentals, on-site laundry, lots of community activities….and….free WiFi! Only negative…the WiFi often gets overloaded.
- Location = 4/5
This is a great location. Downtown Santee is just around the corner and has all the shopping you’d like (Costco, Walmart, Petco, Sprouts…you name it), yet you’re only ~15-20 miles from San Diego. You are also close to Hiking trails in the massive Mission Trails Regional Park. Weekly Farmers’ market downtown on Wednesday afternoons.
- Pet Friendliness = 5/5
Very large dog walk & dog run areas (leashed) inside the RV park with bonus of scented poo bags provided by the park. Access to areas behind the park (very north end) where dogs can go off-leash “unofficially”. The beautiful hills of the army corps site (accessible directly from the very back of the park) allows hiking on the week-end. Lots of dog parks in surrounding areas too.
Overall Rating = 4.4
BONUS ALERT = Lakes stocked regularly with fish incl. rainbow trout!
Summary: Overall this is probably the nicest park in the San Diego Area. You can get closer to the coast and to major attractions but not with the space/quality/amenities that Santee Lakes offers. When we want the be by the beach/water we stay at Mission Bay, but when we want space, peace and green we stay here. Very much a family park, especially on the weekends, but very calm and quiet nonetheless. Sites are large, spacious and green intermixed with walking/biking trails and the wonderful lakes. Lots to see and do in the surrounding area including miles of hiking trails and downtown shopping in Santee. Park is dog-friendly and pool/jacuzzi area is lovely. There is even on-site covered RV storage (some of the best rates in the entire San Diego area) for those that need it. Daily & weekly rate is pricey, but the monthly rate is very reasonable for the area. We met volunteers and campers who keep coming back to this park season after season and we completely agree with them. It’s a great place to winter and when we come to San Diego this park is always on our list.
Extra Info: Sadly poor Verizon signal (seems to be somewhat of a “gap” here), but from what we’ve heard AT&T works well. On-site free Wi-Fi which works decently most of the time, but does get overloaded when park is full. All sites are full hookup. Nightly rate $39-$47. Monthly rate $670-$720/mo excluding electric (bookable for 6 months at a time).