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News 8 Throwback: Camping in San Diego County and Mexico in 1986

Many of these parks are still operating today and are great options for a summer vacation nearby - but with the feeling of being a world away.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — If you're thinking about camping this summer - or even if you aren't - this News 8 Throwback series might make you want to. The rules and fees may have changed, but many of these parks are still operating today and are great options for a summer vacation nearby - but with the feeling of being a world away.

News 8's Doug McAllister said the idea behind this series was to give people information on what was available locally for campers, hikers or any visitors. It was a time when many people were moving into the KFMB viewing area and may not have realized all that was available away from the ocean. Along with photographer Dana Clay, they escaped city life and returned with beautiful pictures and sound that we can now enjoy 35 summers later.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Just about an hour drive from the city and you're really in the country in San Diego County. It doesn't get any more beautiful or serene than Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in Julian, California. Reservations were required but they tended to be easier to get than beach campgrounds. The park offered many activities then and now. You can escape the heat and wade in the pools of Green Valley Falls, hike and breathe in the clean mountain air, visit archaeological sites, and just relax. Doug said the park's reputation had spread to the Los Angeles area. A woman from there he spoke to said it was "really nice." The story of the land and its people is told and illustrated in a museum close to the camping area. Park rangers offered regular programs for kids and anyone else interested in learning about the park. Another gem in San Diego County and definitely worth the trip. 

Beach camping at San Elijo State Beach and South Carlsbad

In a land where beachfront property is few and far between, it's nice that there are campgrounds where many can fall asleep to the soothing sound of the ocean. San Elijo State Beach and South Carlsbad offer stunning views and excellent facilities for campers, then and now. It wasn't easy to reserve a space, but Doug spoke with campers and a park ranger to get tips. Tent, trailer, or motor home--only  $8 a night--quite a bargain even in 1986. South Carlsbad opened in 1965, and News 8 has film of that here

Camping in San Diego County mountains

For this part of the camping series, News 8's Doug McAllister headed for the mountains. Outside Julian, he visited William Heise Park which was a little more hidden than some of the nearby state parks but offered rest and relaxation amongst the trees.  

Lush greenery marked Doug's next stop: Palomar Mountain State Park. The area got an abundance of rain leading to its dense forest which felt similar to the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California. Miles of hiking trails were another attraction of the park.  

La Jolla Beach Campground in Mexico

News 8's Doug McAllister found some beautiful beach camping south of the border in 1986 that offered several amenities. The La Jolla Beach Campground was just 15 minutes south of Ensenada and attracted lots of American visitors. They said the beach was the perfect combination of secluded but safe. The area had lots to attract tourists and was minutes from La Bufadora - a famous seawater blowhole.  

Sadly, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the campground closed