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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweetwater Regional Park & Campground

Late afternoon at Sweetwater campground.

Sweetwater Regional Park & Campground
3218 Summit Meadow Road
Bonita, CA 91902

Use fee: $24.00
Reservation fee: $5.00
Total Charge: $29.00

March 15, 2011.  Sweetwater is my "go-to" park because it's only 10 miles from my home and camping costs less than at the KOA which is less than 5 miles from my home.  So when I have to make it a quick trip, off to Sweetwater I go.  For me this is a true sub-24 hour overnighter (S24O): in less than an hour from leaving my house I'm at the park and setting up camp.

Unfortunately urban development is encroaching on Sweetwater.  Housing developments are plainly visibile every direction you look and the 125 passes right by it.  In fact, it's a little distressing to "camp" while listening to the sound of traffic.

On the positive side, though, the front gate to the park also provides access to a network of equestrian trails that provide some mountain bike-style entertainment but also real seclusion as you head east.

Looking north toward the Sweetwater reservoir.  I'm not a fisherman but I understand the fishing's good here. 
Getting there

From National City I made a quick trip along the Sweetwater flood control channel which let me out across the street from Plaza Bonita.  A bit to the south is a bike use path that includes a tunnel underneath Plaza Bonita Road.  Seems like a lot of dough for such a small section of path... not that I'm complaining. 
On the Plaza Bonita bike use path...
... culminating in this little tunnel under Plaza Bonita Rd.  Note the judicious use of graffiti decorative "art."  I'm sorry, people, but it seems anything having to do with National City quickly becomes a sty.
This led me to Bonita Rd., which after a few miles becomes San Miguel Rd., which leads you to the campground.  Very straight-forward:

Enjoying Sweetwater Regional Park

Since we're already equipped with bicycles, I guess it makes sense for bicyclists to try riding the equestrian trails. My Surly isn't actually a mountain bike but it's equipped with 26" tires for exactly this sort of contingency and handled surprisingly well on the dirt.  I had a blast!

This water tower is located on a summit directly north of the park.  It provides a bird's eye view of the South County animal shelter where my wife and I volunteer on Sundays.
As you travel east it becomes more and more remote.  One gentleman warned me that as the sun goes down the snakes come out.  I didn't see any snakes but I don't doubt there's plenty of 'em out there.

My humble abode.  The dirt is hard-pan making it a chore to drive in tent stakes.  Also spots are rocky, so bring a tarp and a sleeping bag pad.  Note the corrals that come standard with most camping spaces.

Out in the middle of nowhere.  Listen to the quiet... it's ear splitting.
I noted one bathroom facility only. It was passably clean with 3 shower stalls, one equipped with a bench (ADA compliant, I'm guessing).  It was easy to adjust the water to a temperature to suit you.

People at the campground were friendly but, as at most parks, the campers were mostly RV'ers and folks pulling trailers.  There were very few tent campers.

To the north of this campground is a new facility that - judging by the extra long parking spaces - is meant to accomodate yet more RV'ers.  Ah well, let us be patient fellow bicycle campers.  Imagine how many hike 'n bikers could fit into one of those spaces!

As with all campgrounds I've visited thus far in San Diego County, Sweetwater Regional Park & Campground gets my recommendation!

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