“Freebie” Site Review – Viejas Casino, Alpine (San Diego), CA
A spacious, easy, comfortable, free short-term solution in the mountains just east of San Diego in southern CA.
Location: Viejas Casino, Alpine, CA
Coordinates: 32.843908, -116.698289. Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE. 3 night (72 hour) max stay limit. You must register with Casino security on arrival.
How We Found It: From overnightrvparking.com and also campendium.com and freecampsites.net
Nearest Dump/Water: Nearest dump at next-door Mar-Ta-Awa RV park ($15). Lots of additional dump stations around San Diego. There is also a free dump station in Mission Bay (San Diego downtown).
- Access – 5/5
Super-easy access here. Road is paved throughout and RV/oversize parking area is composed of several HUGE asphalt lots (easily sized for 30-50 RVs of any size) on the far eastern side of the Casino. The lots do have slope to them (front to back) so you will need to use leveling blocks to get flat.
Directions: Coming from the East on I-8, the RV/oversize lots are the first large lots on your right-hand side as you approach the Casino on Willows Road. If coming from the West you will pass the Casino on your left and chose the furthest lots on the eastern side. Shortly after you arrive security will come by to check you in and complete a yellow registration form showing your 3-day limit (including arrival & departure dates). You must display this form in your RV windshield for the duration of your stay. You can also register directly with security at the Outlet Mall.
- Nature – 2.5/5
For an “urban” setting this is pretty nice. The parking area itself is just a big asphalt lot, but it is surrounded by green fields and views of mountains. Several green “slices” around the lot to walk doggie.
- Isolation – 2/5
Isolation is actually pretty decent considering you are parking your RV in the middle of a Casino. The RV parking area HUGE and separated by ~1/2 mile from the main Casino so it is fairly quiet and there is lots of space to yourself. However you will hear some traffic from Willow Road, and you will get some bus traffic. Plus security does make regular rounds.
- Pet Friendliness – 4/5
Great spot for pooch. You have lots of space around your RV to hang out, plus access to green space around the lot for walking. NO doggies allowed in Casino or around the Outlet Mall so that is the only ding. LOTS of extensive mountain (dog-friendly) hiking in nearby Laguna Mountain area ~25 mins east of the Casino.
Overall Rating = 3.4
Summary: I don’t always review our “freebie” sites, but this one had enough interesting points to make it worthwhile. We were looking for an easy, spacious spot to stay overnight for a few nights in the mountains just east of San Diego and Viejas Casino fit the bill perfectly. The Casino is just a few miles off I-8 and offers several large (HUGE) parking lots for RV and oversized vehicles at the far eastern side of the establishment. The setting is quiet and fairly pretty considering you’re in an asphalt parking lot. The location is separated by ~1/2 mile from the main Casino (there are free shuttles if you need them) and surrounded by fields and some mountain views with very low traffic through the lots. Security will come around to check you in and give you a yellow registration form that you must display on your front windshield for the duration of your stay. Stay limit is 3 nights (72 hours) after which you cannot return to the lot for 30 days. The lots do have some back-front slope to them so expect to use leveling blocks to get flat. The Casino itself is fairly standard and does offer food and and an Outlet Shopping Mall right across the road. You can also sign-up for their free Value Card (V-Card) to get $10 of free play money. The location for exploring Alpine, CA area is GREAT as it is just a few miles from downtown for eating/shopping (including the most excellent Alpine Beer Company which is a “must do”) and ~25 mins east of the fabulous Laguna Mountain Recreation Area that has endless hiking trails, including a large section of the southern portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. When we were there we were one of only ~3 RVs in the lot and had oceans of space to ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the Alpine area and would definitely stop again if we needed a spot to overnight along I-8.
Extra Info: Excellent cell/data signal with 4 bars on both Verizon LTE and ATT 4G. Flush toilets in the Casino and several trash cans around the parking lot. NO hookups or dump station on-site, but nearby RV park (Mar-Ta-Awa -> also managed by the Casino) has everything for those wanting dump, hookups, laundry and more amenities.
Extra, Extra Info – OTHER BOONDOCKING/CAMPING:
- Free Camping -> Several other Casino’s allow free RV parking in and around San Diego. The two most popular are Barona (small RV parking area) and Sycuan (we’ve stayed there too).
- Forest Camping -> Nearby Cleaveland National Forest offers multiple campgrounds (mostly dry camping) in the mountains, with size limits from 27-40 feet. Cost $14-$22/night. Driving around the area we did find a *few* sites in Laguna Campground that would fit “the beast”.
- RV Park -> As mentioned above, for those preferring full hookups Viejas Casino also operates a full-service RV park (Mar-Ta-Awa) down the road from the Casino. Cost $35/night for FHU.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
thanks for posting on this. Great info and review. Travel on!
Nice, Thanks for Posting looks like a lot of room for a 5th Wheel with Slide outs. Did you win?
Yeah, PLENTY of room here for even the biggest of “beasts”. We didn’t actually play, to be honest. Had too much fun hiking & drinking beer 🙂
Bob Nuttmann says
There is also an RV campground owned by the casino that has full hookup 50amp sites. We stayed there a couple months ago. It is much more scenic than staying in the casino parking lot. Also much quieter. Very large sites, but not organized at all into regular patterns. There is a casino van that comes by this area frequently. We thought the casino buffet was very good. I gained three pounds in one meal.
Yup, I mentioned the campground in the review under “extra info” (it’s the Mar-Ta-Awa Campground). It’s a great option for those folks who prefer hookups and will definitely be more scenic. I’ll update the review and add it into the “other camping” section too, just to make it more obvious.
Pat H. says
Is it snowing?
Not yet, but we’re supposed to get some in the mountains this weekend. Rain by the beach for sure.
Angie Armbruster says
My son was the Assistant Executive Chef at Viejas until 3 weeks ago. There is a free dump at the rest stop at Buckman Springs exit about 28 miles east of Viejas. Just a FYI for future use when heading East on the I-8. See you two this fall at Cape Blanco. Have fun in San Diego.
Jenny Waters says
Is it usually okay to open the slides when staying at casinos? I have read that is kind of a no-no at Walmart and such free stopovers. I suppose if it’s a 3 night stay it would be hard to not open the slides, right?
Good question. Generally the casinos don’t mind. This one was ok with slides open and jacks down.
Good info, thanks for sharing.
Do those Lynx leveling blocks hold up well under the weight of your coach?
Yup. We’ve had them for 4 years and only one has cracked, and we use them a lot! I’m always amazed they can hold the weight, but they do.
First of all, I’d like to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. My family owned a similarly sized rig that we sold last summer. We have no plans to buy another, but I still really enjoying reading about others’ adventures.
I have a follow up question on your last post. Why do you use leveling blocks? Doesn’t your rig have automatic leveling? Just curious…
Sure it does, but the automatic levelers can only go so far without taking the wheels off the ground (which is something I never like to do on a coach this heavy). So, when the slope is bad we use blocks to keep the wheels down and give us extra room to use the levelers while still staying in contact with the ground. This site required both blocks and the levelers to get flat, and many of our boondocking and dry camping sites require the same setup. We use our blocks a lot.
Ah, I see. We had a Berkshire DP and if I tried to level in my driveway the front wheels would be off the ground. I didn’t mind it for a brief load / unload, but I agree that I would want to camp that way for very long.
We will be heading that way soon to visit family in SD can we unhook from the truck or do we need to remain hooked up
Yes you can unhook. The Casino doesn’t mind. You just can’t overstay the 72 hour limit.
Thank you for your blog. Very informative! We travel with a pop-up camper. Just curious if they allow any/all types of campers at this site, or just RV coaches? Thanks
Any type are allowed.
I know this is an rv site. And my question might be not totally on topic. But what if i just wanted to park my car here overnight for a couple of days. I know there are park and rides. But in that area it seems a little untrustworthy. And this lot has security. If you know of other better locations for what I am trying to accomplish. I’d love to be informed
I’ve never had issues with park and ride in San Diego (we lived there for a few years), but they might let you overnight here if you asked them. I’d check directly with the Casino.