“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.