San Clemente Beach Trail


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San Clemente Beach Trail Facts

States: California
Counties: Orange
Length: 2.3 miles
Trail end points: San Clemente/North Beach Metrolink Station and San Clemente State Beach (San Clemente)
Trail surfaces: Sand
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015301
Trail activities: Walking

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San Clemente Beach Trail Description

Hugging one of the most picturesque shorelines in Southern California, the San Clemente Beach Trail is one of the premier rail-trails in the area. The trail itself is technically a rail-with-trail, as it shares the corridor with an active Amtrak line with service between Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as Metrolink trains that are part of the L.A. commuter rail system. Whereas most communities surrounding L.A. have fallen victim to rampant development, surfside San Clemente has preserved its small town identity and spirit. The trail enhances these qualities. The trail surface is composed mostly of compact sand from the beach.

Begin at the north end of the pedestrian-only trail near the San Clemente Metrolink station in the area known as North Beach. The trail leads south out of the Metrolink parking lot. It is narrowly situated between high cliffs on the left and the railroad tracks and beach on the right. Be sure to check out the unique flora that cover the cliff, as well as the impressive beach houses high atop the cliffs. After several hundred yards, the trail flows onto an impressive bridge. Running about 10 feet off the ground for roughly 0.25 mile, the bridge serves as a glorified boardwalk over sensitive beach habitat.

Once across the bridge, follow the trail across the railroad tracks and continue to the primary beachfront area of San Clemente at the Pier Bowl trailhead. Here you will find restaurants, shops and beach picnic areas. A pier jets out into the ocean here and is a prime location for watching surfers ride the waves. There are public restrooms and plenty of parking near the pier.

The trail continues south along the beach and crosses the railroad tracks again about 0.25 mile beyond the Pier Bowl area. Be careful because the crossing is at grade with the tracks. The trail continues for another 1.5 miles south along the beach to the endpoint near San Clemente State Beach, which has parking and beach access.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the northern trailhead at the Metrolink station from Interstate 5, take Exit 76 and head west on East Avenida Pico. Follow it for about 0.5 mile to the intersection of North El Camino Real. Take a right and the train station will be on your left in a few hundred feet.

To reach the trailhead at Pier Bowl area from Interstate 5 take the exit and head (right or left) west into town. Take a left onto North El Camino Real Road. Continue for less than 0.5 mile to Avenida del Mar. Take a left and follow Avenida del Mar all the way to the beach and San Clemente Pier and the adjoining parking lots. The trailhead is just beyond the train tracks.

San Clemente Beach Trail Reviews

When I need serenity at heart and peace at mind, I come to this flat woven trail that hugs the coastal train tracks and has magnificent views of the Pacific shore cliffs and the vast turquoise ocean. A pure delight of a trail with restaurants and clean restrooms along the way. As you walk you'll be greeted by the toots of the Amtrack train as it wind its way past you demonstarting the power of engineering. This is definitely one of the sweetest gems in south O.C.!

Walked this trail today. It's a chilly (for S Cal) Saturday in February. Unpaved but well groomed. Very narrow. Lots of walkers with dogs and strollers. It was difficult walking through with a dog in tow. Would not bike it unless it was very very early. Can be done but not worth the short ride.

The path was too perfect, there was too much sunshine, too many trains, too much beach front, and just way too nice...too much scenery and just way too perfect in each and every way. Great Morning/ afternoon in San Clemente...


At this point in my life, not having the San Clemente Beach Trail would leave a big void for me. I walk about 20 miles week on the trail and it is absolutely fantastic! There are plenty of benches for sitting, access to the sand and surf and wonderful views.

All of that said, the North Beach trail is in serious trouble. The bridge so beautifully built is on a fast track to ruin. It is turning into a rust bucket.almost every joint and every bolt is in some stage of real decay from rust and in some cases the situation is extremely bad.

The simple truth seems to be twofold; 1) There must be no budget for maintenance and 2) Nobody "owns" the bridge. Meaning, there is no overseer of its condition it would appear. There telltale signs of rust are unmistakable.

My goal is to raise awareness. I for one would be happy to pay some reasonable annual fee to use the trail provide 100% of the contribution went to trail (bridge first) maintenance.

Free parking along Coast side of Pacific Coast Highway north of Beach Road, or One $ @ hour in the Capistrano Beach Parking lot.
The San Clemente Bike Path with concrete barrier along PCHwy is new smooth asphalt for 1.7 miles from Beach Rd N33.45548 W117.66788 to Camino Capistrano N33.44152 W117.64538 There the 50mph speed limit south bound Hwy changes its name to N El Camino Real, and a 35mph speed limit, and changes to a bike lane for 0.9 mile to Avenue Estacion N33.43298 W117.63333
Pay parking is available at the Metro Line Parking Lot on Estacion. On the east side of N El Camino Real a north bound bike path extends 0.7 mile than changes to a bike lane for 0.2 mile to Camino Capistrano with button activated crossing lights.
At Beach Road, cross the active AT&Santa Fe Rails and ride north for 0.95 miles through the Doheny State Park, with water fountains and port-a-potties. Enjoy the beach scene and activities. Total trail length 3.55 miles. By Noel Keller

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