The San Clemente Coastal Trail is a newly completed hiking and biking trail in the city of San Clemente. The trail is a section of the planned California Coastal Trail, which will parallel the beach throughout the state of California when complete.
The trail starts from North Beach next to the Metrolink train station, and it runs under the bluffs, next to the train tracks with splendid views of the beach all along the way. The full hike is about 3 miles (ca. 5 km) long (each way). The south end of the hike terminates at Trestle Beach or San Mateo Creek.
This hike is considered easy, and it is great for families with small children.
Tip: No bathrooms on the trail. So make sure to stop at the north beach restrooms. Your next rest stop is the San Clemente Pier.
Start your hike from the train station and start enjoying the scenery along the way. You will be able to watch surfers wait for the right wave and then scramble to ride the wave. You can see body surfers closer to the beach. Try to catch the odd squirrel running along the tracks or try to hide in the brush.
Soon you will be climbing the wooden bridge that takes you above the tracks, a creek, and a small brush forest. The view from the bridge is great. You can see the pier in the distance.
Although the train tracks are mostly fenced-in along the trail, you will find several exits that provide easy access to the beach.
About halfway through your hike, you will hit the Pier area. It is a great place to relax, have a meal and enjoy the scenery. Plan to spend some time on this pier either on the first leg of the hike or on your way back. Stroll on the pier and enjoy the view of the waves breaking on the beach. Watch the surfers trying to catch the perfect wave. Take in the view of the whole San Clemente coastline from the deep end of the pier.
At the start of the pier, you will find many restaurants to choose from. A very well rated restaurant is “Fisherman's Restaurants”. We didn’t eat there this time, but we are planning to return to it soon. We decided to eat at the Fisherman’s Galley instead. Contrary to similar beach shacks, this place was surprisingly excellent. It has many healthy choices along with the expected Hamburgers and Hotdogs. We tried: A crispy fresh salad; a veggie burger, fish, and chips and a cheeseburger. We had regular fries and sweet potato fries. All were very delicious, and the price was right. I will definitely come back to this place for lunch. Best of all is the location: Right on the main trail, overlooking the pier and the beach. You can watch the throngs of people as they walk by, and you can enjoy the waves lapping against the sand – from the outdoor seating area.
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Tip: An alternate trailhead is from Del Mar Ave directly to the Pier. Then you can head south and extend your hike to San Onofre State beach or head north and extend your hike to Doheny State Beach.
Although the pier is an important stop along the way, your hike is not done yet. Keep going south on the coastal trail. When you reach Calafia beach, you will also be at the edge of the San Clemente State Beach. You have the option of climbing the steep ramp to the camping area. Overlooking the bluffs, you will find the Lifeguard headquarters building. In front of that building, there is a terrace with a breathtaking view and some benches to enjoy the view and relax.
At this point, you can turn back and head north to the train station, or you can keep going south to San Mateo Creek and Trestle Beach.
If you choose to continue, you will experience a more subdued hiking experience. Fewer crowds frequent this area. You will have a better chance of hearing the surf and the calls of the seagulls. You might even catch a glimpse of frolicking dolphins and migrating whales.
Trestles beach itself is famous for great surfing. It is officially part of San Onofre State Beach, south of the Orange County / San Diego county line.
Once again, you must make a choice. Is this going to be an extended hike or bike ride? Keep going to San Onofre State beach or hike up the San Mateo Creek trail to the San Mateo campground. If you are getting tired, you had better start heading back to the train station.
The Fishermen's Restaurant is right at the entrance of the Pier and hangs over the waves. The outdoor seating commands a magnificent view of the surfers below.
The food is also excellent. I tried both their Fish and Chips and the Clam Chowder. Both were delicious.
The service is a little slow due to the popularity of this place. When you walk in, you don't need to wait to be seated. Just find a table and enjoy your meal and the view.
Additional Information:1850 Avenida Estacion San Clemente, CA 92672