San Clemente Beach Trail – Walk or Bike Along the Beach

As far as beaches in Southern California go, San Clemente will always have a special place in my heart. I learned to surf and caught my first wave on the beach to the right of the pier and I spent many a college day pursuing the next wave and eating at Pedro’s Tacos. Unbeknownst to me (thanks SocalHiker) there is actually a beautiful path that walks from the Metrolink parking area all the way down to Calafia Park and stays right next to the coast and the Surfliner train the whole way. With the wife training for a half marathon we thought it would be the perfect place to put in a long run for her and a leisurely bike ride for myself so we set out for the trail.

San Clemente Beach Trail 21


  • Trail is free but parking varies at the different start locations
  • 2.6 miles each way
  • At the Metrolink it was a quarter for 15 minutes I believe and I have been told this is the cheapest place to park
  • Food and restrooms along the trail
  • During the summer biking is not allowed near the San Clemente Pier due to the amount of people there

San  Clemente Beach Trail

San Clemente Beach Trail 20

After parking and paying our fees we set out on the trail. I loved the nice map they provide at the start of the trail as it shows you the mileage markers as they related to areas that you pass so you can make the trail as short or as long as you want.

San Clemente Beach Trail 18

The trail itself stays relatively flat the whole way which makes it perfect for all levels of athletic abilities to be able to take in the nice scenery. The trail is relatively wide for the first 3/4ths of a mile as it passes over vernal pools, staircases to the road ahead and entrances to the beach.

San Clemente Beach Trail 15

From there it goes up to an elevated bridge where you are not able to ride your bike and you must walk it in order to avoid being fined $100.

San Clemente Beach Trail 14

This is also a great place to watch the trains go by. I for one have always been fascinated with trains and they are one of my favorite things to photograph as you can see from these posts, so I waited on the bridge to get a picture of one going by below.

San Clemente Beach Trail 16

After exiting the bridge I was back on my bike for about a quarter of a mile until the path went into a very narrow area near the San Clemente Pier. While you can bike here it is pretty hard to get by all the people so I opted to just walk it to the pier and over which is a designated no bike zone as well.

San Clemente Beach Trail 10

If you haven’t been dene here, the pier has a great place to eat lunch. I would suggest checking it out on the way back as that would give you a decent amount of walking then a nice lunch before heading back to your car.

San Clemente Beach Trail 12

There are also shops here as well and a parking lot (that fills fast) where you can start the trail.

San Clemente Beach Trail 9

The trial then passes the bridge by T Street which is one of the best places for boogie boarding before crossing back over the train tracks.

San Clemente Beach Trail 8

The last portion is a nice dirt path that has wildflowers in the spring and a beautiful set of cliffs at the end.

San Clemente Beach Trail 7

When you reach Calafia Park you will see the end of the San Clemente Beach Trail sign letting you know you have completed half of your journey and can head back.

San Clemente Beach Trail 1

All in all I loved this trail and it is a perfect example of the beauty of Southern California. If you are doing this in the summer make sure to bring a lot of water as there is no shade but during the winter and spring it can be a nice way to break a sweat with a beautiful background. Check out the rest of the pictures below and let me know if you have been there in the comments.

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Center map

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  • I’ve walked this trail hundreds of times and when I was a kid we walked before it was a planned “trail”. It has the best scenery around!! Sometimes I meet a friend at North Beach, grab a coffee at Kaylani Coffee, and then stroll and talk the whole way. Tip: go early in the morning right after sunrise and the trail will be practically empty.

    • I wish I lived closer cause I would be doing it all the time! It is about an hour away though so it keeps me from going often.

  • Jeff Hester

    This was one of the first trails I posted on SoCal HIker:

    I lived in San Clemente for three years, and the beach trail was my go-to spot for walking the dog, clearing the mind, or getting in a quick run. It’s a fantastic trail, and a great place for people of all abilities. Great facilities all along the trail, and being an out-and-back route, you can do as much or as little as you want.

    Great write-up, Josh!

  • ATSF 4th District Railfan

    This has to be one of the best trails for trainspotting in Orange County. Over the course of on day, about 40 Amtrak and Metrolink trains are scheduled to roll through on the Surf Line, and regardless of the time of day there’s plenty of well-lit, scenic angles for photography.

    the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad [BNSF] also runs three trains in the middle of the night and a southbound freight about mid-evening, hauling anywhere from 30 to 70 freight cars depending on traffic. Usually you can hear it coming from several miles away as it has a brace of four to six freight locomotives on the head end. Due to track improvements in San Diego County, BNSF plans to add up to four daytime freight trains hauling soda ash, automobiles, and potentially tractor trailers up from San Diego to Barstow.

    Also, the San Bernardino Rail Historical Society runs excursions through San Clemente with Santa Fe 3751–a steam locomotive built by the Baldwin works in 1927, retired in 1953 after running the last scheduled steam-hauled train on the Surf Line, and restored to operating condition in the 1990s. It made one round trip through San Clemente twice in 2008 and once in 2010, and should also run sometime in 2014. For more details visit

    • Thanks for the comment and for all of the awesome train information! I love trains as well

  • Lorenza

    Wow, thank you so much for the great photos. Try to get hold of a book called The American Landscape: a critical View (1965) by English author and critic Ian nairn, at page 40-42 he describes how the “artists in town making” were successful in obtaining this kind of lanscape. maybe I can sacna copy of it, I’m reading it right now for my PhD thesis.

    • Thanks for the update, that sounds like an interesting book

  • Lynn

    Just an update, you can now ride your bike on the elevated Mariposa bridge which makes the ride easier!

    • Thanks for the update, that is much better!

      • Sharon DeSilva

        I read that the cycle shop only rents child seats on mens’ bikes. Do you know if this is true? I am visiting next week and wanted to get a bike with my daughter and grand daughter.

        • Thanks for the comment. I am not sure if they rent kids bikes or not. I would recommend calling them directly. Sorry I couldn’t be more help!

          • Sharon DeSilva

            Hi I rented from them, the kids seat only fit only the men’s bikes. No problem though because he lowered the seat on a shorter bike so we could reach the ground when stopping. Glad I saw you write up, we had a great time.

          • Thanks for the information! Helpful to know!

  • Theveens

    I am watching “Huell Howser” an old show where he’s finding out about the Pacific Coastal Trail, from Oregon to Mexico. I wonder if that was ever made.

    • The PCT is a very popular hike, it was even featured in a movie last year called “wild” so if that is what you are referring to then it does exist.