The San Clemente Beach Trail is a beautiful and picturesque 2.3 mile walking and biking trail (4.6 miles round trip) that runs from San Clemente’s North Beach to Calafia Beach, with fantastic ocean views, high cliffs, and an elevated foot bridge.
The trail is well signed, well constructed and easy to walk on, even with flip-flops. Plus, there are parking lots at both ends (with tolls), Metrolink train access to both North Beach and the Pier, restaurants and restrooms. Add it all up and the San Clemente Beach Trail becomes a superb location for a leisurely beach hike.
Distance: 4.6 miles
Duration: 1.5 – 2.0 hours
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
From the I-5 in San Clemente, exit on Avenida Pico and proceed westerly for 0.7 mile to El Camino Real. Make a right (west) on El Camino Real and follow about 0.1 mile to Avenida Estacion and turn left into the Metrolink parking lot at 1850 Avenida Estacion, San Clemente, CA 92672. The trailhead for the San Clemente Beach Trail is located at the far end of the parking lot and you’ll have to pay for parking.
Ride Metrolink To The Trailhead
If you don’t live close by, the superior way to get to the trailhead is to just ride the Metrolink train on either the Orange County line or the Inland Empire Orange County line. The train drops you off in the parking lot just a short walk from the trailhead. I always ride the train in from West Corona whenever I do this hike and it works out great. Check the San Clemente Metrolink page for details.
Convenient Metrolink train service to the San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail Description
The hike begins at the south end of the San Clemente Metrolink station at North Beach. There’s a park styled restroom facility across the railroad tracks near the trailhead, if needed. The trail is marked by a sign and its pretty obvious where to go.
As you start walking down the path, you’ll see cliffs on the left and the beach on the right. The trail runs adjacent to the railroad tracks almost then entire way with a couple crossings in between. In about 0.4 mile, you’ll reach an elevated bridge that runs about 10 feet off the ground in boardwalk fashion. The bridge continues for about 0.25 mile and provides you with some cool views of the beach and cliffs.
San Clemente Beach Trail elevated bridge
Once across the bridge, you’ll be getting closer and closer to the San Clemente Pier, which juts out a good ways into the ocean. There’s a couple of restaurants either on the pier and also a snack bar on the concrete boardwalk near the pier. The trail continues on both sides of Pier and there are public restrooms nearby.
This is also the spot where you can take a short detour “off trail” into town for more restaurants and shops if you like, especially on your return back from Calafia. For a super nice view of the beach and pier, just want up a few hundred feet to the stamped concrete walkway along Avenida Victoria, which overlooks the ocean and pier. You just can’t beat the view.
Me, Margaret and Aska enjoying the San Clemente beach vibe
Once past the Pier, find the continuation of the San Clemente Beach Trail and continue southerly toward Calafia Beach. You will again have great views of the ocean and cliffs on either side of the trail with fantastic looking houses perched atop the cliffs.
For whatever reason, this portion of the hike seems hotter in temperature than the previous section. Perhaps due to the brisk pace you’ll likely be taking from the North Beach trailhead or the trail’s proximity to the cliffs. Regardless of the reason, be sure to stay hydrated.
Picturesque cliffs along the San Clemente Beach trail
Before long you will get to the end of the of trail at Calafia, which is just north of San Clemente State Beach. There’s a snack bar and parking lot nearby and also access across the railroad tracks to the beach.
Although the City of San Clemente has plans to extend the trail from Calafia to the San Clemente State Beach, the trail ends at Calafia as of this writing, and is marked by a San Clemente Beach Trail sign.
End of the San Clemente Beach Trail at Calafia
From this point, you can either turn around and go back the way you came, or walk down to the beach for an invigorating walk in the beach sand back to the San Clemente Pier. That’s the option me and my friends normally take. Just be prepared to take off your trail runners or flip-flops for the walk.
During the summer, the beach sand is extremely hot, so you’ll have to walk close to the water and occasionally get splashed by the waves. It’s a nice way to cool off.
For an extra workout, take a walk on the beach back to the San Clemente Pier
Whether you take the San Clemente Beach Trail back or actually walk on the beach like we did in the above picture, you will likely stop back at the Pier for lunch or a cold beer. After your well deserved break, you can then follow the beach trail back to your starting point for a very pleasureable 4.6 mile round trip hike.
Or, if you happen to be riding the Metrolink and find yourself in an extra leisurely mood, just hop on the train at the Pier. This option reduces your hike to only 3.6 miles total and allows you plenty of time to goof around at the Pier or to check out the shops and restaurants across the street. Just make sure you know the train schedule so you don’t miss your train.
Either way, this is one of the coolest beach walks in Southern California and well worth the effort getting there. Be sure to bring your good camera. You’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t.