Trestles: Beach Walking for Families in a Surfer’s Paradise


Trestles or Trestle Beach is a bit of a mystery, unless you’re a surfer. I’m betting the surfers like to keep it that way! We enjoyed a great off-season family outing here without tromping on anyone’s saltwater turf.  It’s a hike down to the sand, but manageable even for little ones. Trestles is actually part of San Onofre State Beach. Huell Howser from California’s Gold and KCET (our Southern California local PBS station) filmed some great coverage of the park back in 2007. I highly recommend watching before you go!

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Surfing Trestles

Location: Off Interstate 5 at Cristianitos Road in San Clemente. We exited the freeway at Cristianitos and drove away from the ocean. We parked alongside the fence on the right.  If you turn left on El Camino Real, then you can park in the designated parking lot on your right. However, it’s a pay lot where you pay at a machine. Looks like they are serious about checking if you paid, too!  MAP to Trestles Beach in San Onofre State Beach (San Clemente)


How to Get To the Beach: So here’s the hike part. You park up on Cristianitos or on nearby El Camino Real and walk through the opening in the fence. You’ll go down a trail with great views of the ocean and the San Mateo Creekbed. It winds under sycamore trees and through scrub brush. We saw lots of bunnies and even a hawk in the tree. Then you”ll walk UNDER Interstate 5. Next you go up a short hill and end up near the bridge (to your left) and the entrance to the beach park marked by signs (in front of you).  This is probably the halfway point on your walk.  [If you look toward your right you’ll see a paved road which also hits Cristianitos. I just don’t recommend coming in this way because you have to walk on the overpass OVER Interstate 5 and cross streets to get in this way. Plus, it’s just so pretty coming the other way.]  From here, it’s a straight shot on a paved road to the trestle and beach. We also explored the bridge and took peeks at the creek below on our trip. Keep your eye out for bicyclists while you’re walking.

Trestles Walk


  • You can stand with one foot in Orange County and the other foot in San Diego County on the beach!
  • It’s a fun nature-filled walk to the beach.
  • Entertaining for the kids to watch the trains go by.
  • Off-season it was pretty quiet on the beach. Great views of Dana Point Headlands and the San Clemente coastline looking north. See the infamous San Onofre power plant and views of north San Diego to the south.
  • San Mateo Creek provides more wildlife viewing.
  • We liked walking over the concrete bridge and looking down into the creek.
  • If you’re lucky, you can see some world class surfing. In fact, type in “Trestles” on YouTube and you’ll see some fun surfing videos.
  • There’s still evidence of the fight to “Save Trestles” from a proposed tollroad.  Trestles is known as the “Yosemite of Surfing.”

Trestles Trail

Be Aware:

  • Can feel pretty isolated. I don’t think I’d do this walk on my own with the kids. Although, I did see a mom with her toddler there. I’d recommend it more for a family or group outing.
  • If you’re not ready for a decent walk, then don’t pick this beach! San Clemente State Beach (where Califia dead ends into the beach) is a better pick.
  • You are NOT allowed to cross OVER the railroad track — there’s plenty of room to cross under the trestle (bridge).
  • You may need to pay for parking and I can see it being busy during high surf and the summer.



  • Bring sand toys. NO playground – except for the big sandbox called a beach.
  • Water and snacks are a good idea for those kiddlings that need it.
  • There’s a portable toilet when you reach the trestle, but I’d recommend using the restroom before you leave home.
  • Not necessarily stroller friendly (unless you have a jogger stroller) — better for little walkers.
  • Description of the Trestles Trail hike from the California State Park’s official website – although he has you hike from Califia Beach.
  • If you visit, come back and let us know the pluses and minuses of your trip.

Beach Play


  1. says

    I really like the pictures you have included. I love that more people are experiencing Trestles I just pray that the toll road never gets approved. I would hate to see one of my favorite surf spots destroyed.

  2. says

    Ahh, Trestles! I’ve hiked from San Mateo Campground to the beach more times than I can count, many times by myself and never had any problems (but best to always hike with others anyway, safety in numbers). Btw, that is a nice campground (tent sites numbered in the very low 100’s are my favorite). And yes, Save Trestles (again) is back on, public meeting Surfrider is trying to whip up supporters to attend on June 19th, 2013 (info on Thanks for the nice post & good info, reminds me I need to pay a visit again, it’s been awhile :)

  3. Suedine says

    Hi Michelle, your website and helpful hints were great. Our family and another family friends for ours did this hike with our kids and it was great!

  4. Michele says

    I appreciate your comment and insight so much! The only way to keep all the posts current is for nice people like you to add your personal experience and let everyone know what’s going on. I’m sure many other families will appreciate the time you took to add your detailed comment.

    Hopefully the next family that visits will update us on how things change in the coming months.

  5. Michelle says

    Thanks for all your tips and advice on going to Trestles! We planned a homeschool adventure club outing to Trestles and made the trek last Friday. Your advice, tips, and trail map were very helpful! As of then (Feb. 2011) there is construction going on at the train track and the trestles. We shared the road with trucks and bull dozers and had to weave through fences to access the trail under the trestles. Extra caution with young kids is needed, but the construction workers were careful around our group. One porta potty was available near the trestles but was quite stinky. So, if anyone heads this way soon, be aware of the construction. It did not negatively affect our visit because the beach, the trail and the views were incredibly beautiful despite the work being done.

  6. cab4him says

    We camped at san clemente state beach and drove to san mateo camp ground for day use and hiked the trail with our family of 6, toddler in a stroller ( which is a bugaboo cameleon a bit more equipped for trails) up 9 yr old. It is a beautiful hike we are avid hikers so it was not extreme for us and I being born and having an orange county child hood wanted my children to experience this beautiful beach. Which I have to say is the most breathtaking beach in califonia. It is an all day event and water snacks are a must but light packing is essential . Beautiful foilage and rare plants were really note worthy on the trail .