San Clemente Beach & Pier
- Location: San Clemente. From Orange County, take I-5 south to Ave. Calafia. Merge onto Ave. Calafia and bear right onto Ave. Montalvo (a one-way street). Montalvo becomes Ave. Lobeiro. Park along the curb at Calafia Park (0.3 miles from the freeway). Parking is limited to two hours. From San Diego, take I-5 north to Ave. Magdalena. Turn right onto El Camino Real, take another right and cross over the freeway, and turn left on Avenida Del Presidente. Turn right onto Ave. Calafia and bear right onto Ave. Montalvo.
- Agency: San Clemente State Beach; City of San Clemente
- Distance: 4.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours (as restricted by the street parking)
- Best season: Year round
- Recomended gear: sun hat; sunblock
- USGS topo map: San Clemente
- More information: San Clemente State Beach info here; San Clemente Pier “Yelp” page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Located at the very southern tip of Orange County, San Clemente has miles of beaches that feature both panoramic ocean views and interesting marine geology. There are a number of trails and access points, and many possible routes for walking and hiking. The loop described here takes in the nice variety of scenery this area offers. If you don’t mind walking on a bike path, a boardwalk and alongside railroad tracks, you’ll find this hike very enjoyable.
From Calafia Park, head down the stairs to the beach parking area. On the opposite side of the lot, head southeast along a path between the railroad tracks and the bluffs. The marine geology on the left is worth a closer look. Soon, turn left on a paved road heading up to the state beach parking lot. You get nice views of the ocean, up to Dana Point and beyond. After crossing the parking lot, descend on another paved path. This one goes underneath the railroad tracks and arrives at the beach. Turn right and head northwest.
The next mile and a half is an enjoyable walk along the beach to the pier. The going is pretty easy. At the pier, you can head out onto the ocean and get great views of the coastline–and enjoy a snack at one of the shops.
On the return trip, for variety, try walking along the San Clemente Pedestrian Beach Trail. You’ll cross the railroad tracks once and get some more nice, up-close views of the cliffs before arriving back at the parking lot, where you can retrace your steps to the car. While some veteran hikers might not like the amount of company they’ll have on this route, or the fact that civilization is everywhere, most will find that the scenic variety and panoramic views makes the San Clemente beach well worth the visit.
Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.