Hugging the Coast in San Clemente

San Clemente is always a treat, but never more so than with Mom on a 4.6-mile (round-trip) stroll…

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San Clemente is always a treat, but never more so than with Mom on a 4.6-mile (round-trip) stroll on the town’s lovely Beach Trail. The dirt path is surrounded by succulents and native flora, and hugs the coastal train tracks all the way. Should your toes seek a sandy respite, you’ll find plenty of pedestrian rail crossings that get you to any of a string of sugary beaches.

And if Mom wants a bit of a workout, you can high-step up a number of staircases that lead to the sea cliffs above.As you walk south from North Beach, the path becomes a raised boardwalk over protected vernal pools—the best vantage point for a coastal picture with Mom.

After about a mile, you’ll reach the San Clemente Pier, perfect for a detour stroll—potential dolphin viewing in the morning, sunset gazing in the evening, and a latte or a cold brew anytime at charming Bear Coast Coffee, a locals’ favorite. For a bit of history and art, head briefly inland to the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens ($5 admission), which was once home to the founder of the city.

San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail
San Clemente Beach Trail

The trail continues along endless beaches, skirting dense blooms of honeysuckle and the city’s official flower, bougainvillea. At mile 2.3, you’ll reach the designated end of the trail at Calafia State Beach, where you can explore the sandstone cliffs or continue a short way to San Clemente State Beach, home to a blufftop picnic spot and campground for those finding it particularly hard to leave. No worries, though—the trail is just as beautiful on the way back!

EXTRA TREAT: Consider snagging a pre- or post-hike quiche, croissant, or cinnamon roll at Ellie’s Table. The bakery is a longtime local institution that’s just a short walk from your North Beach starting point.

The start of the San Clemente Beach Trail is at the south end of the North Beach Metrolink Station parking area ($1.50/hour). Take I-5 to the Avenida Pico exit. Turn right (if coming from the north) or left (if coming from the south) onto Avenida Pico and continue for 0.7 mile. Turn right onto El Camino Real followed by an immediate left into the station lot. Park as far south as possible and don’t forget to pay at the station. Dog-friendly on the trail, but not on the sand.

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