The San Clemente Beach Trail extends from the Metro Station parking lot at North Beach to Calafia State Beach in the south. It is basically a flat, fairly smooth crushed granite trail that’s shared by walkers, runners, bikers, dogs and strollers. Because it’s a flat out-and-back trail, you can make it as easy or challenging as you want. I like it because (for me) it’s nearby. I can walk to it from my home. There are restrooms and water located along the trail and food is available at the pier.
I’ll describe the trail beginning and ending from the north trailhead, but you can also start at the south trailhead at Calafia State Beach, although parking is more expensive there.
The first mile is wide and well-groomed crushed granite, with a raised boardwalk for a portion that provides great views of the beaches up and down the coast. You cross the railroad tracks at about mile .75. There are crossing gates to warn you when a train is coming. Between the railroad crossing and the pier, the trail narrows considerably. You’ll need to hike in single file to pass the oncoming foot traffic.
Once you reach the pier the trail widens and continues along the ocean side of the tracks, crossing again near mile 1.25. The turnaround point comes at the Calafia State Beach parking lot (about mile 2.25). There are restrooms here, and a snack bar that’s open during the daytime and summer.
Need more of a challenge? Of course you can hike it faster (or even run it), but there are a couple alternatives that will help you break a sweat. Along the trail there are six beach access points with stairs or hills you can race up and down for extra cardio points. Or when the tide permits, you can kick off your shoes an do the entire distance walking on the beach. The softer the sand, the harder the workout!
Trailhead parking is available at the Metrolink parking lot. This lot has pay stations that take cash or credit cards, and parking costs $0.25 for 15 minutes. Parking is free after 6pm.