Inside Huntington State Beach


Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, USA. During the warm summer months, the broad, sandy beaches are crowded with surfers and sun worshipers. Most hikers–myself included–don’t think of the heading to the beach for  a trail but Huntington State Beach is a great place to enjoy the smell of the ocean and beautiful views. Being flat, it’s a great walk for anyone new to hiking and walking (like that visiting relative). And it’s dog friendly, as long as Fido is on a leash. All in all, it makes for a nice excursion to the beach.

Trail Details
Distance: 4.1 miles
Time: 1-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: 0 ft
Dogs: Yes
When to go: Year round
Hours: 6am-10pm daily
Parking: $15
There is a lot of parking here, but expect crowds in the summer. I walked this trail in November and we virtually had the beach to ourselves. As with all the State Parks, there is a $15 day use fee for parking, or you can use an annual California State Park pass. We started near the Magnolia Street entrance and began walking north.

The beach is huge! It’s a broad beach. There’s good fishing and surfing conditions on the south-facing beach. There are concessions, ample bathrooms, showers, fire pits, volley ball courts and a few picnic areas with shady covers.

When I was training for the San Diego Rock-and-Roll Marathon with Team in Training, we did some training runs on this trail. You are likely to share the path with a variety of walkers, runners, bikers and skaters. Remember the rules of the road and stay to the right side.

We walked to the north end of Huntington State Beach, then turned around and headed all the way to the south end. Most of the beach looks the same. Fire pits, volleyball courts and restrooms appear at regular intervals.

But at the south end, you cross a small creek outlet and reach the protected nesting ground of the Least Tern.

Least Tern Preserve

I’m not a big bird guy. I’m not even a little bird guy, but I know there are plenty of people who are. At the south end of Huntington SB is a preserve for the Least Tern. This diminutive bird nests on a little “island” next to the outlet of the Santa Ana river. It’s fenced off to protect the bird. The Least Tern head south to Mexico during the winter, and returns in the spring.

SoCal Hiker Huntington State Beach Tips

  • If you plan to visit more than eight times a year (including any other California state beaches or parks)  you’ll save money buying an annual day use parking pass for $125.
  • Make a note of where you parked. The concessions and other landmarks all look the same, so don’t rely on that alone to help you find your car again!
  • Want to keep going? This trail continues beyond the Huntington State Beach, extending north to Long Beach and south to Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.
  • This also makes a great place to run, ride or skate. Hiking shoes are definitely overkill for this trail. I’ve brought my bike down here on a Sunday for a nice easy ride up to Sunset Beach, down to Newport and back.
  • Got a dog? Definitely take the trip to the north end of Huntington Beach and Dog Beach, where the dogs can run off leash and play in the surf.

Trail Map

Photo Gallery

Essential Huntington State Beach Resources


  1. says

    You definitely picked the right time of year for this walk. The biggest secret about this stretch of beach is that the nicest time to visit is Oct-Dec. The water is cold, but the sun and sand still tends to be warm and the crowds are low.

    Another nice thing about Huntington Beach SB is that if the 4 miles isn’t enough for you, you can link it up with a walk to the pier or a turn through Talbert Nature Preserve for some extra miles.

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