Trestles Beach is world-famous for great surfing, with a series of surf spots. Running from north to south are Cottons, Uppers, Middles, Lowers and Church. These beaches are extremely popular with surfers, and this section of coastline is one of the most unspoiled coastal areas in southern California.
Trestles is named for the railroad trestles that cross the San Mateo Creek. The area before the outlet are protected wetlands, and the “creek” usually only flows to the ocean in the winter season when it’s been raining. The sediment from the creek has helped create the unique conditions that make Trestles such a popular surf spot.
Begin at the intersection of Cristianitos and El Camino Real at the south end of San Clemente. There is a day use parking lot for the State Beach (currently $15) or if you get lucky, you can find an open spot on the street. Because this is where nearly all the surfers park, it usually fills up early.
You can follow the crowds along the paved path south of Cristianitos. The wide paved path is filled with bikes, people walking with surfboards and skaters on the weekend. But when the crowds die down, nature is never far away. Bobcats and deer can sometimes be spotted through the brush.
We headed down the path and after about a mile, we saw the famous train trestles that give the beach it’s name.
Cross the train tracks with caution. These railroad tracks have frequent traffic.
Across the tracks is the beach, and immediately before you is Upper Trestles or simply “Uppers.” From here, amble along the beach to the south, soaking in the sunshine, the surf and the coastline. It’s a zen-like experience that’s meant to be savored, not rushed. Stop and let your senses take everything in.
At about 2.25 miles you’ll see another seasonal creek that ends at a marshy wetland. Cross the train tracks and follow the paved road up the bluff. From the top of the bluff you’ll have a great view over all of the coastline. Eventually this road winds back to the paved trail you walked in on. Follow this to the right and back to the parking lot.