San Onofre State Beach is best known for the world-class surfing at Trestles. The surf spots along here begin at the north end with Cottons, then moving southward come Uppers, Middles, Lowers and Church. Lowers is consistently one of the best surf spots, and this place is full of both professional and amateur surfers. Even if you don’t surf, it’s fun to observe and people-watch.
Hiking at San Onofre State Beach
We have three hiking guides to San Onofre State Beach:
- The Panhe Nature Trail is a short, family-friendly trail with instructional stops that makes a great walk with kids. An excellent way to help them learn about nature and develop a love for the outdoors.
- Trestles Beach Walk takes you down a paved path to the world-renown Trestles surf beach.
- The Cristianitos Fault Loop is a little more rigorous, and includes a geology lesson, to boot!
Camping at San Onofre State Beach
There are two camping areas at San Onofre. The San Mateo Campground is about 1.5 miles inland. Nestled beside the seasonal San Mateo Creek among native trees, the campground is quiet and still close enough to the beach to walk.
The San Onofre Bluffs Campground puts you closer to the beach (about 1/4 mile) and even closer to Interstate 5! There are a few spaces where there is a berm separating you from the noise from the freeway, but don’t come here expecting quiet.
Parking at San Onofre
There are four areas for day use parking:
- There is a parking lot at the intersection of Cristianitos Road and El Camino Real at the south end of San Clemente. This area is where most of the surfers visiting Trestles park. TIP: If you can find a spot on the street, parking is free.
- The San Mateo Campground has day use parking.
- The Bluffs Campground has day use parking. You may park in any of the unnumbered spaces.
- The most interesting place, however, is the beach known as “Old Man’s”. This is the only place in the park — and possibly the only place south of Pismo Beach — where you can drive your car right onto the sand and park. It’s a throwback to the “old days.”
Note that all of these parking areas require either a $15 Day Use parking pass or you can display an annual California State Park pass.
You said: ‘surf spots along here begin at the north end with Cottons, then moving southward come Uppers, Middles, Lowers and Church.’ However, if you’re going to be guiding people around the area, you should know that the north-south order of breaks is: Cottons, Uppers, Lowers, Middles and then Church. One of the anomalies of this spot is the fact that middles doesn’t sit in the ‘middle’ of uppers and lowers. Just fyi.
Jeff Hester says
Thanks for straightening that out for me. Fortunately there is a sign on the trail down to Trestles that shows the proper order. Unfortunately, I didn’t read it very closely.
Is there any sand left on the beach at the end of trail 4 to put a beach towel and umbrella on and still be away from the water or is it basically just cliffs, dirt and then the water?