Fishing license required to take fish; check fishing zones and updates rules and regulations at wildlife.ca.gov
Swim only when lifeguards are on duty, and check on ocean conditions
Lifeguards are on duty during the weekends
Surfing, Sunbathing, Birdwatching, Hiking
Hiking Trails, Restrooms
Free to visit
Free and paid parking lots nearby
Bolsa Chica State Beach
El Matador Beach
Surfers have been flocking to the surfers' paradise of Trestles Beach for many years. Just a few miles away from San Clemente, California, and an hour from San Diego county, Trestles is known for large swells, consistent waves, and incredible surfing opportunities. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Trestles, including why it's so special, its history, and answers to common questions.
Trestles Beach is a sandy beach that's found within San Onofre State Beach Park with access at the end of a mile-long trail. If you're up for the short hike with your surfboard in hand, it's well worth it! Trestles rarely disappoints with its collection of surfing spots, great waves, and regular competitions.
What Makes Trestles Beach Special?
Trestles Beach remains one of the most pristine beaches in Southern California. While it's only a mile away from the nearest parking lot, the only sign of civilization once you're on the beach is the train track that gave Trestles its iconic name. While it's off the beaten path, many surfers love to gather on the beach for its iconic surf breaks.
Trestles consists of 3 main parts: Upper Trestles, Middle Trestles, and Lower Trestles. You can find surf breaks for beginners to experts, as well as a lagoon and wetlands reserve nearby.
Lowers is the ‘Crown Jewel’ of California surfing and has held national and international surfing competitions. Uppers also has significant breaks most days. If you're a beginner, head to Middles for consistent, minor breaks.
When you hang out at Trestles, you'll enjoy a local vibe and unique graffiti along the railroad track.
How to Get to Trestles Beach
Trestles is located at 3929 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA. As mentioned, there is a long walk to the beach from parking. The nearest parking area for the trail is near Carl’s Jr., the closest restaurant. There are several paid and free options for parking.
Tip: Parking runs out quickly on the weekends, so get there early if you can.
Once you’ve parked, you'll grab your beach gear and cross the freeway to enter the trail. It's pretty easy to find your way with well-marked signage and graffiti.
You'll take the trail for about a mile until you're on the beach. At the end, you'll see Trestles Bridge which runs over San Mateo Creek. As we mentioned, there are several sections (uppers, lowers, middles) once you arrive at the beach. All sections are reachable at the end of the trail.
Another great spot with a favorable swell window is Church, where you can also go birding. Birds nest under the tracks and live near the ocean.
What to Do at Trestles Beach
While Trestles is obviously an awesome surf spot, there are also other activities to enjoy within San Onofre State Park.
- Water adventures: swimming, kayaking, fishing, and snorkeling
- Nature activities: birdwatching, camping, biking, and hiking
- San Onofre Bluffs: camp or hang out on the beach with beautiful sandstone bluffs
Learn more about San Onofre National Park here.
History of Trestles Beach
So when did Trestle's popularity begin? Lorin Harrison discovered Trestles Beach in 1933, and it's been a popular spot ever since. The US marine base nearby even banned surfing on the beach at one point.
While this ban didn't last, there was a time when surfers were arrested for catching waves in this military-controlled zone. However, that didn’t keep them away and they continued to illegally go surfing in the area through the 50s and 60s.
In 1971, San Onofre State Beach was formed and began welcoming the public. It's been an iconic surf break ever since.