Trail of the Week: Beach Trail, San Clemente, California

Consider this more of a vacation-y, soak-it-all-in trail run that’s a reminder of all the beauty this world has to offer.

For those looking for a beach getaway, San Clemente, Calif., is a quiet gem in the middle of population-crazy Southern California. Its unique location gives it the atmosphere of a throwback beach town with great scenery, perfect weather and friendly people.

The city of a little more than 60,000 residents sits on the southern edge of Orange County, putting it about equidistant between Los Angeles and San Diego. Directly to the town’s south is Camp Pendleton, the expansive Marine Corps base that serves as a natural transition between Orange County and San Diego County.

San Clemente is known for being the summer home of former U.S. President Richard Nixon. But it’s also famous for its spectacular beaches, which is why this particular trail is so special.

The Beach Trail is about 2.3 miles long, so an out-and-back run can creep close to 5 miles. It is mostly flat, never strays far from the beach, and often parallels the train tracks that run literally steps from the ocean throughout San Clemente’s coastline.

There’s a good amount of parking on the north end of the trail, which can be accessed off the I-5 via the Avenida Pico exit. From there, run south on the mild dirt terrain, crossing over a couple of bridges and running in the shadows of million-dollar homes on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The trail can get a little crowded in the summer, in particular around the famous San Clemente Pier, which is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. But you can frequently spot dozens of surfers catching waves, stand-up paddleboarders and even dolphins from the trail. There’s a good chance an Amtrak or Metrolink train could roar by during your run. It’s a trail that you’ll finish with a smile on your face.

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