Trestles Beach attracts surfers from all over the world to experience the perfect wave. Trestles is named after the railroad bridge over San Mateo Creek near the entrance to the beach. The 3½-mile-long beach consists of five separate surf breaks: Cotton, Uppers, Middles, Lowers, and Church
To get to Trestles, you will have to walk about a mile from the parking lot down a winding paved trail. The path and the beach are posted no dogs so you will have to leave your four-legged friend home on this trek.
Once you arrive at the beach you will enjoy some of the last undeveloped coastal areas in Southern California. San Mateo Creek Lagoon is directly on the beach and during winter rains sand and rocks are washed down the creek and out to sea helping to create the surf break.
Along the bluff overlooking the beach, there are several trails where you can take in wonderful views of the beach all the way to San Onofre.
If you are going for a hike then you will probably have the trail along the bluff to yourself with the occasional runner of mountain bike rider to say hello to. San Mateo Creek flows into a small freshwater lagoon at Trestles where you might spot a few birds.
You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy Trestles Beach but you do have to make the extra effort to visit this world famous beach.
Trestles Beach has a reputation as a locals only beach. Some surfers are very territorial but for the most part, everyone is very friendly. During the year, several surfing contests are held here and there is usually a shuttle bus to take you to the grandstands.
The main trail ends at the train trestle and from there you walk along the beach to your destination. Some of the best surfing spots are even further away.
Weekend Activities Guide
Surfers are quite innovative carrying their boards on bikes with racks or skateboards for a quick trip down to the beach. On a big surf day, the Trestles can attract a large crowd and surfers are going to have to share the waves with hundreds of others at the best breaks.
During a heavy rain storm the lagoon empties into the sea. Sediment flow from the creek is one of the reasons for the quality of waves at Trestles.
Portable bathrooms are available at the beach entrance near the trestle but anything else you need will have to be carried in.
The hike down the trail is defiantly worth the trip and you will be rewarded by one of the last unspoiled (except for the train track) stretches of accessible Southern California coast.
History of Trestles Beach
The original 1946 wooden Trestle bridge pictured above has been replaced with a seven million dollars concrete structure. The new bridge will save about $250,000 dollars a year in upkeep. The bridge is still a trestle, just not made of wood.
Trestles still is a secluded surfing spot, but a little bit of Southern California surfing history was lost with the replacement of the wooden bridge. One highlight of the new concrete bridge are the letters TRESTLES built into the new structure.
Trestles Trivia: Trestles was mentioned in the1963 “Surfin USA” song. The Marine Corps still uses Middles for practicing amphibious landings.
Trestles Beach is nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role the rise of Surf Culture. Up until 1971, the Marines patrolled Trestles Beach and chased off or even arrested surfers for trespassing.
The beach at Trestles is a bit sparse and difficult to access but yields a fantastic experience for those that are willing to traverse its rocky shoreline.
Trestles is located at the north end of San Diego county. Most people think it is an Orange County Beach.
Trestles Beach Directions – Parking
Exit 405 freeway at Christainitos Road at the south end of San Clemente
The trail to Trestles beach is located just off Christainitos Road across the freeway bridge from the parking areas. There is a (parking fee required) parking lot and some street free street parking The parking lot fills up fast so arrive early on weekends. Walk across the freeway bridge, turn left down the trail and then right to the beach.
There is no overnight camping at San Onofre Beach but there is a state campground along the bluff south of Trestles (old PCH) and an inland campground, San Mateo.
San Mateo Campground connects to Trestles Beach via a trail. San Onofre State Beach. San Clemente State Beach is adjacent to Trestles.