Hike to Trestles

Trestles lagoon


From the issue Off the Rails

Tracks to Trestles

Surfers flock from all over the world to catch waves at Lower Trestles at San Onofre State Beach. But to watch them in action you’ll have to go on a little adventure of your own. It’s a one-mile hike or bike-in to reach the 3.5-mile-long beach, named for the railroad bridge running the length of the shore. The decaying wooden bridge originally built in 1946 is undergoing a conversion to concrete, so get there soon to see the old-school version. Start the hike or bike ride at the unmarked dirt trail at Cristianitos Road, regularly identified by a gaggle of parked vehicles. The trail descends toward the graffiti-covered freeway overpass. Keep winding through willow, sycamore, and cottonwood trees as the Trestles bridge comes into sight. Pass under the tracks (careful: freight and commuter trains still use this railway) and you’re at the beach. To the south, the Santa Ana Mountains are in clear view. Stroll around the lagoon, keeping an eye out for endangered southern steel trout and the elusive golden beaver—once thought to be extinct from the area. And, of course, enjoy the main attraction.

BONUS: Want to camp? The San Mateo Campground at San Onofre State Beach has a trail connecting to Trestles. Reservations are through Reserve America.

Take I-5 to the Cristianitos Rd. exit, turn left, and find street parking (although it goes fast). Parking is also available at the Trestles parking lot ($15) on El Camino Real near Carl’s Jr. The entrance is unmarked at the intersection of Cristianitos and El Camino (there is a wide break in the fence and a dirt path). Follow the main path to the right and head downhill toward the freeway overpass. Continue onto a paved path that continues .5-mile. Cross the paved service road and continue toward the railroad trestle. Cross underneath the bridge at the marked pedestrian pathway. The railway is under construction until 2012; be aware of signs and workers. No dogs.

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