San Onofre Bluffs

San Onofre Bluffs Trails


From the issue Secluded Sands

Bluffing It

Believe it or not, a seaside sanctuary with easy freeway access exists in Southern California. San Onofre Bluffs is its official name, but the 2-mile stretch of remote coast between Orange and San Diego counties is known locally as Trails for the six numbered hiking routes that lead to it. Winding a quarter-mile down 100-foot sandstone cliffs, the paths finally open up onto the strand and a wonderfully personal panorama of the Pacific. While Trails itself often has surfable waves, the crowds are drawn to the more popular Old Man’s and Trestles surf spots farther north. The beach is shielded by walls of rock from most sightlines atop the bluffs, where both parking and rudimentary camping are available. It is so secluded, in fact, that Trail 6 leads to a spot famous for full moon sightings during the day (a.k.a., nude sunbathing). Nudity is prohibited in all areas of San Onofre State Beach and rangers do issue citations, so be forewarned if you opt to bask in the buff!

Take the Basilone Rd. exit off the I-5 just south of San Clemente. Follow campground signs on the access road past the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station for three quarters of a mile to the gate house. (This is a good place to view one of California’s most famous longboard surfing locations.) Parking is $15 per day. Here's a map. Trails 1 and 6 are dog-friendly, on leash.

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