Doheny State Beach was California’s first state beach and has been voted the “best state campsite” beach in Orange County for 18 consecutive years. Set on 62 acres of scenic oceanfront, the beach is divided by San Juan Creek. To the north is a day-use area with many features, including a 5-acre landscaped picnic area, horseshoe pits, and beach volleyball courts. To the south is a campground and a second day-use area with fewer amenities. On any given day the waters may be busy with people surf fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and windsurfing. A concrete path extends onto the beach to an enticing spot under a palapa (an open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof). From here a beach mat extends another 20 feet on the sand. Farther north, two more paths with benches extend onto the beach.
When you tire of the beach, you can stroll the meandering paved paths along the beach; hike a section of the San Juan Creek levee trail, which travels 5 miles inland to San Juan Capistrano; or roll along Del Obispo Street to nearby Dana Point Harbor.
Visitor center: The small center, located next to the entry kiosk, has several aquariums, natural habitat displays, and a simulated tidepool. Behind it is a compact butterfly garden with accessible pathways. The center offers an active year-round educational program.
This 4-mile levee trail runs along the western bank of San Juan Creek to its confluence with Trabuco Creek in San Juan Capistrano. You’ll pass several parks, baseball fields, a playground, and horse stables. You may see sandpipers, marbled godwits, avocets, mallards, black-necked stilts, and pelicans. There are four underpasses that may be steep for those in manual wheelchairs. Starting on the beach at the main lifeguard tower, within a few feet you travel under Pacific Coast Highway, then past the wastewater treatment plant and tiny Del Obisbo Park. The next park you reach is Creekside, where you can enjoy a picnic or, if you have little ones in tow, check out the playground.
After crossing Trabuco Creek Bridge (it’s a bumpy ride across the uneven wood planks), you can go right to continue on the San Juan Creek Trail or take the left-hand fork to follow theTrabuco Creek Trail inland for a mile. Continuing on San Juan Creek Trail, you pass under Interstate 5. In about half a mile you can exit the trail to reach charming Old Town San Juan Capistrano, which has nice restaurants and shops. Continuing along the trail, when you reach Calle Arroyo, bear right and follow alongside the road past Cook Park. Cross La Novia Avenue, turn right, and within a hundred feet you will see where the trail turns inland. It continues for about another mile through wooded Cook Park.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Public day use and San Juan Creek Trail: Daily, 6 am-10 pm.
In restricted areas Must be on a leash no longer than six feet and under supervision at all times. Permitted in the campground and day-use area; not allowed on the beach. When camping, dogs must be contained in a vehicle or tent at night.
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