San Clemente City Beach is a 2-mile-long, narrow stretch of sand at the base of sea cliffs. A popular 2.3-mile trail runs along the base of the cliffs, as do railroad tracks that serve Amtrak and Metrolink trains connecting North Beach to Calafia State Beach, with stops along the way at the pier and T-Street. The 1,200-foot-long San Clemente Municipal Pier (fishing is allowed but not overhead casting) projects from the end of Avenida del Mar at the center of the beach. A few restaurants are at the base of the pier and on Avenida Victoria.
To reach the pier and beach, you have to cross railroad tracks with three-inch gaps between the pavement and the rails. Much of the beach is reached via stairs, but City Beach and three other locations—North Beach, Loma Linda Lane, and Calafia Beach—are accessible.
San Clemente Beach Trail
Trailhead: The pier, Calafia State Beach, Loma Linda Lane
The southern section has some stretches where soft sand may be problematic for manual wheelchair riders.
Obstacles: Railroad crossings may be challenging if you have a wheelchair with small front wheels.
The pier divides the trail almost in half; the northern section extends 1 mile to North Beach, has some nice landscaping, and appears to be more popular than the southern section, which travels 1.25 miles to Calafia State Beach and has more slopes. Both sections have lovely ocean views. This mostly level trail is shared by walkers, bicyclists, and joggers, and trains pass frequently on the adjacent railroad tracks, providing prime viewing for train enthusiasts.
Starting at North Beach, you can fuel up with an organic smoothie at the small snack bar or picnic at the accessible table that feels as if you're sitting on the beach. Traveling south, after about .75 miles you come to the next accessible route to the beach, at Loma Linda Lane. One ramp leads down to a tunnel that passes under the railroad tracks and puts you right on the beach, where the surf laps ashore about 10 feet away. This was the closest I've ever been to the ocean in my wheelchair. Another ramp leads to street parking.
After another .25 miles you reach a long wooden boardwalk; from this vantage point you have great views of beaches up and down the coast. You then cross the railroad tracks, which was not a problem for me in a motorized chair. Crossing gates warn you when a train is coming. After this the trail narrows and travels close to beach level for a short distance to the pier. There's a steep incline as you cross over the pathway leading to the pier and continue along the southern section of the trail. Here the trail widens and continues at beach level along the palm-lined ocean side of the tracks. You cross the tracks again after .25 miles, then continue along a short bluff past some residences to the trail's end at Calafia State Beach.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Available 8 am-sunset. Reserve in advance (949-361-8219) and pick up at the lifeguard/public safety building; the building is not accessible, so you will need a companion to get it.
There are a few accessible spaces on Avenida Victoria just south of the pier, and more are in the large public lot farther uphill on Avenida Del Mar; both require you to cross railroad tracks to reach the pier and trail. One space is at the foot of Linda Lane, on a slope greater than 2 percent, and several are at the North Beach lot off Avenida Estacion. More are at Calafia State Beach at the southernmost end of the beach trail.
There are no accessible restrooms along the trail; you have to travel on sand to reach them. The restroom on the pier and at the base of the pier have limited access; they are narrow and have a front approach to the toilet, you can't close the door behind you, and the toilet height is less than 17 inches. The best accessible restrooms are at Calafia Beach.
A few tables on concrete pads are on a knoll on Avenida Del Mar just west of the main parking lot. Tables just north of the pier are on sand that may be firm enough for some wheelchair riders. Nearby, at the start of the beach trail, is an accessible table with a grass-thatched covering. At North Beach, a table on a cement pad is at the back of the beach.
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