San Clemente’s Ridgeline Trail
Neil Wiley

Traveling halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego to San Clemente is a bit far from here for a casual walk, but if you are in Orange County, it’s worth seeing.

The Pier and North Beach are major surfing destinations enjoying year-round wave action and nice weather, with average temperatures of 70 degrees F. Even if you don’t surf, it’s a pleasant walk out on the pier or along the beach. (Even in December, the average temperature is 64 degrees.)

Traffic is terrible, perhaps even worse than ours. Highway 5 runs through San Clemente, but there is a parallel scenic route. If you are in Los Angeles or San Diego, you can use beachside train service via Amtrak or Metrolink.

Five major trail networks serve the San Clemente area. Our family walked the Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline trail. This trail has views of the coastline from Dana Point Headlands to the San Diego County beaches, along with broad vistas of inland hills, valleys, and mountains in three counties. Trail surface is mostly asphalt, with some natural soil portions. It is steep in a few places, but most grades are easy and long. There are six trail entrances, but only three have nearby parking. Total elevation gain is up to 1,545 feet.

The grasslands don’t reveal many trees, but this opens the view to the hills and ocean. You do see some houses, and a distant Camp Pendleton. I couldn’t see them, but Catalina and San Clemente islands can be seen on a clear day.

You can walk, bike, or ride your horse. Dogs are welcome on-leash.

To access one of the easiest ways to the trailhead from Interstate I-5, take the Ave. Presidio exit right, two blocks to Ave. Presidio (same street name) right and up the hill to Salvador. Turn right to the top of the hill. A trail entrance is on the left.