Park Series: San Clemente Coastal Trail

By Aleta Walther
It is estimated that 300,000 people annually traverse San Clemente’s Coastal Trail, some in search of scenic serenity and relaxation, others in pursuit of heart-thumping, blood pumping workouts. On any given spring, summer or fall day, hundreds of residents and visitors walk, run, jog, cycle and play along the 2.3-mile trail. Others use it to access the beach to surf, swim, sunbathe or just watch the pelicans and seagulls gliding and diving along the water’s edge.
“We originally designed the Coastal Trail to provide a safe way for beach goers to travel north and south along the (Orange County Transportation Authority) rail corridor with strategically located safe places for people to cross the tracks to the beach,” said San Clemente resident John Dorey who was instrumental in the trail’s development. “We did not expect that the community would overwhelmingly embrace it as an exercise path for better health and as a major social lodestone for local families and friends to walk and chat while enjoying our pristine ocean and spectacular sunsets.”
The trail travels almost the entire expanse of San Clemente’s coastline, from North Beach to Calafia Beach, with entry points along the way, including access at the Pier Bowl and T-Street. Steep coastal cliffs cast morning shadows over much of the meandering trail that parallels the railroad tracks. Surfers, sail boats, seabirds and dolphins entertain those who stop long enough to relish the beauty of our coastal waters. Creosote bush, blue-gray desert agave, chalk lettuce, aloe, blazing yellow brittle brush, purple sea lavender, sunset pink lantana and a variety of ice plants hug the trail while California fan palms stand sentry between the lifeguard station at the pier and T-Street Beach.
San Clemente’s trail is part of the Rails-to-Trails nationwide network of trails consisting of former rail lines (in the case of San Clemente, active rail lines) and connecting corridors. It is also an integral stretch of the ever-expanding California Coastal Trail, which is a network of public trails that will eventually travel along California’s 1200-mile coastline.
This is the ninth in a weekly series highlighting San Clemente’s parks. The article is provided by the city through its Beaches, Parks and Recreation Department.

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