Saturday, January 23, 2010

San Clemente Ridgeline Trail

The San Clemente Ridgeline Trail is a fun Orange County hike in San Clemente, California. This is a hike that Ashley had the opportunity to do with some of her friends earlier in 2009.  The Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail, in San Clemente, offers great views of San Clemente as well as the surrounding area. The San Clemente Ridgeline Trail in San Clemente is more of an urban hike, so for those looking to get deep into the wilderness, this trail is probably not for you, however it should be a great trail for people just looking to get away for little hike and it offers some great views.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail from the I-5 going south: Take the Avenida Pico Exit and make a left (going away from the beach), go two blocks to Avenida Presidio and make a right and go up the hill, turn left onto Avenida Salvador and head to the top of the hill; the trail entrance is on the left (it is hard to see, but the trailhead sign is marked 721), park on the street. If you start going downhill and see a great ocean view, you’ve gone too far. A Google map can be found below, as well as a map of the trail can be found Here. There are several trailhead entrances for the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail and there will be parking information present on the Google map below (alternate entrances are marked in yellow). Parking is free.

Description of Hike: The Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail is a three and a half mile trail, (dogs are allowed so long as they are on a leash). It is an out and back hike. The Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail offers wide angle views of the coastline from the Dana Point Headlands to the San Diego County beaches, along with broad vistas of inland hills, and the valleys and mountains of the Cleveland National Forest and Santa Ana Mountains. The trail surface on this Orange County hiking trail is mostly asphalt, with some natural soil portions; it has several steep grades, but the majority is easy, long grades. There are six trail entrances: three are walk-in only and three entrances have parking nearby (indicated by the P on the Google Map). You can make your hike as long or as short as you would like when on the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail in San Clemente, California.

Further Thoughts: The trailhead for this hiking trail in Orange County is in a neighborhood and at times is sandwiched between houses in San Clemente. However, at other times, you get great views of the wilderness areas surrounding San Clemente. The actual trail begins at the water tower as you proceed up the hill from the neighborhood street. The only other oddity of the trail is midway through, you hit a street and you have to cross the street to pick up the trail on the other side. You will see trail signs and map guiding you on where the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail goes.

This hike was a great coastal hike in Orange County with incredible coastline views of Dana Point, San Clemente, San Onofre, and south Laguna Beach. As you continue on the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail, inland, you are surrounded by the wilderness areas of San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Camp Pendleton is visible as well and when we hiked on this trail we saw plumes of smoke from the artillery shooting at their practice facility. You could hear the loud boom and feel the vibration from the concussion of the shells.

The San Clemente Ridgeline Trail is mostly paved with mature trees lining the hiking path. It does have a couple of "heart rate" hills, but it is not strenuous by any means. Mountain lions are present in this area with the trail located more inland. You might also be able to see other wildlife while out on this trail, so bring your camera. It is a very popular trail for hikers in the area.

There are benches, look out points, and nice views to stop and rest. There were also lots of dogs on the San Clemente Ridgeline Trail, as well as mountain bikers and hikers.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 250 ft. (Easy), Distance: 3.5 Miles One Way (Easy - Moderate). Note: You can make your hike as long or as short as you would like.

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours.


  1. Nice pictures, hoping to check it out tomorrow.

  2. This was a great hike for us today. It's nice to have some paved options with so many of the state and regional parks closed right now due to the heavy rains we had.


Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.