The San Mateo campground is next to Camp Pendleton Marine base in San Clemente, California, and is part of San Onofre State Beach. It’s an attractive campground with lots of room between sites. There is a scenic 1.5 mile nature trail that connects the campground to Trestles Beach. A creek, San Mateo Creek, is just east of the campground and goes all the way to the ocean. It has created a wetland habitat for lots of critters, some of which are rare and/or endangered.
We’ve been to this campground 3 times and enjoy it very much. Every campsite has a picnic table and fire pit. There are hookup sites (water and electric) and non-hookup sites. There’s a dump station for that nasty black water tank. If you don’t want your black water/grey water tanks to fill up, there are flush toilets and coin operated showers with hot water. They’ve always been clean when we visited, which is saying a lot for a campground near a beach. This campground fills up fast in the summer months, so make reservations well in advance.
If you like historical facts about areas, here are some interesting ones I copied from the California Department of Parks and Recreation Website for San Onofre State Beach:
Native America History: Panhe
San Onofre State Beach is the site of an ancient sacred California Indian village called “Panhe.” It was a large village and burial site of the “Acjachemen” people over 8,000 years ago. Many Acjachemen people trace their lineage back to Panhe. The site continues to be a sacred, ceremonial and cultural location for Acjachemen Indians. It was the site of the first baptism in California, and in 1769 saw the first close contact between Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries and the Acjachemen Indians.
We did take some campsite pictures, though not many. We didn’t take very good notes so we can’t match pictures with campsite numbers, but you can’t go wrong with any campsite as far as we could tell. Here are some campsite pictures …
Unless your dog is a service dog, it’s not allowed on the beach. There aren’t any restrictions as far as we know about taking dogs on hiking trails, but dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
San Onofre State Beach is one of the top five most visited state parks in California and draws people with a wide range of interests, but mostly it is a major magnet for surfers. A lot of people also come here to swim, fish, lay on the sand and bake, look for birds, hike and so on. We like to hike and the wife and daughter like to birdwatch. That’s one of the main duties for our Canon imaged stabilized binoculars, bird watch. They watch their kind of birds and when we are on the beach, I watch my kind of birds.
The nature trail to Trestles Beach is very nice. It’s about 1.5 miles long and features great views and lots of flowers. You can’t drive to this beach, so if you want to go to it, you walk. There is one big hill that’s not bad when going to the beach (downhill) but will get your blood pumping during the return. We call it “fatty kill hill” (no offense intended to anyone). If you’re 8 years old it’s no big deal but I’m not 8 years old. I don’t know this for a fact and I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’ll guess the beach got it’s name from the train trestles you walk under to get to the beach. Here are a few (very few) pictures we took on our nature trail hike.
The beach is nice. Once and a while, you can see whales, dolphins and sea lions. There is about 3.5 miles of beach to explore. Some parts are sandy to the water and some parts are very rocky to the water. You’ll see a lot of surfers for sure. I’ve read the waves here are some of the best. Looking south along the beach, one can see the now defunct San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Since none of the surfers I saw had three arms, I guess the water is safe. We saw a sea lion here during one visit, but it was high up on the beach and it didn’t look very good. It had been there a while if you know what I mean. A giant whale beached itself and died here recently. It took a fews days to dispose of it. Maybe the water isn’t so safe.
Following, are some Trestles Beach pictures:
There are 3 other beach areas in San Onofre State Beach that I believe you can drive to if you are not willing to hike to Trestles Beach. If you are camping anywhere in the park, your camping receipt gets you free entrance to the beaches. At least it has each time we’ve visited. Here are the other beach areas:
- Church – for sunbathing and bird watching.
- Surf Beach – predominantly for surfing.
- Trails – the most southern surf spot in San Onofre State Beach.
We are going back to San Mateo campground in August, 2016. If you are there, look for our Airstream (it’ll have blue stripped awnings all around and a big black Ram diesel parked near it) and say hello. Just don’t get too close to the dogs. We rescued them and they have some issues with strangers.