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San Onofre State Beach: Bluffs Beach Trail

EASY 9 reviews
#2 of 3 trails in

San Onofre State Beach: Bluffs Beach Trail is a 3.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

3.1 miles 216 feet Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly



nature trips


trail running




wild flowers

The Cristianitos Fault is a major earthquake fault line located less than one mile from the San Onofre nuclear power plant. This hike takes you on a 3 mile loop through San Onofre State Beach to the site of the fault line. Along the way, you'll see the Monterey Formation, which holds most of the oil and gas deposits known in the LA basin and off the coast, as well as the abrupt end of the San Mateo formation at the fault line.

3 months ago

I actually hike/walked from the north end of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. There is a Vernal Pool Restoration Area there. The loop is .66 miles; however, I did a lot of side trails, circles and figure 8's to make this a 5.16 mile hike in 1hr 28min. All flat, very easy, and great views!

6 months ago

Went to Bluffs Beach last year for the first time. Can't remember if I too trail 4 or 6 down but I loved it! Lots of rocks on the beach entering the water. Take swimming shoes!

cross country skiing
1 year ago

2 years ago

Easy hike with nice views. Very short.

3 years ago

According to their map Bluffs Beach is the one located at the Southwest from the Nuclear Plant (now shut down). The one on the Northwest from the Nuclear Plant is actually the Surf Beach. Between the two! Bluffs Beach is environmentally more scenic. The Photographic opportunities are abound. There are considerably less Surfers at Bluffs Beach. The views are awesome at Bluffs Beach because the Canyons are extremely tall and ten times larger. Once you pay the parking fee which cost $15, it's good for both places. You're required to tape the pass on your windshield. At Bluffs Beach there are six defined trails. The map is totally inaccurate, doesn't resemble what the trail what so ever. They drew only straight dashed lines. You'll crack up when you actually hike down the trail because it curves everywhere. When you're at the top of the Canyon the Trails are clearly labeled with a signage on a 2"x2" metal channel. Once you're at the beach it's difficult to find the trail to go back up because there's no markers or any signage. The association they've done to give you an idea which trail is near, The lifeguard towers are numbered corresponding to the trail adjacent. You'll want to get here early to pickup a parking pass. Check-In Booth truly controls the speed of entrance to the beach. Everybody has to wait until you see one worker standing outside the Check-In booth signal you with the wave of his hand to let you know your next. First thing you'll notice about Surfers waiting in line inside their cars. They're very patient crowd. In fact many of them started taking a nap inside their car. To give you an idea how slow the line was going. This beach provide benches, trashcans, restrooms and outdoor showers (for surfers). There's a campground for those who are staying longer. Plenty of parking stalls here which are paved. At the Surf Beach all the parking area will be on dirt ground.

3 years ago

According to their map, San Onofre State Beach has two Beaches. And how you can tell which one you're on is by the side of Nuclear Plant you're at. The one on the Northwest of the Nuclear Plant is known as Surf Beach. The other one on the Southeast is Bluffs Beach. The views are magnificent 360 degrees for both Beaches, specially at Bluffs Beach. What's interesting the shore at Bluffs Beach is comprised mostly of rocks between 1/8" to 8" diameter. While at the Surf Beach is just sand. Don't walk without slippers or shoes at Bluffs Beach, you'll regret it. What's interesting are the people at both places the beach at NW are going to be 99.5% dedicated Surfers. At the SW (Bluffs Beach) 25% Surfers, 50% cyclist (Tour de France style), remaining 25% are those camping on RV or tents. It's a friendly place because they provide restrooms, benches, picnic tables, fire pits, trashcans, and outdoor showers for Surfers and Swimmers. There's admission to enter, it cost $15 (expensive), it should be $5, it's only a beach!

3 years ago

Pristine beach and interesting bluffs deserve 5 stars but the nuclear power plant is too massive to ignore.

nature trips
4 years ago

Great Beach I take trail #6 and make a left at the beach and get some sun.
I see people here complaining about the hike. The 5.4 mile loop in description is to make a loop from trail 6 to the beach and up trail 1 and back to your car. I think thats what this loop is.....

5 years ago

Beautiful very beautiful! But not much of a hike, more like an access way to the beach. Found a nice little nook in the cliffs on the beach laid out for hours and not one soul passed us. Very secluded.