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San Mateo Creek, San Mateo Campground & Trestles Beach (San Onofre State Beach)


San Mateo Campground is located along the San Mateo Creek & Christianitos Road at San Onofre State Beach.  The camp facilities are very nice, clean & include RV spots and hookups, tent sites, bathrooms & showers. 

A path (Panhe Trail) leads from San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach.
Click here to see photos of the trail.
For pictures of San Mateo Campground
click here.

For pictures and description of our camping & surf trip at San Mateo Campground, San Onofre State Beach click here.

To reserve a campsite at San Onofre State Beach or San Mateo Campground
click here.

See our Facebook page photo gallery for more recent photos:

Interested in California Native Plants, the flora you see along a hike?  Check out the new native plant gallery on CAOpenspace Facebook page, includes links to detailed plant info:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=33014&l=a10171291f&id=100405670015047

Click any picture on this page
for an enlarged view.

Panhe Trail
On the trail from San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach, 7/12/08.


Take a walk down to the beach and see the famous Trestles surf.  Camp in San Mateo Campground or San Onofre State Beach Campground, view wildlife, bike ride down old abandoned Highway 101 along San Onofre State Beach.  Nice views of rolling green hills, wildflowers, creek and Trestles Beach.  Plus several trails, a natural reserve and lagoon.  Click here to see pictures of San Mateo Creek Natural Preserve.  For information and pictures of the backcountry trails click here.  We have a number of pages on San Onofre, click here for a photo index.

San Mateo Creek, San Onofre State Beach - Trestles
The creek ends in a small lagoon right on the beach.

San Mateo Creek:  named second most threatened river in America
in 2007 (read the story

Above, nice video showing San Onofre State Beach and San Mateo Campground.

Familar with Save San Onofre or Save Trestles?  Scroll down this
page to the "Environmental Issues" section
for an explanation.

Low tide at Trestles Beach, 7/11/08.

Trestles 5-31-08-120.jpg
Trestles, 5/31/08 -- Click picture to enlarge

The area near San Mateo Campground and San Mateo Creek is a Native American Sacred Site, an ancient Acjachemen Nation village called Panhe which is about 8,000 thousand years old.

View of San Mateo Creek off the trail from San Mateo Campground to Trestles.

Trestles Beach, San Onofre State Beach 2-16-08
Trestles Beach (San Onofre State Beach), 2-16-08

San Onofre State Beach San Mateo Campground
San Mateo Campground on 9-13-08, view from the day use parking lot.

Warning:  Rattlesnakes are found in this area, use caution.  See our Safety Page.

San O Rattlesnake -- give him plenty of distance!
Photo taken by Phil Culshaw in San Mateo Campground. Click picture to enlarge.

Trestles Beach, San Onofre State Beach 2-16-08
View of Trestles from the bluffs, 2-16-08

Above:  view of Trestles from the bluffs.  I believe this is the Church section of Trestles.

Trestles Beach, San Onofre State Beach 2-16-08
View of Trestles from old Hwy 101, just before the bluffs

Looking across the lagoon from the beach side, train tracks in the background.

Above:  the lagoon at the mouth of San Mateo Creek at Trestles Beach, 
part of the natural reserve.

Trestles Beach, San Onofre State Beach 2-16-08
Trestles Beach/San Onofre State Beach, low tide at Uppers, 2-16-08

Above:  Cobbles on the beach, low tide at Trestles, Uppers.  The sediment and cobbles that move down San Mateo Creek to the ocean form the world famous surf breaks at Trestles.

Trestles Beach, crab hiding in cobbles, 2-16-08
Crab hiding in the seaweed & cobbles on Trestles Beach, 2-16-08

Above:  Crab in the cobbles...center of picture.  (Click picture to enlarge)

sea slug hiding in seaweed & cobble at Trestles
Sea slug hiding in seaweed & cobbles on Trestles Beach, 2-16-08

Above:  another creature in the cobbles...a sea slug (center of the picture, click to enlarge).

Path from San Mateo Campground to Trestles
Path from San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach--Panhe Trail, 2-16-08

Above:  Panhe Trail, the pathway leading to Trestles Beach from San Mateo Campground, just before the I5 undercrossing.  (I've never seen any wildlife using the freeway undercrossing.)


Above:  San Mateo Creek Natural Reserve just past the I5  undercrossing and old Highway 101.  At this point there is a lot of water in the creek year round.  Thick foliage surrounds about the last 1/2 mile of the creek before the ocean.  This is home to many species including endangered Steelhead Trout.


Above:  San Mateo Creek Natural Reserve, near old Hwy 101 bridge.

San Mateo Creek Natural Reserve Sign

Many thanks to all the organizations, concerned citizens, California Politicians who supported Saving San O, California Coastal Commissioners who voted against the toll road and the US Secretary of Commerce for upholding California Coastal Commission's decision not to build the toll road over San O.

The lagoon, mouth of San Mateo Creek, Trestles
The lagoon at the mouth of San Mateo Creek on Trestles Beach, 2-16-08

San Onofre, especially San Mateo Campground and San Mateo Creek areas, have been the subject of a very difficult fight to prevent destruction by building the 241 toll road extension over it. It appears for now "Save Trestles" aka "Save San Onofre" is a success.  However, historically the toll road always comes back for another try again...Visit our Take Action page for more info.

Wildflowers, Trestles, San Onofre Beach 2-16-08
California Fuschia

Wildflowers, Trestles, San Onofre Beach 2-16-08
California Fuschia

2-16-08, wildflowers starting to bloom along old Highway 101.

Wildflowers, Trestles, San Onofre Beach 2-16-08
Monkey Flower

In addition to wildlife, including 11 endangered species, a number of California native plants are found in San Onofre State Beach.



Wildflowers, Trestles, San Onofre Beach 2-16-08

Elderberry Growing in San Mateo Campground
San Mateo Campground 8-20-08 343.jpg
Picture taken 8-20-08, these bird attracting berry bushes grow throughout San Mateo Campground.

Another berry bush found in San Mateo Campground
San Mateo Camp 8-19-08 288.jpg
Birds love the fruit, these bushes provide shade and privacy between campsites.


View from the San Mateo Campground Ampitheater
San Mateo Campground, San Onofre CA, 1-26-08
Looking accross the campground toward the ocean, 1-26-08

More Pictures:

Trestles Beach photos:  www.caopenspace.org/trestles3.html

San Onofre wildlife: 

The trail from San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach (Panhe trail) spring photos, 
click here.

San Mateo Campground pictures, click here.

Pictures taken on our camping trip at San Mateo Campground 8/19/08,
click here.

Photos of San Onofre State Beach backtrails,
click here.

Photos of San Mateo Creek Natural Reserve, click here.

Pictures taken on 1/26/08 walking Panhe Trail from San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach, along with many pictures of San Mateo Creek, a sacred site and home to many endangered species: 

Above, another video from Save San Onofre, has some nice aerial shots of the San Onofre State Beach backcountry, San Mateo Creek watershed, San Mateo Campground, San Mateo Creek and Lagoon on Trestles Beach and dolphins off Trestles Beach.

Environmental Issues:

Threatened by the proposed 241 toll road extension which would be very destructive to Trestles Beach, especially San Mateo Campground, San Mateo Creek and Donna ONeill Land Conservancy. 

If built the 241 Toll Road South would cause closure of 60% of San Onofre State Beach.  Public access to Trestles would be cut off, the toll road would run through San Mateo Campground, literally people would be camping next to a 6 lane highway.  The nature trail to Trestles Beach (named "Panhe Trail" on the San O trail guide) would be replaced by or have a 6 lane highway above it. 

The toll road would run through the San Mateo Creekbed for 4 miles before connecting with I5.  "Catch basins" would be dug into the creekbed in numerous locations in attempt to keep polluted water runoff from reaching the ocean--these "catch basins" would also stop the rock and sediment from reaching the ocean.  This rock and sediment forms the offshore reef which forms the world famous Trestles surfbreaks.  Interrupting this natural process will eventually degrade the surf quality at Trestles.

The proposed toll road violates the California Coastal Act, several endangered species acts and at least two other laws designating San Onofre as a state park and to always remain either a state park or open space area even if Camp Pendleton is closed.  Also note San Mateo Campground was mitigation (compensation to the public) for the loss of the beach to build San Onofre nuclear power station.  Donna ONeil Land Conservancy was mitigation for the loss of land to the Talega development. 

On 2/6/08 the California Coastal Commission ruled the proposed 241 Toll Road extension was not consistent with the California Coastal Protection Act and denied the project.  The company seeking to build the toll road (TCA) is seeking an exception to the Coastal Protection Act and is currently in the appeal process to the Federal Goverment (US Secretary of Commerce NOAA , I believe they are partially basing their request on grounds the road provides "national security"?  Uhmmm, I think the boys at Camp Pendleton have this covered...  Like Ronald Regan pretty much said in his speech when he dedicated San Onofre as a state park, we will probably always have to work to protect it...

A public hearing was held September 22, 2008, much to TCA's disappointment as they did their best to pursuade Commerce Dept. not to allow a public hearing.  The purpose of the hearing was for the US Secretary of Commerce to hear public testimony and a couple of thousand people attended, an overwelming number of them against the toll road.  In addition around 10,000 letters were written to US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Guiterrez.  US Secretary of Commerce ruled not to allow the toll road and it is possible (maybe) San Onofre is saved now after a more than 10 year long battle. 

The Orange County Toll Roads are becoming more apparent as to what a wasted expense they really are.  Hardly worth sacrificing a state park for.  Here is a recent blog (Feb. '09) about the reality of these toll roads, how these toll roads are a failure.  Toll roads are hardly a solution for our traffic issues...

Part 1 of 6 part series:
Orange County's Failed Toll Road Experiment

Part 2 of 6 part series:
The Wreck of the 73 - The Looming Insolvency of the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road

Part 3 of 6 part series:
The Phantom Zombie Toll Road above (or below) the Santa Ana River 

Part 4 of 6 part series: 
241 South - Waterloo for the OC Power Structure

This is also one of my favorites:  http://www.abolishtca.com/

Also see my 
Take Action page for more information.

Related links & info:

Below is from Ronald Reagan's speech when San Onofre was dedicated as a state beach in 1971:

"...I firmly believe one of the greatest legacies we can leave to future generations is the heritage of our land, but unless we can preserve and protect the unspoiled areas which God has given us, we will have nothing to leave them.  This expanse of acreage, San Onofre Bluffs State Beach, now has its future guaranteed as an official state park.  However, its preservation still remains with those who use the park.  As stewards of this land, we must use it judiciously and with a great sense of responsibility.”  --California Governor Ronald Reagan, April 3, 1971.

Picture of the Surf Panel at Trestles (shows Cottons, Uppers, Lowers, Middles & Church sections at Trestles Beach):

Photos of San Clemente Open Space, views showing trail system in the foothills behind San Climente and adjacent to San Mateo Creek/Camp Pendleton area:

San Onofre State Beach facts & history (Wikipedia, it appears they do have it correct on San O):

The Arroyo Toad in San Mateo Creek:

More Photos (taken during the dry season) and information about San Onofre State Beach, including the Native American site of Panhe, the 241 Toll Road objection and some wildlife info :

In the news

OCblogspot, an online copy of the letter written by the Army Corps of Engineer's setting the record straight that they did not concur with TCA as TCA has claimed on the issue that the proposed toll road through our state park was the least environmentally damaging practical alternative determined by a collaboration of agencies.  More deceptive tactics by TCA once again.

LA Times Article "Army engineers criticize toll agency"

LA Times Article:  A Native American Appaulds the Tollway Decision
A great story about the significance of San Mateo Creek to the Acjachemen people:

Watch the archived taping of 2/6/08 California Coastal Commission Meeting on the 241 Toll Road project, see this link, I've also listed some viewing tips below:

Find February 6th 2008, "Complete" under the "Video" column.  This is the entire 11 hr taping, plays with Windows Media Player.  Since it is very long I've noted a few key places you might fast forward to below.

In the lower right corner of the player just below "Total Time 11:02:58" is a counter (hours:min:seconds).  Move to the times listed to watch the discussions described below:

At 09:23:11 Commissioner Wan addressing environmental damage and harm to endangered species.  She addresses TCA's public statements accusing the Commission of  "junk science", points out errors in TCAs environmental studies.  At 09:40:00 she begins gives a recap on all this.  Very good speech.

At approximately 10:09:00 This is good, Commissioner Blank grills TCA CEO, questions TCA on the "national security" reasons for this project, the claim it will cost $70 million to renew the lease, the $100 million for state parks...basically he does the math, it doesn't add up and he is asking TCA.

At 10:25:35 Commissioner Reilly, takes up where Commissioner Blank left off, talks about state park funding, pointing out funding to create state parks has never been a problem.

At 10:31:08 Commissioner Shallenberger, speaks about cultural historic value of Panhe and how Panhe cannot be mitigated.  She calls on state historic preservation officer who explains how the California surf movement was actually started in the 1930's at Trestles (before surf movement became popular in the 50's) . 

Why is neither Panhe or Trestles a California Cultural Historic site?  The state historic preservation officer said the state just needs some more information to complete this process.


From California State Parks website.  San Onofre Maps, directions, camping info:

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