Trestles Beach is a collection of surfing spots on San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County, California. Comprised from north to south of Cottons, Upper Trestles, Lower Trestles, Middle Trestles, and The Church, Lower Trestles, or “Lowers,” is its most famous surfing destination. It is named for nearby Trestles Bridge, a trestle built in 1941 and part of the second busiest railway in the United States. It should be noted that, since renovations were completed in 2012, Trestles Bridge is now a viaduct.
An iconic break and the epicenter of surfing in North America, Lower Trestles is the most consistent wave in San Diego County. It offers exceptional wave selection in part because of the wet 1982 and 1983 El Niño years, when heavy rains and an unusually voluminous flow from the San Mateo Creek deposited sediment and rearranged the cobblestone seafloor, changing the composition of the waves by adding a left where it didn’t previously exist. Thanks to its orientation, it can take swell energy from a large swell window from the southeast to the northwest. Because the southern ocean is the largest and most active, surfing is best at Lower Trestles and all of Trestles Beach during the summer and fall south swell season. The waves here are not the biggest or most dramatic, but they are long, smooth, and low-risk, offering incomparable opportunities to improvise with turns, maneuvers, and air. Surfers are encouraged to use a longer, drawn out board that’s conservative on the rocker to mimic the slope of the wave.
Part of the allure of Trestles Beach is its setting. Set away from I-5 to the east, it offers a nature refuge with greater isolation. Near Trestles Wetlands Natural Preserve, Trestles Beach boasts a population of California brown pelicans, removed from the endangered species list in 2009, and the beach evening primrose, a yellow flower that opens in the morning and turns a reddish hue in the evening. In times of lower activity, there have been reports of bobcats in the area.
Because of its stature in the surfing community, Trestles Beach is highly trafficked. Access to the beach is restricted to an asphalt walking path, and visitors can park along the street once off the Cristianitos Road off-ramp or at the pay-to-park lot near the intersection of Cristianitos Road and South El Camino Real. Campers will find campsites at nearby San Mateo Campground.