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San Mateo Campground by San Clemente California
San Mateo California camping and information of where we stayed. This is part of San Onofre State Beach which has 4 sections covering 3,000+ acres of land along the gorgeous San Diego Counties northern coast. California leases the area from the U.S. Marine Corps. to give people a chance at the outstanding beaches, cool topography, and a wetlands preserve for studies and hiking. All sections are open year-round: Trestles Beach, San Onofre Bluffs Campground, San Mateo Campground, and San Mateo Wetlands Natural Preserve with San Onofre Surf Beach.
We stayed at the San Mateo Campground in August and the temperature was perfect for camping. You can hike, bike and beach near the famous surfing spot called Trestles Beach. We walked to the beaches during the day though the beach sand is so grainy it is rough walking the sand further than say a mile. Don't leave kids unattended on these beaches even for a minute. The campground is totally uncrowded with each spot being fairly large with huge trees and foliage everywhere. It has 69 sites complete with electrical, sewage and water hook-ups, picnic tables, fire rings, dump station and a limit of 8 visitors per site.
You can do all sorts of things from the campground & beach like bicycling, sunbathing, bird watching, bunny chasing, swimming, kite flying, surfing, hiking, fishing and more. There are ranger talks in the summer at San Mateo's 200 seat amphitheater. Trestles Beach & San Mateo Wetlands Natural Preserve offers some of the finest surfing in all of California. There are 125 parking spots near intersection of Cristianitos Road and El Camino Real in South San Clemente. From here you can walk a 1/2 mile to Trestles Beach through the Wetlands Natural Preserve. There were a lot of birds in the preserve but it is day-use only: In fact from Trestles all the way south to the San Onofre Surf Beach, there is no overnight camping.
Jason's thoughts - San Mateo campground in San Clemente had the same expensive price and general rules as other state beach campgrounds but a much better experience than most. Huge campsites, hot showers for $.25 for 2.5 minutes, clean facilities, and ranger sessions make it fun. Be prepared to hear LOUD helicopter traffic and bombs exploding during the day from local military base. We took a dirt path right from the campground up a steep hill for 1.2 miles directly to the ocean. The beaches are really just for surfers and boogie boarders though because the entire first 50 feet of shore is solid milk jug size to 55 gallon drum size boulders and sharp rocks. You definitely need water shoes. Be prepared for crowded surfing in this popular area. In town there is great pier, typical shops, showers, and a much better beach for swimming along with the usual local color.
Kelly's thoughts - The San Mateo Campground is better than Silver Strand, by far, but summer is still full of locals partying till late. It is more remote looking giving you the feeling that you are really away from it al,; especially when there are warnings that you are in Cougar country. Interesting walk along the service road to Trestles. There are warnings from the locals that this beach is for local surfers only and no kooks allowed. Basically, this break is like 1st peak at Sebastian Inlet in Florida. Really, if you don't know how to surf don't get in the line up. Go to the San Clemente Pier where the attitudes are more mellow and the waves more abundant.
Travel Info - San Mateo Campground is one mile east of I-5 on Cristianitos Road, just south of the city of south San Clemente. I-5 exit Cristianitos on the border of USMC Camp Pendleton. Click for California beaches
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