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Bolsa Chica SB

Huntington Beach Trail

From Huntington State Beach to Bolsa Chica State Beach is 6 miles round trip; to Bolsa Chica north boundary is 7.5 miles one way

Huntington and Bolsa Chica are the Bonneville Salt Flats of beaches: Wide. Long. With more fire pits than Fiji. The state beaches (with Huntington City Beach sandwiched in the middle) extend some 9 miles along northern Orange County’s coast, from the Santa Ana River to just-short of the San Gabriel River.

In many ways, Huntington/Bolsa Chica has always been a kind of blue-collar beach. Until Bolsa Chica beach came under state control in 1961, nobody did much to keep the beach clean—hence its once-popular name of Tin Can Beach. Despite a couple of boutiqued blocks where Main Street meets the shore, and some upscale subdivisions more in keeping with O.C. inland ’burbs, Huntington Beach still has rough edges, including bad-boy surfers and shoulder-to-shoulder oil wells.

Before Huntington Beach received its present name, the long shoreline was a popular camping spot. Millions of small clams were washed up on its sands and old timers called it Shell Beach. In 1901, a town was laid out with the name of Pacific City, in hopes it would rival Atlantic City. In 1902, Henry E. Huntington, owner of the Pacific Electric Railroad, bought a controlling interest and renamed the city after himself.

This hike takes you north along wide sandy Huntington State Beach to Bolsa Chica State Beach and adjacent Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. You can also make this a one-way jaunt by taking advantage of OCTD Bus #1 which makes several stops along Pacific Coast Highway.

This is an ideal beach trail to bike and hike. A bike path extends the length of Bolsa Chica Beach to the Santa Ana River south of Huntington Beach. You can leave your bike at Bolsa Chica State Beach and hike up to it from Huntington Beach.

Directions to trailhead: From the San Diego Freeway (405) in Huntington Beach, exit on Beach Boulevard and travel 5.5 miles south to the boulevard’s end at Huntington State Beach.

The hike:
Walk north along the northernmost mile of the three mile-long sandy state beach.The state beach blends into Huntington City Beach just before the pier. The beach is best known as the site of international surfing competition. Eighteen-hundred foot Huntington Pier was built in 1914.

Beyond the pier is Bolsa Chica State Beach, The southern end has steep cliffs rising between Pacific Coast Highway and the beach. Huntington Beach Mesa or “The Cliffs” is popular with surfers and oil well drillers.

The northern three miles of the beach packs in all the facilities: showers, food concessions, picnic areas and more.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at