Huntington Beach Trail
This trail follows two of the most beautiful beaches in California and provides access to great seaside communities, piers, and main streets. In this guide, I will give you suggestions for where to start the trail, how to stay on the trail, (It gets confusing in one spot.) rental suggestions, website recommendations, extracurricular activities, nearby trails, what to eat, and more. Some of these suggestions are in this overview and others are in the POIs, tips, and other resources.
We’ll start our journey in Newport Beach. Finding the trail isn’t much of a chore. Just make a beeline toward the ocean, and you’ll cross the trail. However, finding parking is another story. There are a couple parking areas that currently charge $15 per day for parking. Metered parking is available on the main streets of town, but you want to use metered parking and short-term lots only if you plan to spend a couple hours on the trail… and I recommend more than a couple hours. Short-term parking can be expensive. Some people park in the various neighborhoods of Newport Beach, but you could drive around all day looking for an open spot, and you have to pay close attention to the signs, because each area is off-limits to parking at certain times on certain days, and the fines are hefty. You can also find parking at some of the State Beach lots, but these aren’t much cheaper and are more in the middle of the trail.
There are few bike/equipment rentals for this trail on the internet. But you’ll find scads of options when you get to the actual trail. These options increase during the summer months when new vendors come on board. I have provided a link to one bike rental option in the “other resources” section of this guide. Otherwise, look for at least one additional rental shop on Balboa Blvd. and many rental outfits near the beach and trail.
Don’t worry about packing lots of food. Restaurant and snack bar options abound in both Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. In Newport Beach, you’ll find numerous restaurants on Balboa Blvd. (the main drag) and in Huntington Beach, you will find many beachside eateries directly off the trail. Many of these are closed on weekdays during the off-season, but you will still find some of them open. Also, when you get to the pier at Huntington Beach, head east, across the PCH (local talk for the Pacific Coast Highway) and onto Main Street. You will love the food offerings just a couple blocks from the trail.
Before I take you any further, it’s important to note that there’s one tricky spot on the trail. If you follow the map included with this guide and take a look at the information in the Points of Interest (also with this guide) you shouldn’t have any problem. In general, you just follow the yellow striped line and stay close to the beach. But in the northern part of Newport Beach, you wander away from the beach and journey onto some side streets and a small but wide stretch of sidewalk along the PCH as it crosses the Santa Ana River.
And speaking of the Santa Ana River, you can access the Santa Ana River Trail from the Huntington Beach Trail on the north side of the bridge described above. There is a guide available for that trail. It is truly epic.
Whether you navigate this trail on a cruiser, a tandem, a recumbent, a Trikke, a Stepper, an Elliptigo, a Terratrike, inline skates, a wheelchair, a road bike, mountain bike, or your good ol’ hooves, take time to enjoy the beaches, the palm trees, the ocean, the flowers, the food, the shopping, and the people watching.
Tips: – Try to get here on a weekday, if possible.
– Even if you own a bike, you might want to try renting a local cruiser. They’re inexpensive, easy to ride, and much simpler than packing your own bike all the way here.
– If this trail is too crowded or not enough of a workout for you, then consider heading up the Santa Ana River Trail (Guide available) located just north of Newport Beach as you cross the bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.
– Only tourists (like me) call it the Pacific Coast Highway. Locals call it “the PCH.”
– If you are traveling here from other parts of the U.S./world, you may want to bring plenty of cash. Credit cards and checks are not accepted in some businesses including many of the bike rental shops.
– Don’t assume that it will always be warm because you’re in southern California. The breezes off the Pacific can be downright chilly sometimes, so carry an extra long-sleeved shirt or jacket. By the way, that same Pacific breeze can feel pretty darned nice on a hot summer afternoon.