Orange Section 2

Huntington Beach Pier to Balboa Pier

Orange Section 2

Huntington Beach Pier to Balboa Pier

Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City, for years the unofficial capital of surfing, oozed a funky atmosphere and definite ambiance of laid back cool before cool was even cool. But all has changed as trends dictate that Huntington Beach tear out the old and replace it with big hotels, malls and attitude aimed at collecting tourists dollars. Yet the beach, the surfers and the sun worshippers remain. This day's walk, the ultimate southern California beach walk, is best done in shorts or swim suit and sandals. The route follows a wide sandy beach, except for a short detour, and takes you past one of the premier suntanning, strolling, strutting, swimming and surfing playgrounds in the country. Massive numbers of sun worshiping beach rats flock to these beaches in the summer to escape the inland heat and do their thing.

From the Huntington Beach Pier stroll down wide Huntington City Beach past the prone bodies, strutting bodies, frisbee throwers, volleyball and football games of the beach culture crowds. At one mile where you pass the end of Beach Blvd., City Beach ends and you continue along the same strand, from here south called Huntington State Beach. Alternately you can follow the paved multi-use trail that runs along the top of the beach for the next two miles. The level residential expanse inland has channels connecting with the Santa Ana River ahead.

At 3½ miles the beach ends at the river mouth. Turn inland to take a brief detour across the highway bridge over the Santa Ana River. Beyond the bridge CCT returns to the tideline of the beach, here called Santa Ana River County Beach. The River Trail starts here, ending in Yorba Linda 20 miles inland. Walk down coast along the beach, with the pricey houses of Newport Beach soon lining the top of the strand. As a break from the beach, you can instead walk Ocean Front promenade, which starts after the river crossing and runs the entire 5½mile length of the Newport Peninsula almost to the Newport Harbor mouth. If you walk the promenade, stay alert for bicyclists and inline skaters.

Whether by beach or Ocean Walk, you reach the Newport Beach Pier at 6⅛ miles. The town of Newport Beach surrounds Newport Harbor, the second largest recreational marina in the country with 10,000 berths, and also lays claim to the 6-mile-long sandspit fronting the ocean. This area retains some of the funky beach town flavor that's been lost in neighboring Huntington Beach. It's obvious beach lovers and surfers reign here. The Dory Fleet, unique to the California coast, sits next to Newport Pier. Fishermen have launched from the beach in open wooden boats continuously since 1891. They leave in the wee hours of the morning, returning later to sell fresh fish to tourists and locals alike from stalls right on the beach.

After a stroll on the pier or around the town, continue on the beach, which becomes very broad beyond the pier, passing yet more sun-fried bodies as Newport Beach gives way to Balboa Beach. Beyond 7¾ miles you pass the Balboa Pier parking lot, then reach the Balboa Pier at 8 miles, section's end. After this long beach walk, you may be ready for refreshment at one of the local watering holes.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS AND LOOPS: Walk the beach between the piers, then return on Ocean Front promenade for a 3¾-mile loop. From Balboa Pier walk the beach or the Promenade south to The Wedge at West Jetty View Park, a famous spot where at times the ocean swells form up against the jetty, creating giant 20-foot waves. Daredevil body surfers risk it all to ride waves that crash, or wedge, into the jagged jetty rocks before reaching the beach.

Distance: 8 miles (12.9 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers.

Surface: Beach.

Access point: Huntington Beach Pier.

How to get there: From the San Diego Freeway (I-405) take Beach Blvd. south for 5.8 miles to Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), then turn left and drive one mile to the pier at the end of Main Street.

Other access: Anywhere along the route.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: Negligible.


Further information: Huntington State Beach (714)536-1454, Huntington City Beach (714)536-5281. For Newport Beach Municipal Beach and Balboa Beach, call the Newport Beach Marine Department (949)644-3044.

Facilities: Restrooms, water, picnic tables and parking in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

Campgrounds: Bolsa Chica State Beach and Huntington City Beach (winter months only) offer camping for self-contained RVs.

Lodging: The area has many choices of accommodations. Colonial Inn Hostel (714)536-3315 is in Huntington Beach four blocks from the beach.

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