Walking The Panhe Nature Trail

Panhe Nature Trail connects the San Mateo Campground to Trestles Beach on the Northeastern San Onofre State Beach border. Here you may witness firsthand what ‘Old California ‘ used to be.

Would you like to join me for a tour?

Let’s go.

Discovering The Panhe Nature Trail

San Mateo Campground Sign Panhe Nature Trail

Panhe was one of the largest villages of the Acjachemen (Ah-HAWSH-eh-men) native people who were the original inhabitants of Southern California (12,000BC-1542 AD).

In 1769, the first close contact between the Acjachemen,  Spanish explorers, and the Catholic Missionaries occurred at this spot. As well as the site for the very first baptism in California! The site is marked by a cross, which still stands today.

How To Get There

Panhe Nature Trail Map

First, there are two possible starting locations for the Panhe Nature Trail: the San Mateo Campground or the Trestles parking lot next to Carl’s Jr.

It is essential to mention that there is a fee to park in both places.

You may pay per hour in the parking lot near Carl’s Jr, while the campground parking lot costs 15 dollars all day. I suggest looking for parking off the street but seeing that Trestles Beach is so popular with the surfers, parking is limited.

Today, we decided to start from the Trestles Beach parking lot. Once parked,  start walking south, cross the street to see a fence, and follow the path east.

Panhe Nature Trail Photo Tour

Beginning Panhe Nature Trail
Starting point across from the Trestle’s Parking Lot.

Looking to the right, you can determine where the Trestles Parking lot is located; again, this starting point is just across the street.

Eucalyptus Tree Panhe Nature Trail
Non-native species- Eucalyptus Tree

While this is an impressive tree, it wreaks havoc on the native species. For example, the Eucalyptus Tree secretes a sticky gum, inhibiting growth from other species under and around the tree.

Panhe Nature Trail
Cristianitos Canyon
Panhe Nature Trail 10
Following the Panhe Nature Trail East

Panhe Nature Trail Cristianitos Valley

An excellent example of Southern California’s genuinely unique plant ecosystem is Coastal Sage Scrub.

Found only in coastal California and Northwestern Baja California, low-growing, drought-resistant deciduous shrubs characterize the community. Did I mention that it smells delightful as well?

California Buckwheat
California Buckwheat

The Acjachmen would use the California Buckwheat plant to treat headaches, upset stomachs, diarrhea, and clean wounds.

Panhe Nature Trail coastal sage scrub

MIdway Panhe Nature Trail

Lemonade Berry Bush Panhe Nature Trail
Lemonade Berry Bush
Deerweed California Broom Panhe Nature Trail
Deerweed-California Broom

Did you know that the California Broom plant is in the pea family?

This plant species is critical to the California Sage Scrub community due to the symbiotic relationship of a certain nitrogen-rich bacteria that lives on its roots.

After a fire, this plant helps the community by adding rich nitrogen to the soil, benefiting the entire environment.

Rich Native History on the Panhe Nature Trail

Native American Life Reburial Site
Native American Life Reburial Site

This area has been dug up through the years, and many Acjachmen artifacts and remains have been found. Down below is a sacred reburial site fenced in to discourage unwanted visitors.

Bush Monkey Flower Panhe Nature Trail
Bush Monkey Flower

Panhe Nature Trail

Mule Fat Panhe Nature Trail
Mule Fat

Mule Fat got its name because, in the early days, this was the bush you would tie your mule to when resting. I bet you can guess what happened to the mules after being fastened for a while.

Bird Habitat Panhe Nature Trail
Bird Habitat

The denseness of the environment makes it a safe area for birds to nest.

Coyote Brush Panhe Nature Trail
Coyote Brush

Birds and butterflies especially appreciate the sweet stickiness of the Coyote Brush.

Elderberry Tree Panhe Nature Trail
Elderberry Tree

The Elderberry Tree’s berries are high in nutritional value and are rich in antioxidants. Natives would use this plant to help with inflammation and gout and help with constipation.

Animal Habitat Panhe Nature Trail
Animal Habitat
Coastal Sage Scrub Panhe Nature Trail
Coastal Sage Scrub

San Mateo Campground

San Mateo Campground Amphitheater Panhe Nature Trail

As we end our hike today at the San Mateo Campground, I want to remind you that the original Panhe Village is about two more miles east of this location.

If you would like more information, please see the link below.

—>Earth Day at Panhe<—

San Mateo Campground Amphitheate Panhe Nature Center

Walking up the stairs, we come upon the San Mateo Campground Amphitheater, the home to the Panhe Nature Trail kiosk. Here you can learn some valuable information to take with you on the trail.

San Mateo Campground Birds Panhe Nature Trail
Birds that are seen in the area.

Surf Fishing Information San Onofre State Beach

For instance, here we have information about surf fishing.

San Mateo Trailhead Panhe Nature Trail

This display shows how all California Missions connect via one inland route, El Camino Real- The Royal Road.

San Mateo Campground Panhe Nature Center
San Mateo Campground

I took a little video at the beginning of the Panhe Nature Trail, right after the San Mateo Campground Amphitheater.

End of the Trail

So there you have it!

How did you enjoy the scenery? I feel so fortunate to live here!

As I mentioned, the Panhe Nature Trail meets up with Trestles Beach Trail right across the street from the Trestles parking lot and will lead you straight to the beach.

Please check back soon, as I will also be showcasing this part of the trail. Here is a sneak peek of the ocean view!

Trestles beach Panhe Nature Trail

Thanks again, and please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have below, as I love to answer questions!

Until next time!



16 Replies to “Walking The Panhe Nature Trail”

  1. Colleen,

    Beautiful photo! All the photos you took made me feel like I saw there. I also enjoyed playing with the wildflower chart. I am so glad you included it on your website. When I looked at the pictures before reading everything, it reminded me of New Mexico. The only big different is they have a lot of saguaros and desert scenery.

    1. Thank you for commenting Emily! I am so glad that you enjoyed the pictures. I have never been to New Mexico, but it sounds just like Arizona! We do have a few cacti’s on the coast but nothing like the huge Saguaros!

  2. We love outdoors and hiking and are always looking for new places. As much as I complain about California being too crowded and stuff I do love it here because there is so much beauty and variety of nature here.
    Is this trail kid friendly if I wanted to take my family?

    1. Hi Brandon! You have to come and visit San Onofre State Beach! There is so much open space there with hardly any people. Yes, the Panhe Trail is perfect for kids because it is relatively flat and in only 1 mile. There is always the option to park at the campgrounds and continue to Trestles Beach, and that would be about 2 miles, so 4 miles round trip. When my daughter and I went, we first hiked on the Beach to Trestles and then backtracked to the PanheTrail. I hope that helps!

  3. What a wonderful idea, to share a picture tour of the nature trail! I really enjoyed it, and I hope to see more in the future. It’s great to be able to (virtually) experience the walk, and I enjoyed the factoids you injected along the way. Mule fat, who knew?

  4. Looks absolutely beautiful! I love beaches, and of course I love California. I would love to do this nature trail, as I do not just like to lay on the beach. I do like to explore. How long do I need to set aside for this trail? Is there a best time of year for this trail?

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! I would estimate that if you were to start at the Trestle’s parking lot and then head East, the one-mile trail takes about 30 minutes? We lingered around the campground for a bit and headed back for another. If you continue where the trail becomes the “Beach” trail, it would be another 20 minutes to Trestles Beach. If I had to pick the best time to go, I would say Springtime, when the wildflowers are blooming. But the only time not to go would be deep in the summer due to heat. It seems like every time I have gone it is overcast, but that is pretty normal at this beach.

  5. Hi Colleen, thank you for sharing this article and the wonderful photos.

    I just love nature trails and would definitely love to walk the Panhe Nature Trail.

    On your walk we can see nature has provided many natural remedies for various illnesses. I don’t take modern medicine if I can help it and will always go for natural remedies first. So, I would be in heaven on this walk!

    Is there any particular time of the year that is best for walking the Panhe Nature Trail?

    1. Hi Moni! I am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed the Panhe Nature Trail! I would say the best time to visit would be in the early morning to mid-afternoon. As far as what time of year, anytime except when we get super hot in the summer-which for the record isn’t that often. It seems that this stretch of northern San Diego coast is prone to low clouds and fog. Personally, I like going when the flowers are blooming. I hope this helps! Thanks again for the comment!

  6. Love the pictures! I would love to go to California sometime. I have only been once as a teenager. This looks like a neat place to go. I love hiking and camping!

    1. Thank you for commenting Julie! I feel this site would be perfect for you then. You can camp at San Mateo and go for a hike. Hopefully, you can come down and visit soon. 😉

  7. Hi Colleen,

    Thank you for all this information. Do you happen to know if leashed dogs are allowed on Panhe trail?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ren! I did a bit of searching and came upon this concerning San Mateo Campground-
      PETS/DOGS must be under control at all times
      and on a leash no longer than six feet. They are
      not permitted in buildings or on the beach (except
      for service dogs). Pets/dogs must be confined
      to a vehicle or tent at night and must not be left

      So I would say yes. Have a great time!

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