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El Capitan to Refugio State Beach



5.7 mile 9.2 kilometer out and back
100% Runnable


Ascent: 153' 47 m
Descent: -153' -47 m
High: 55' 17 m
Low: 7' 2 m


Avg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 7% (4°)


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Trail shared by John McKinney

Run from El Capitan State beach to Refugio State beach along the coastline.

John McKinney

Features River/Creek · Swimming · Views


Using the El Capitan Beach Trail and the El Capitan and Refugio State Beach Connector, this route allows you to experience a variety of terrain along the Southern California coast.

Runner Notes

Runners might not enjoy the portions of the route that are on sandy sections of El Capitan Beach.


To start this run at El Capitan State Beach you'll head down the pathway from the day use parking area to the sandy beachfront. From here, head up the coast along the beach as it goes back and forth from sandy and rocky terrain. The steep sea cliffs will tower over you during this section of the run. After running along the beach for a little over 1 mile you'll reach Coral Beach. At this point the tides are usually too high to continue running along the beach. To continue the route to Refugio State Beach you'll have to head up the bluffs to a now retired bike path, which was closed to due eroded sections but is passable for runners.

Follow the bike path for 1.5 miles up the coast, over the bluff tops, to reach the parking area for Refugio State Beach. Turn right just before the creek to follow the road straight to the beach. Refugio State Beach allows you to check out numerous tide pools along this portion of rocky coastline. At this point the run comes to an end and you can turn around to follow the same route back to El Capitan State Beach.

Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store.

History & Background

El Capitan State Beach was named after Captain Jose Francisco de Ortega, who was a Spanish Army officer that served for the Portola expedition. He retired from the army in 1795, but owed the army money and as a way to settle his debt he offered to raise cattle on the 25-mile stretch of coastline from Pt. Conception to Refugio Canyon. He did so for 3 years before before his death.

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Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, Flora & Fauna


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in California


19 Views Last Month
633 Since Aug 1, 2017



Highway 101, and the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Aug 1, 2017 near Santa Ynez, CA
Refugio State Beach.
Aug 1, 2017 near Santa Ynez, CA


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