Crystal Cove hiking trails

Crystal Cove State Park is both a beach and a wilderness area with many hiking trails.

This 3-mile stretch of beach along the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the state park system's newest additions. Along with its pristine beaches, it covers 3000 acres of hills, canyons, and trails.

Crystal Cove hiking trailsTo read about Crystal Cove Beaches, click on this link

It also includes primitive campgrounds that only backpackers can reach.

The newest addition is the Moro campground, which has some facilities. It sits in between the beach and the hiking trails.

​Take a break from Orange County's main attractions' excitement to commune with nature and forget the hustle and bustle of civilization.

Some of the trails are easily handled by young children 6 and up. Younger children may need help. If the kids complain too much about the hike, remind them about visiting the beach afterward. 

You can start exploring the state park by hiking in the wilderness area.

Crystal Cove hiking trails mapThe park has about 17 miles of trails to pick from. Get a map online (map) or from the ranger stations. The map shows color-coded trails with a difficulty-level guide.

There are now 2 parking areas available for hikers. One of them is at the Moro campground day-use area. The other is outside the campground next to the main ranger station/visitors center. I usually park at the campground because it provides easy access to the beach and the trails.

Tip: The entrance to the wilderness part of the park may be a little confusing. Just remember that it is behind the El-Moro Elementary School.

The park is huge, with too many trails to pick from - it is possible to get lost, so plan ahead. Don't forget the map.

nullIf you are looking for an easy hike, start from the trailhead at the top of the day-use area (away from the beach) and go over the wood bridge, then turn left. Follow the trail through Moro Canyon.

Tip: Another entrance to the park is located at Coastal Peak Park on the North end of the park. You can start your hikes at the top, but remember that you have to climb back up.

Moro Canyon is mostly level with a lot of shade. But get ready to exercise a little when you turn left at the first fork (Poles trail). There is a steep incline at this portion of the trail.

Crystal Cove Boardwalk above the beachOnce you reach the top, turn left onto the "No Dogs" trail again. This will take you down to the ranger station and the main parking lot. As you descend, you can enjoy lovely views of the ocean.

Keep going past the ranger station and turn left into the "Moro Canyon" trail, which will take you back to the wood bridge and the campground. This loop hike is about 2.5 miles.

​Study the trail map and plan a longer loop if you prefer a bigger challenge.

For example, you can take the Moro Ridge to Moro Canyon loop for a 5-mile hike. Many trails have a great view of the Pacific Ocean, but Moro Ridge has the best continuous view.

Crystal Cove - Pacific RidgeSome people call this the Red Loop. The reverse route (Moro Canyon to Moro Ridge) provides more spectacular views because you face the ocean while descending to the Canyon. 

Tip: Most of the trails are out in the open with no shade, so avoid going during hot weather and take lots of water with you. Moro canyon has some shade and follows a seasonal creek. 

Expect to find sage, prickly pear cactus, monkey flowers, goldenbush, lemonade berries, deer weed, and oak. You can also find many birds, rabbits, and eagles. 

Crystal Cove - Pacific RidgeTip: Those trails are also popular for mountain biking, so watch out for speedy bikes going downhill.

​Once you are done with the hike, keep your parking ticket and head out to the beach. Your ticket is good at all the Crystal Cove parking lots. If you are already at the campground, just use the underpass to the beach.

Another way to enjoy this extensive trail system is to start from the west entrance near Coastal Peak Park and follow the Pacific Ridge trail through dense brush and surreal rock formations. 

We went on this hike on a cloudy day in August. The clouds brushed against the hills while a light drizzle cooled down the August heat. 

The path we took was lined with many coastal plants with colorful flowers.

PCH Entrance

8471 N. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-3539

Coastal Peak Park Entrance

(AKA Bommer Ridge Trail West Entrance)

20403 E Coastal Peak
Newport Coast, CA 92657