Crystal Cove Hike

Crystal Cove Hike

In This Guide
  • How to Get to the Crystal Cove Hike
  • Crystal Cove Trail Maps
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • What You Need To Do the Hike
Distance9 miles (14.5 km)
Time3:30 Hours (Total Time)
Total Climbing990 feet (302m)
Dog FriendlyNo
Park NameCrystal Cove State Park
Park Phone949-494-3539

This “best of” Crystal Cove hike takes you on a loop trail offering pristine coastal nature, ocean views, and well marked trails. You’ll take in the endangered native coastal sage scrub plant wilderness, which is how the area looked before it was developed, and then hike to heights where you’ll be able to see from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina. If this hike is too long for you, I offer a shorter version in the directions too. This hike is one of my favorites.

Crystal Cove Hike Directions 1
Before Crystal Cove was a State Park, it was a trailer park. You can see the mobile homes in this historic photo of the area where your parking lot is The state fought to evict the trailers for several years, and finally opened the park you see around you in 2006.

Where Do I Park For the Crystal Cove Hike?

Crystal Cove State Park has several parking areas and entrances. Use this trailhead address for the hike: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, USA. Once you turn off the Pacific Coast Highway, follow the directions below. There ares some twists and turns to get to the correct parking area for the hike.

Crystal Cove Hike Directions 8
When you turn off the PCH (local lingo for the Pacific Coast Highway) in Laguna Beach, go straight, there will be a school to your right.
Crystal Cove Hike Directions 7
At the first split, bear to the left.
Crystal Cove Hike Directions 6
Keep right and head to the campground, not the ranger station. Pay your fee to enter the park on this stretch.
Crystal Cove Hike Directions 5
After paying your fee, head straight, avoiding any turnoffs to the right for the campground.
Crystal Cove Hike Directions 4
When you reach this junction, bear left and drive down the hill to the Moro Canyon parking area.

Crystal Cove State Park can get crowded, especially in the summer. Show up early before the parking lot gets full. Otherwise you will be turned away at the park entrance. There is a fee to park here, or you can use a California State Parks Pass.

There are bathrooms and water at the trailhead, and at the mid-way point on the hike.

After your hike, walk down to the beach for a swim and grab a bite and a drink at the Beachcomber Cafe.

What You Need For the Hike

Crystal Cove Hike Directions 3
There are some interpretive markers on the trail that have QR codes. If you have a smartphone with a QR code reader, can the markers for more information.

Although people do this hike in workout clothes, it’s a longer hike and I do recommend proper hiking gear. Here’s what I bring:

My Top Gear Picks

Garmin inreach review

Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
  2. Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
  3. Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.

I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.

See My Full Gear List

Crystal Cove Hike Directions 2
Unfortunately dogs are not allowed in the park. This is to protect the delicate ecosystem here.

Crystal Cove Hike Trail Maps

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Crystal Cove Hike trail 3d map
The Crystal Cove hike does a loop in the park. It climbs up the picturesque Moro Canyon to the highest point in the park, then down along a ridge.
Crystal Cove Hike elevation
The Crystal Cove hike climbs to the highest point in the park, and then you’re rewarded with non-stop ocean views on the long descent.
Crystal Cove State Park trail maps
At the trail junctions, you’ll notice these handy Crystal Cove State Park trail maps. The rivet or screw in the sign indicates where you are on the map.

How to Hike Crystal Cove

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You can watch this video in 360 degrees.
I have a version of this video where you can pan around in 360 degrees and see every angle of every trail junction, the trail conditions, and more. This is how you can use and view them.

View This Video in 360

Step By Step Directions

There are mountain bikers and runners, so keep an eye open and give them room to pass.

Crystal Cove Hike parking
The parking lot has bathrooms and a sink to fill up your water bottles and daypacks. Go towards the board at the far end of the lot to begin the hike.
Crystal Cove Hike bridge
Start the hike by going over the bridge.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Once over the bridge, hike to the left on the big trail.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Soon after that, ignore the trail to the right and keep hiking straight.
Crystal Cove State Park trail maps
As you continue hiking, the trail climbs, and you get a nice view of the valley that you’ll be ascending.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 1 mile, keep hiking to the left.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Shortly after, at about 1.1 miles, stay right and continue up El Moro Canyon Trail.

Hike Shortcut

To do a shorter, 3.7 mile hike (and miss some of the views), make the left at the last intersection and bear onto the West Cut Across trail. Stay left, and climb until you reach No Name Ridge Trail. Then skip down the directions to “shortcut pickup” to continue the hike.

Crystal Cove Hike trail
Keep hiking to the left. You’ll see a few of these ‘side trails’ that lead to nowhere. They are built to access the power lines.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
There’s another big power line access trail, keep hiking to the left.
Slow N’ Easy trail
At about 2.6 miles, make the hard left to hike up the Slow N’ Easy trail.
Slow N’ Easy trail
The Slow N’ Easy trail climbs gently.
Crystal Cove Hike views
As you hike up the climb, you’ll start to see the ocean off to your left.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At 2.8 miles, another trail leading to a power line veers off left, keep hiking right.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At 3.8 miles you will reach the end of the trail, hike to the left toward the gate.
Crystal Cove Hike gate
There are smaller side trails for mountain bikers here, keep hiking straight and hike over the gate.
Signal Peak
Signal Peak, at 1,164ft, comes into view as you hike on the trail.
Bommer Ridge trail
At about 4 miles, hike left onto the popular Bommer Ridge trail.
Saddleback Mountain
As you hike along Bommer Ridge Trail, you’ll have great views of the Santa Ana mountains to your right, including the highest peak, Saddleback Mountain at 5,689ft.
Bommer Ridge trail
At about 4.2 miles, continue hiking right on Bommer Ridge trail.
Crystal Cove Hike views
As you hike on the trail, it opens up to some incredible views of Irvine, Tustin, and Orange County. On a clear day, you will have a nice view of the San Gabriel Mountains. The two big concrete structures in the valley are blimp hangers from World War 2.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Continue hiking on Bommer Ridge Trail up the hill. Again, there are little mountain bike trails that split off occasionally, just keep hiking straight on the big trail along the edge of Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 4.9 miles, you make a sharp left.

If you need water or a bathroom break, go past the gate, onto the road, and make a left. There is a sports field and park with bathrooms and water fountains.

Crystal Cove Hike trail
Continue hiking straight as the trail makes it’s way over the bumps on the ridge, Great Wall of China style.
Crystal Cove Hike sign
You’ll see signs for Orange County Parks. This hike goes through Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
Crystal Cove Hike gate
At about 6.1 miles, hike over the gate to re-enter Crystal Cove State Park.

Shortcut Pickup – If you took the shortcut, you’ll come out here.

Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 6.9 miles, continue hiking straight.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 7.1 miles, continue hiking to the right.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 7.7 miles, continue hiking to the right.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 7.8 miles, continue hiking to the right.
El Moro Canyon Trail
If you look down to your left, you’ll see the El Moro Canyon Trail that you started on, along with a lot of other trails in Crystal Cove State Park.
 ocean views
Soak in the ocean views as you hike, you’re almost finished.
Crystal Cove State Park parking lot
At about 8.5 miles, you reach the end of the trail. Hike left on the paved road into the Crystal Cove State Park parking lot.
 Crystal Cove State Park parking lot
Continue hiking through the Crystal Cove State Park parking lot. There are bathrooms and water here to your left.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
At about 8.7 miles, at the end of the parking lot, make the left onto the trail.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Continue hiking on this trail, which will follow the Crystal Cove State Park access road that you drove in on.
Crystal Cove Hike trail
Continue hiking left on the main trail (this small trail heads to the Crystal Cove State Park campground).
Crystal Cove Hike end
Here you are, back where you started!

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