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)
Hike Time3:30 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,140 feet (347m)
Highest Elevation1,025 feet (312m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park WebsiteCrystal Cove State Park
Park Phone949-494-3539
Stay In Touch - - -

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. This hike is one of my favorites.

If this hike is too long for you, I offer a shorter version below in the directions too.

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. In the summer it can get hot. Bring at least 1L of water; I bring 3L. A snack or two will also help you get through the entire hike.

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La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

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

Want me to take care of the details so you can just enjoy the views? I offer this as a guided hike.

Click To View Map

Crystal Cove Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

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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Video Directions

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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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!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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