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.
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 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
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.
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 REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.
I load a few types of offline maps onto my smartphone when I need to interact with the map in detail. I also use it before my hikes as a planning tool for all kinds of things, including finding free government land to camp on. The benefits are many, I highly recommend it.
Don’t be caught out if your batteries die. Take a topo map with you on the trail and learn how to read it. Some people also print my guides out for use on the hike. I’m a map geek and I love to pour over maps and guide books when planning my next adventure.
There are mountain bikers and runners, so keep an eye open and give them room to pass.
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.
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.
Shortcut Pickup – If you took the shortcut, you’ll come out here.
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
If you see trash on the trail, please pick it up and carry it out. Be a good egg and practice no trace principles.