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Crystal Cove State Park offers pristine coastal nature, ocean views, and well marked trails. This Crystal Cove hike takes you on a best-of loop, with great views of the mountains, ocean, and on a clear day, Catalina. One of my favorite hikes. There's also a shorter route, see the hike details for more info.
9 miles (14.5 km)
Ocean views, pristine chaparral canyons
Crystal Cove Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, USA
The Crystal Cove hike is 5 minutes from Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, and 25 minutes from John Wayne Airport.
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.
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.
Interactive Map Crystal Cove Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Crystal Cove Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, please check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Crystal Cove Hike Directions What to Expect The Crystal Cove hike goes through endangered native coastal sage scrub plant wilderness. You can image that most of the coast looked this way before it was developed. 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 are mountain bikers and runners, so keep an eye open and give them room to pass. After your hike, walk down to the beach for a swim and grab a bite and a drink at the Beachcomber Cafe. Turn by Turn Directions Getting to the trailhead might be the trickiest part of this hike. When you turn off the PCH (local lingo for the Pacific Coast Highway) in Laguna Beach, go straight (instead of turning into the school, which is the trailhead address). The road curves around (passing a one way street coming in from the left) and splits. Take the right fork toward the Crystal Cove State Park campground. Go through the Crystal Cove State Park entrance gate and pay your fee, then continue straight. The Crystal Cove State Park campground will be on your right. At the end of the lot, bear left and head down the steep hill, leading to a parking lot. Drive towards the far end and park. 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. Start the hike by going over the bridge. Once over the bridge, hike to the left on the big trail. Soon after that, ignore the trail to the right and keep hiking straight. 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. As you continue hiking, the trail climbs, and you get a nice view of the valley that you’ll be ascending. At about 1 mile, keep hiking to the left. 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.
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. There’s another big power line access trail, keep hiking to the left. At about 2.6 miles, make the hard left to hike up the Slow N’ Easy trail. The Slow N’ Easy trail climbs gently. As you hike up the climb, you’ll start to see the ocean off to your left. At 2.8 miles, another trail leading to a power line veers off left, keep hiking right. At 3.8 miles you will reach the end of the trail, hike to the left toward the gate. There are smaller side trails for mountain bikers here, keep hiking straight and hike over the gate. Signal Peak, at 1,164ft, comes into view as you hike on the trail. At about 4 miles, hike left onto the popular Bommer Ridge trail. 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. At about 4.2 miles, continue hiking right on Bommer Ridge trail. 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. 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. 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.
Continue hiking straight as the trail makes it’s way over the bumps on the ridge, Great Wall of China style. You’ll see signs for Orange County Parks. This hike goes through Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 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. At about 6.9 miles, continue hiking straight. At about 7.1 miles, continue hiking to the right. At about 7.7 miles, continue hiking to the right. At about 7.8 miles, continue hiking to the right. 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. Soak in the ocean views as you hike, you’re almost finished. 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. Continue hiking through the Crystal Cove State Park parking lot. There are bathrooms and water here to your left. At about 8.7 miles, at the end of the parking lot, make the left onto the trail. Continue hiking on this trail, which will follow the Crystal Cove State Park access road that you drove in on. Continue hiking left on the main trail (this small trail heads to the Crystal Cove State Park campground). Here you are, back where you started! An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
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