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.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
If you’re hiking in the backcountry it makes sense to have a decent emergency kit and some basic gear to spend the night in a pinch.Full HikingGuy Gear List
* 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.
Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.
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.
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.