Crystal Cove Hike
|In This Guide|
|Distance||9 miles (14.5 km)|
|Hike Time||3:30 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,140 feet (347m)|
|Highest Elevation||1,025 feet (312m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Fee|
|Park Website||Crystal Cove State Park|
|Stay In Touch||Newsletter - Instagram - YouTube - Facebook|
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.
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: Women – Men
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.
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.
I’m a big fan of GPS watches (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar. 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.
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 Trail Maps
Crystal Cove Hike Map Downloads
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
How to Hike Crystal Cove
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FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.
Step By Step Directions
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.