Crystal Cove Red Route Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||9.2 miles (14.8 km)|
|Hike Time||3-4 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,600 feet (488m)|
|Highest Elevation||1,010 feet (308m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Crystal Cove State Park|
The Crystal Cove red route is the toughest hike that the park recommends, calling it “a strenuous loop hike around the permitter of the park.” The hike doesn’t include a big mountain climb, but rather is a series of ups and downs through pristine native coastal scrub, a rarity in Southern California. The red route is well marked and easy to follow, there are bathrooms along the way, and it offers lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting and expansive ocean views.
Where is the Crystal Cove Red Route?
The red route starts at the Moro Canyon Ranger Station in Crystal Cove State Park. Crystal Cove is known for its beaches, but they’re also 18 miles of trails in over 2,400 acres of protected native habitat.
Use this trailhead address:
Crystal Cove State Park, Ranger Station and Visitor Center, 8471 N Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
There is a fee to park at Crystal Cove SP. Please pay at the visitor center.
Do this hike as early as possible to avoid the crowds and heat.
Gear for the Hike
This is a long hike with lots of ups and downs, and I recommend proper hiking gear and footwear when you do it. Bring at least 2L of water with you and sun protection. There is no shade and in the summer it can be very hot here.
My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move. It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33 (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles. I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
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 Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated December 2020.
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 Red Route Trail Maps
Overall the trails are easy to follow and vary between wide sandy tracks and smaller single trail. The park is shared with mountain bikers, so keep an eye out, especially on the narrower sections.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.
|Lower Moro (Bathroom)||3||860|
|Uppe Moro Bathroom)||3.8||840|
|Deer Canyon (Bathroom)||6||640|
|Ridge Trail Views||7||690|
Crystal Cove Red Route Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.