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.
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 (or Amazon).
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 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
Your best move to navigate this hike is to take a paper map, compass, and a GPS device. Load the GPX track from this hike onto your GPS to ensure that you’re on the trail. I’m a big fan of GPS watches; I just glance down at it to cross-check my position and use paper when I want a deeper dive. The GPS watch that I’m using now is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (price: REI or Amazon). It’s pricey but has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of other wellness, fitness, and smart-watch applications. For a more affordable option, check out the value-packed Garmin Instinct (price: REI or Amazon), a similar watch without some of the features. There are also great smartphone GPS apps like GaiaGPS. If you end up getting GaiaGPS premium, I’ve arranged for a 20-40% discount for my readers.
|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.