Crystal Cove Hiking: Enjoy your Hiking in style at the best destination

Crystal Cove hiking

Hiking is an outdoor activity that has gained a lot of ground in the past years. It is one of those activities you have to consider in your upcoming vacation. Slot it in your upcoming events list. But which is the best place to enjoy the hiking? You might be asking.

Well, where else if not in California? Generally, the state of California is known for having a favorable weather for outdoor activities. But one place that stands out is the Crystal Cove Park. It has a stretch of 18 miles that runs across 2,400 acres of land. What else could you ask for if not these?

Crystal Cove is situated off the Pacific Coast Highway which is between Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar in the state of California. It is actually one of the largest natural seashore and open space still in existence. This historical background makes it even a much better place to visit.

Crystal Cove hiking 2

Bench along an outlook with a view of Crystal Cove Beach

People flock this place due to the sandy beaches, rolling surf, sloping hills, tide pools and wooded ridges and canyons. You probably should be part of this group of people. Crystal Cove hiking is, therefore, an activity that every outdoor enthusiast should try out. What do you think about that? We can always link up and enjoy this experience.

Crystal Cove HikingGetting to Crystal CoveHiking in the Crystal CoveTrail DescriptionsEasy Out and Back TrailModerate Loop TrailDifficult Loop TrailPark Perimeter TrailSafety Tips when Crystal Cove HikingSummary

Getting to Crystal Cove

Finding yourself at the Crystal Cove is as easy as you can imagine. You can access the park from I-5, 73 and 405. The Route 1 from the Pacific Coast Highway directly passes through the park. Are you worried about parking space?


Pacific Coast Highway passing by the El Moro Campground and Crystal Cove Region.

Not when it comes to the Crystal Cove. Parking is available on the side of PCH and the inland next to El Morro School. You can as well decide to park north of the Reef Point which is home to Los Trancos parking. It is, however, a couple of miles away.

Remember it is your vacation. You need to treat yourself as much as you can. You might decide to get a flight as part of this adventure. Crystal Cove is just 25 minutes from the John Wayne Airport. This is another good way to get to this amazing place.

Hiking in the Crystal Cove

This place is home to some endangered plants such as the coastal sage scrub. The beautiful mountainous background is visible, the Pacific Ocean and many more geological formations are visible from higher elevations of the Crystal Cove.


Mountains, sky and flowers on a trail in Crystal Cove State Park

On the lower trails, you are likely to hike across the riparian woodlands that are home to sycamore trees and oak along the Moro Creek. It does not matter whichever trail you choose; you are likely to come across native animals and plants. This is, in fact, a perfect way to escape from the civilization and enjoy natural history.

Trail Descriptions

Generally, there are four hiking trails that can be used in the Crystal Cove. It is really difficult to find a place that offers more than a hiking trail. This is just a blessing. Or what do you think about getting such a place?This is a very rare occurrence.

These trails are as discussed below:

  • Easy Out and Back Trail

You need approximately one hour to cover this trail that runs extensively through a distance of three miles. Also known as the Moro Canyon, this trail has elevations of between 35’ to 178’. It starts at the Ranger Station.

From this place, you make a walk downhill before making a left turn towards the dirt trail just before the magnificent campground. After which you will have to continue your journey along the dirt trail towards the now visible long bridge.


A yellow plant blooming against a well vegetated hill, along the trail.

Crossing this bridge lands you in the adorable Moro Canyon. Continue with your hiking across the expansive Moro Canyon until you get to a junction that has Poles and West Cut Across. It is at this point that you will make a turnaround and retrace the earlier steps back to Ranger Station.

You will be back at your starting point. During this expansive journey, you will come across some natural plants that you probably haven’t come across in a long time.

  • Moderate Loop Trail

Secondly is the trail known as the Moderate Loop. It covers a distance of 2.85 miles and has an elevation of between 35’ and 550’. Just like the first trail above, you need approximately one hour to cover this trail completely.

It also starts at the Ranger Station but this time around you have an uphill walk towards the dirt road that is past a gate. This trail is also known as the No Dogs. It is shorter but moderately hilly. If you are a fan of uphill hikes, then this trail could serve you the best experience.


A golden sky along the trail leading between two hills.

Move along this route till you get to the intersection that has electric poles. Actually, these poles mark your way downhill. The intersection of West Cut Across and the Moro Canyon is at the end of the Poles.

From this point, you will have to make a right turn that goes downhill on the Moro Canyon trail after which you cross a long bridge. This is a moderate uphill climb. So you need to have the energy that can take you through this hilly part of the hiking trail.

Once you get past the campground, you will be back at the parking area. What a way to finish hiking on this trail! Am pretty sure that you will be exhausted, but at the same time, you will have had a well-deserving workout.

  • Difficult Loop Trail

This is another trail that is 5 miles long. Its elevation is between 35’ and 740’. You require a time of approximately two hours to cover it from the start to the end. It is the second longest trail in the Crystal Cove.

As usual, Ranger Station is the starting point. From here you walk downhill before turning left towards the dirt trail that is situated just before you get to the Campground. Continue your hiking on this dirt trail towards the long bridge.

Cross this bridge, and you will find yourself in the amazing Moro Canyon. Continue hiking up this trail for about 1 mile up to the point where you get to the East Cut Across trail. Make a right turn and then start climbing the steep track that winds uphill to the Moro Ridge at a distance of 1.1 miles.

Crystal Cove Hiking, El Moro Canyon trail

El Moro Canyon back country trail leading over a steady elevation towards the fence-line.

From this point, take the right route that leads towards the Coast Highway; it is approximately 1.6 miles long. The breeze from the ocean is a good match for hiking. It is something I have tried before, and it was phenomenal.

You will come to BFI after which you will be required to make a right turn on this single, short and steep track. A lot of keenness is expected from you while at this point. Being that it is a single tack and the likelihood of meeting other hikers as well requires a little patience from the hikers.

The single track leads to the Moro Canyon. Take the left route, cross the next bridge, move right to the moderately uphill climb, get past the campground and you will be in the parking lot again. This trail looks exhaustive but very adventurous. Armature hikers are discouraged from using it.

  • Park Perimeter Trail

Park perimeter is the longest hiking trail in the Crystal Cove. It covers a massive distance of approximately 9 miles. This will take you approximately four and a half hours to cover. Its elevation is between 35’ and 1000’.

This is the route that gives you the best experience of the entire backcountry. It has campsites along its course that have portable toilets for use by hikers. Have some bottles of water, snacks with you. You can take these at any of the three campsites (environmental).

It starts from the Ranger Station just like the other trails. You walk uphill towards the dirt road that is located past the gate. Here you are on the No Dogs Trail which is short but is moderately uphill. This trail connects with the No-Name Ridge on the bear left. This place has several downs and ups, so you need to be extra careful.

Stay on this ridge and pass through the junction at the West Cut Across until you make a downhill turn to the right. This brings you to the Ticketron Trail. There is a single track leading to the Deer Canyon and the Campground, make use of it.


Trail through Deer Canyon, Crystal Cove State Park

From the Deer Canyon, you are required to make an uphill climb before bearing left towards the gate to the park boundary at the Red Tail Ridge. Turn right to the single track that forms part of the Fenceline Trail leading to the Missing Link Trail and thereafter the Moro Ridge. At the Moro Ridge, you are required to make a right turn towards the south-eastern border of the park.

Stay on this ridge for slightly over 3 miles before turning right onto the BFI’s single track. You will have found yourself at the Moro Canyon where you will turn left go past the bridge, turn right towards the uphill, past campground and back to the parking area.

Safety Tips when Crystal Cove Hiking

  • Hiking together with a friend is very necessary in case of unforeseen conditions.
  • All the trails, whether single tracks and fire roads are used by multiple people such as hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Be cautious and share the trails for the enjoyment of everyone at the Crystal Cove.
  • Remember to wear appropriate hiking clothing depending on the conditions of the hike. Closed-toe shoes will help you avoid injuries.
  • Carefully hike on designated trails only. Leaving these trails means exposure to unseen hazards like poison oak, rattlesnakes, and dangerous terrains. Do not interfere with nature by injuring animals and plants. Why should you injure yourself as well?
  • Carry with you enough water for the entire hike from the start point and back to the parking area. No water is provided in the backcountry.
  • This place is sun-friendly. Therefore, have sun protection with you.
  • Human foods are known to be detrimental to eating habits and health of wild birds and animals. The foodstuffs and other items such as wrappers and bottles that might have found themselves in the park should be packed out after use to help keep this place clean.
  • Chasing and picking up on animals is prohibited. Disturbing animals or their habitat makes them threatened, and they may end up injuring you. Remember these animals have to live in these harsh environments, the anger that they might use on you is unimaginable.
  • No domestic pets such as dogs are allowed into the Crystal Cove.
  • Do not remove or collect anything, literally anything, from the park. All these natural resources are under strict protection by law. You do not want to spend most of your time in courts of law for failing to adhere to these rules.
  • This area is closed at sundown. You need to plan a timely and safe return.


Crystal Cove hiking is a must-do activity for any serious outdoor adventurer. Hiking at a beautiful place like the Crystal Cove is just irresistible. There is no any other perfect way of enjoying this activity other than past the wide variety of endangered species of plants and animals. It is important to make your reservations early enough to avoid disappointments.


I hope this article has been of great help to you. In case you need any clarifications, please get in touch with me through the comment section below.

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