Crystal Cove State Park Offers Hiking, Views and History

Just south of Los Angeles in Laguna Beach, CA, sits a backcountry park – Crystal Cove State Park – which is open to the public year-round and devoted to both preservation and recreation.

While a haven for recreation activities, Crystal Cove State Park hiking goes unmatched in the area for both coastal views and convenient location. Measuring 3 miles of southern California coast, with more than 2,400 acres of native wilderness to explore, this natural attraction is also less than a two-hour drive from San Diego and Palm Springs. Whether looking for a hike along the beach or through coastal hills covered in sage, you’ll love exploring this popular park.

Find things to do at Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park

Photo: Tracie Hall

Hit the Trails at Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park features 17 miles of hiking trails for beginners to experts. Backpackers can also choose between three campgrounds: one in a canyon and two at higher elevations.

Moro Canyon is one of the main attractions to see while hiking in the park. The 3-mile round-trip starts at the Ranger Station and takes you through the canyon on a walk through the park. Those looking for a challenge should try the moderate loop trail that is nearly 3 miles in length and has a vertical climb of 500 feet. The difficult loop trail measures 5 miles long, with hikers climbing 740 feet to reach Moro Ridge, from which you’ll witness views of the entire park. After you have rested – and taken photos – climb down into Moro Canyon until climbing out again for the finish.

More ambitious hikers can tackle the Perimeter of the Park trail, which is a 9-mile loop that allows hikers to see the entire Laguna Beach backcountry. Sites to see include No Name Ridge, Deer Canyon, Red Tail Ridge and Moro Ridge, leading you into Moro Canyon. This hike has several ups and downs and lasts nearly 5 hours, so don’t forget to bring plenty of water and snacks.

Crystal Cove State Park

Photo: Tracie Hall

See Wildlife

Hiking along the beach, you’ll see tide pools crawling with small wildlife from fish to invertebrates that depend on the rise and fall of these waters. While at Crystal Cove, you may also spot whales, dolphins and sea otters out in the water.

Depending on the time of year, you may see the humpback whale migration that happens twice a year as they travel between Alaska and Mexico. Other sightings in the park are the bobcat, great horned lizards, multiple species of rattlesnakes and birds, the Pacific tree frog, the mule deer, and howling coyotes.

The park offers four beach access points, all of which offer their own water recreation. For example, Reef Point leads to Muddy Creek, a popular spot for body surfing. Moro beach is a hot spot for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and surf fishermen.

Tour the Historic District

The Crystal Cove Historic District is a 12.3-acre portion of the state park. In the district, you’ll see nearly 50 vintage rustic cottages originally built as a seaside colony in the 1930s and 1940s. The area stands as one of the last remaining examples of southern California coastal development from the early 20th century. While sightseeing, stop for a meal at the Beachcomber Café, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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