There are two main draws to Crystal Cove State Park, the beach and the backcountry, so why not get a bit of both? The El Moro Visitor Center is the main trailhead for hikes into the backcountry (Like the Geology Discovery Trail), and it can also be the starting point of a 2-mile round trip hike to Moro Beach. This distance can easily be extended by exploring more of Moro Canyon and the surrounding ridges. There is more convenient beach parking along PCH allowing those who don’t want to hike to reach the beach with less effort.
From the day use parking area at El Moro Visitor Center, walk down the paved road toward the coast (this will be the road you drive in). Turn left on Moro Canyon Road, a dirt trail just above the entrance to Moro Campground.
Set out southeast toward Moro Canyon, walking along the RV-friendly campground. You will get a good view northeast up the canyon before the trail turns and descends toward the coast. Look out over picnic tables and shade ramadas in the Moro Canyon Day Use Area, followed by the Pacific Ocean. After descending 100 feet in half a mile, you will come to a bridge over Moro Creek. Cross it and turn right down a dirt trail, following signs for the beach.
Walk through a cluster of trees along the creek and come to a clear area at the bottom of the canyon where the trail is lined by sunflowers. A loop offers you two equidistant routes past benches and picnic tables.
Pass a bathroom and turn right across another bridge over Moro Creek. You will see a tunnel below PCH leading to the beach. Turn left on the far side of the bridge, walk down through the tunnel alongside Moro Creek and come out onto Moro Beach. It is 0.4 miles from Moro Canyon Road to Moro Beach.
Relax on the beautiful beach or set out for a stroll across the sand. A cove to the southeast is backed by Abalone Point, whose vertical cliffs make a picturesque backdrop. The beach stretches farther in the other direction across the 3.2 miles of coastline in Crystal Cove State Park.
When you are finished soaking in the ocean or soaking in the sun, simply return the way you came. There is a state park day use fee for all vehicles parked at the El Moro Visitor Center. No permit is required to hike to Moro Beach, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: There are a few different entrances and parking areas for Crystal Cove State Park along PCH. To reach the El Moro Visitor Center with parking for the backcountry trails, take PCH 1.8 miles south of Newport Canyon Road and 2.8 miles north of Laguna Canyon Road to an intersection next to El Morro School (there will be a traffic light). Turn inland, driving past the school. Turn right and then left following signs for the visitor center. Moro Canyon Road begins from the lower end of the parking lot.
Trailhead address: 8471 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Trailhead coordinates: 33.56638, -117.821616 (33° 33′ 58.96″N 117° 49′ 17.81″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Southern California trails and campgrounds.
|Geology Discovery Trail|
This 9-mile loop in Crystal Cove State Park follows guide markers exploring geology in the beautiful backcountry of this Orange County wilderness.
|Little Sycamore Canyon – Serrano Ridge – Camarillo Canyon – Stagecoach South Trails Loop in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park|
This 5-mile loop uses four trails to explore two canyons and a ridge in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
|West Bluff Trail Loop|
This 2.5-mile loop combines trails above and below the West Bluff in Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve to provide a variety of views across Upper Newport Bay.
This level and easy 3/4-mile loop circles a small lake in Huntington Beach Central Park.
|Lake View Loop & East Ridge Overlook|
This 3.65-mile loop expands on the 2.7-mile Lake View Loop with a small loop to the high point of Peters Canyon Regional Park.
|Redwood Grove in Carbon Canyon Regional Park|
This level 2.5-mile round trip hike visits a small grove of small coastal redwoods that is the largest grove of these large trees in Southern California.
|More hikes in Southern California|
Explore more trails in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.