10 Ways to Escape into the Wild Lands in O.C.

#5: Nighttime – Take a Full‑Moon Hike

Night sky spread_stars
Illustration by Tara Hardy

Illustration by Tara Hardy

This trek provides access to Crystal Cove trails usually off‑limits after dark.

There’s a lot more to Crystal Cove State Park than its waves and historic cottages. A good-sized swath of trail-laced backcountry stretches inland on the other side of Coast Highway. And those trails are open to the public all day, but not after sunset—unless you take this docent-led hike, offered most months at or near the full moon.

Night hiking is an experience with its own sights and sounds, of owls, bats, and other creatures of the dark. And it’s a special treat during summer and early autumn because it’s comfortably cool.

The first half of this four-mile hike is mostly a climb, gaining 700 feet in elevation and starting with No Dogs Trail. The night ocean views are gorgeous. Then you’ll descend to the floor of Moro Canyon, looping back to your car.

Bring a flashlight with a red lens or with red cellophane over the bulb (red light is better for seeing at night). Try going without a flashlight altogether; the full moon provides enough light, once your eyes acclimate.

Hikers gather at 7 p.m. at the Berns Amphitheater. For parking, turn inland from Coast Highway at the sign that says School-State Park, then turn right to the guard station and pay the $15 parking fee. Continue past the campgrounds to the lot below and turn left.

Come early, bring your beach gear, and spend some time before the hike at what might be the loveliest oceanfront
in the county. A tunnel under Coast Highway leads to the beach from the parking lot.

Good to Know

➔ 4 miles, 700-foot elevation gain
➔ No age limit, but children younger than 8 might find it too difficult. No reservation required.
➔ 8471 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949-497-7647, crystalcovestatepark.org. $15 parking fee