A Guide to Hiking Crystal Cove

A Guide to Hiking Crystal Cove
Photograph by Elizabeth Stefan

The Hike: The loop starts you through a canyon at the bottom of the foothills then takes you to the top for panoramic views of the Orange County coastline.

Cool Factor: Views of coastal hills and undeveloped land, and access to El Morro State Beach

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Lower Moro Parking Lot ($15)

Details: Cross the bridge and head one mile up El Moro Canyon Trail, then make a sharp right turn at the East Cut Across Trail. Climb the winding path for another mile and turn right again at the Moro Ridge Trail heading towards the ocean. After about a mile and half, as you’re nearing the highway, make another right on BFI, a single-track trail which connects with El Moro Canyon Trail.

You Might See: Laurel Sumac, a shrub native to California. In the spring, wild mustard blooms like crazy, turning the hills yellow and green. In the winter, around mid-December, the cacti begin to flower, and if you are lucky you may see some threatened animals, such as the Spadefoot Toad, responding well to the habitat restoration efforts along the trail.

Pro Tip: Bring a hat, water, sunglasses, and sunscreen; about two-thirds of the hike provides little to no shade. It’s also better to go in the morning so that the view of Catalina will not be hindered by the sun’s glare.

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