Crystal Cove State Park

A cool experience with 6 to 10 mile hikes
Trek into the wilderness and sleep in the backcountry
Ideal for first-timers

Cruising for ocean views and coastal canyons at Crystal Cove State Park

Cruising for ocean views and coastal canyons at Crystal Cove State Park

Cruising for ocean views and coastal canyons at Crystal Cove State Park

Cruising for ocean views and coastal canyons at Crystal Cove State Park

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Last updated
May 24, 2024

Trip · 3-day backpacking trip

For · Friends and first-time backpackers

Vibe · Moderate and fun

Distance  · 5 miles round trip and 1,581 feet of elevation gain

Permits · Yes! Book a site at Lower Moro Campground

Drive · 1 hour from LA

Ideal dates · September to December or March to May

Pets · Not allowed on trails

Crystal Cove State Park (CCSP) is one of the largest open spaces and natural seashores in SoCal's Orange County. Treat yo' self to 3.2 miles of sandy beach, 2,400 acres of backcountry wilderness, and awesome campsites along the Pacific Ocean. Scuba divers frequently explore Crystal Cove's underwater park, and trail runners and mountain bikers love to whiz through its steep hills and canyon floors. Take a break from Twitter, and swap your screen for a weekend of sun, stars, and surf at Crystal Cove. 

Official State Park Website

Official Crystal Cove SP Trail Map

Directions to Park

Main image credit: N/A

Stuff to know

  • Bring all of your water as there aren't any consistent water sources in the backcountry
  • Campfires aren't allowed, but backpacking stoves are fine
  • Pack up your food overnight because while there aren't bears, there can be rattlesnakes and other creepy crawlies around
Check the weather
Crystal Cove

Where to camp

Lower Moro Campground

Each campsite comes with a:

  • Picnic table
  • Space for up to 8 people
  • Access to porta potties

Crystal Cove SP has three backcountry campgrounds: Lower Moro, Upper Moro, and Deer Canyon. Lower Moro Campground is the most easily accessible from the trailhead and a great destination for beginners to try out backpacking. Every backcountry campsite reservation comes with one vehicle parking pass; Each extra car is $15 a night. Trash collection isn't available so be sure to pack out what you pack in. Practice Leave No Trace!

Check-in: After 2 PM · Check-out: Before noon

View Backcountry Camping Route Map

View Lower Moro Campground Map

Nightly Rate: $25

Lower Moro Campground
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Itinerary

Day One

Crystal Cove Shake Shack
Crystal Cove Shake Shack. Credit: Yelp

Leave LA by 10 AM and swing by Crystal Cove Shake Shack for lunch

  • This local institution is known for its stellar ocean views. Try to get there early because there'll likely be a line!
  • Located at 7703 E Coast Highway along Newport Coast
  • Open everyday from 7 AM to 9 PM
  • Nearest grocery store · Trader Joe's - 8086 Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach · Less than a mile away from Crystal Cove SP

Check-in at Crystal Cove SP's Moro Campground

  • Park rangers will direct you to a parking lot for overnight backpackers and provide directions to the trailhead

Hike to Lower Moro Campground set up camp

  • It's a 2.5 mile one-way hike, with 846 feet of elevation gain, to reach the campground
  • Remember to pack enough drinking water for at least two days (recc: a gallon per person per day)
  • The trail doesn't have a lot of shade so bring your sun gear!

Cook up dinner and settle in

  • YAY! Soak up the stars, clouds, and ocean breeze
  • Enjoy your first sunset at Crystal Cove State Park

Car to camp - 2.5 miles with 846 feet of elevation gain - 2 hours

In 1979, the Irvine Company, a family-owned ranch, sells the parkland to the state. Crystal Cove Historic District is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Day Two

Crystal Cove State Park

Make brekkie, pack a lunch, and day hike down to the beach

  • Bring your water bottles (to refill your water), snacks, sunglasses, towel, bug spray, down jacket, picnic blanket, a book, and lunch!
  • Securely store any food and scented items at camp, but away from your tent
  • On the way down, instead of taking Moro Ridge Spur, take a slight detour down Moro Ridge Road to catch a view of the ocean.
  • Hike down about 2 miles to the trailhead where you can find the tunnel to the beach

Walk along Reef Point and Crystal Cove Trail

  • It's an easy 6 mile round-trip loop, with 335 feet of elevation gain, that takes you through Crystal Cove. The trail runs parallel to the PCH so expect roadside restaurants and activity at certain points, but it's a nice stroll.
  • Make this hike as long or as short as you'd like. You still have to carry water back up to camp!
  • Have lunch at a scenic vista along the way

Hike back to camp

  • It's about a 2 mile climb back to Lower Moro Campground

Clean up and cook up dinner at camp

  • Savor your last night at Crystal Cove State Park

Camp to camp - 10 miles with 735 feet of elevation gain - 6 to 7 hours

Thousands of years ago, the Tongva and Acjachemen tribes lived in this area. They manufactured soapstone bowls and knives, along with weaving exquisite baskets and nets

Day Three

Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park

Cook up breakfast, pack up, and hike back down to the parking lot

Head home!

Camp to car - 2 miles - 1 to 2  hours

When logging began in the 1850s, there were over 2 million acres of redwood forests, but by the 1960s, nearly 90% of all original redwoods were gone
June 1, 2024

Bewilder at LAist Super-Fun Saturday

Make wildflower seed bombs with Bezzi the Yeti at LAist's Super Fun Saturday

Event in 2 days

Bewilder Basecamp: Spooky Wonders

Join Bezzi the Yeti on her first spooky camping adventure!

Shop curated gear

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Bezzi's Pick
$399.95

NEMO 4-person Aurora Highrise

This colorful tent has plenty of standing room, is easy to set up, and pack out!

Bezzi's Pick
$249.95

NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

Lean back, and we mean all the way back, in this comfy camp chair. You'll never want to sit up.

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$159.95

NEMO Moonlander Camp Table

We can confirm that these camp tables withstand hot bevvies and rock collections.

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Breakfast

Food For The Sole Blueberry Banana Crunch

Gluten Free • Vegan

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Breakfast

Packit Gourmet Diner Deluxe Eggs with Sausage

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Dessert

Campfire cinnamon roll ups

Vegetarian

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Snack

Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries

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Angie's Boom Chicka Pop

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce

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Lunch

Summer rolls with almond butter satay

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Dinner

Dan dan noodles

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Asian chicken lettuce wraps

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Dinner

Pho ramen

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Curry ramen

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Peanut butter cheesecake overnight oats

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