Turn off of the Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, and you will find what many consider some of California’s best beaches. Here lies Crystal Cove; a state park that retains one of Orange County’s largest representations of wide, open space, and a natural seashore. Visitors are easily attracted by the cove’s rolling surf, clean beaches, intriguing tide pools, gently sloping hills, deeply wooded canyons, and the astounding Pacific Ocean overlooks. It’s a delightful contrast to the hustle and bustle that rests just beyond the park’s edges. It’s a perfect California oasis and an ideal setting for your next RV outing. Many visitors flock to the beach, but Crystal Cove State Park offers so much more than what the sandy shoreline has to show. Come inland, and the landscape transforms. Throughout the park, there are paved pathways that allow visitors to walk from beach to beach easily. Other paths lead to an extensive, 18-mile network of trails suitable for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. Crystal Cove State Park’s Mediterranean climate is also a testament to why so many want to travel here. During peak seasons, the summer’s air tends to stay moist and foggy in the early hours, with all the clouds burning off by mid-morning. Next comes the bright, warm sun, followed by cool, comfortable evenings. It’s a setting you won’t want to leave. Crystal Cove provides such an ideal day-use area that you may decide you need more than one day to enjoy it. You don’t want to miss out on this piece of California. Whether you are a first-time RV camper or an experienced one, Moro Campground will be the perfect place for you to unwind after a day of exploring. If you aren't traveling in an RV, there are also numerous tent-friendly campsites and beachside cottages that you can call home. Peak season at Crystal Cove State Park runs from April until October.
Getting to Crystal Cove State Park is straightforward, as the park is located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. The roads into and throughout the park are nicely paved and make for easy travel. There is also trolley access available into the Historic District, so you don’t have to rely solely on one set of wheels. The trolley picks up visitors along the Los Trancos parking area.
General parking is found at any of the four day-use parking areas. Many choose to set up camp and then walk throughout the rest of the park to get to popular areas.
Visitors who are tent camping or have a removable trailer and want to drive to varying locations within the park will not have to pay separate parking fees, as long as access permits are easily seen and read by park officials. If you’ve brought your RV, you’re mostly out of luck when it comes to finding parking outside of Moro Campground. It’s best to get your hiking boots ready or be prepared to get around more quickly with a bike. Travelers with RVs and campers greater than 24 feet should contact park officials before campground reservations to ensure sites are available that will accommodate larger rig sizes.
Moro Campground is the place to be for RV lovers wanting to stay the night within Crystal Cove State Park. Many visitors rave about the campsites and the incredible vistas. Moro Campground overlooks the Pacific Ocean, with all campsites situated in such a way to enjoy the view of the water. Moro is housed on a bluff, and the campground is terraced, so it makes for an ideal setting. Access to the beach is just a short walk away, and traffic noise is low, given the park is located in such a frequented part of California.
RV and camper hookups are available for water and electricity, and the public facilities here are relatively new and well-maintained. Of the 58 campsites, 28 of them are for RV and trailer use. Another 30 of these sites are available for use by low-impact, soft-sided trailers, van conversions, and regular tent camping. Amenities of Moro Campground include pay showers and fully accessible restrooms. All vehicles should have parking permits placed where park officials can easily see them.
The best way to find out about first-come, first-serve availability at the park is to contact park officials. Reservations can be made with only 48 hours advance, as space allows, but same-day camping may depend on availability. Even backcountry camping facilities require a permit for entrance, though, these seem to be made available same-day
Crystal Cove State Park has three additional tent-camping campgrounds located outside of the Moro Campground. Permits are required to access these more primitive, backcountry sites. Permits can be acquired online or at the Moro Campground kiosk. Each of these sites starts with a good three to four-mile hike from the parking lot, so you will want to come prepared for the trek. No water is available at either of the grounds, but you will find picnic tables and pit toilets. As rather primitive sites, you’ll want to be sure you’ve come with everything you need to make it out here. Tent camping is all that is permitted in these parts. When you’re looking to make your overnight within the park a bit more comfortable, Crystal Cove also provides its visitors with the option to stay at the Cottages in the Historic District.
Visitors to Crystal Cove also have the chance to step back in time and stay at some of the best-restored examples of California's bygone beachside cottage era. There are 24 immaculately restored cottages available for you to reserve that will take you way back in time to how life used to be at the original Crystal Cove from 1935 to 1955. The cottages can sleep between two and eight people and are available all year round. They are equipped with a basic kitchen (microwave and a fridge) and have some have pet and campfire restrictions.
Since this is such a unique experience, the cottages will be reserved quickly. We recommend making the most of the six-month reservation window and booking your chosen cottage as soon as possible.
Crystal Cove State Park offers several different interpretive programs, including guided nature hikes. These hikes are held all year-round and are quite a popular way to spend a winter day at the park. Park staff and teaching professionals are available to conduct a range of activities to help keep you busy during your stay. It’s a great way to dive deeper into what Crystal Cove has to show its visitors.
There are about 18 miles of trails to roam about through the 2,400 acres of this state park. The paths are frequented by many different modes of transportation, whether by foot, by horse, or by bicycle. If you’re planning on staying parked at the campgrounds, it’s advised to bring a bike to help you get around. Many of the park’s trails are easily accessed from the campground, as is the beach, but the walk can take a bit longer than you may hope: two wheels tend to get you there faster than two feet.
There is a vast diversity of wildlife to see at the park. Many visitors will come to witness birds migrating through the park, as well as species that call this place home. Besides busy birds, the park houses all sorts of mammals and reptiles, among other creatures, great and small. In the woodlands, try and spot coyotes, wood rats, and rattlesnakes. Along the shore, see seals, otters, and starfish. You’re sure to find a plethora of critters but always maintain a safe and proper distance from these creatures.
There are about 18 miles of hiking trails at Crystal Cove State Park. You’ll certainly have plenty to keep you busy if being on your feet is what you like to do best. Over 2,000 acres of native wilderness is laid out across varying elevations and landscapes. You’ll go from sandy shorelines to deep woodlands and mountainous backcountry. You can even discover what lies within Moro Canyon, as well as above it. No matter where your feet take you, you can be sure that you will discover beautiful, breathtaking vistas.
There isn’t much fishing allowed along the coastline of Laguna Beach, as the State Marine Reserve and State Marine Conservation Area have conjoined efforts to improve marine life. Since enacted, efforts have allowed for a significant improvement in the size, type, and supply of fish in these waters. Crystal Cove State Park is one area that allows fishing. Some of the species caught along the beach include perch, sand bass, corbina, and rockfish.
The Historic District is a 12.3-acre area of Crystal Cove State Park, and it is one of the few remaining historically preserved examples of California coastal development from the 20th century. Initially built in the 30s and 40s, there are 46 cottages available for you to view during your visit to the park, or if you fancy having a luxurious night, you can also stay in them too. If you are feeling a little hungry, there is also a cafe within the Historic District. Photographers will have to bring their cameras, as the Historic District is a great place to get some snaps of a restored area of California.
Surfing, body surfing, and boogie boarding are all popular ways to get in the water and ride the waves. Swells may not reach optimal height for proper surfing, but Crystal Cove’s rushing waters provide a fun and challenging location to get some surfing in. Moro Beach and Reef Point tend to be the beaches most frequented by surfers. During open park hours, lifeguards are always on duty, meaning you can enjoy surfing sports with a little more peace of mind.
Crystal Cove State Park is a designated Underwater Park and Marine Life Refuge. This coastline is no stranger to diving expeditions, be it SCUBA or free-diving. There is an incredible variety of marine life to take in here, with a healthy biodiversity that thrives beneath the waves. You’ll want to come on a calm day, as swells here can be quite overpowering. Local diving shops will be able to fill you in on tips and tricks to get the most out of Crystal Cove. Be prepared for a decent hike down to the shoreline. If you’re parked at the campground, you may want to opt-out of this one. Your gear will get heavy as you make your way to the water. Don’t get too tired, though — you still have to hike back up to the campground.
While there are no boat rentals onsite, boating is still an enjoyable activity at Crystal Cove State Park. Boats are available only a short distance away, at either Dana Point or Newport Beach. Some of the common ways that visitors explore the water include paddle boarding, sea kayaking, or boat fishing. If you decide to rent a watercraft, or if you bring your own, remember to be aware of the tidal shifts may affect your time on the water.
Crystal Cove State Park isn’t just about the beach. There are another 18 miles, or so, of trails winding through the park's 2,400 acres waiting for horseback riders to explore. There are no places to rent horses within the park, but horses are permitted in the park. If you arent' traveling with your horse, you’ll likely have to do this activity using a private company. However you ride, horseback riding is an activity that is enjoyed by many at the park.
As the Pacific waters recede and the low tide takes over the shoreline, many new rocks, crevices, and pools of trapped ocean life appear. When you peer into any of these tidepools, you’re sure to find sea life. These pools are thriving with all sorts of organisms. The tidepools are a terrific place to learn more about native oceanic life. Visit one of the four tidepool viewing areas at Reef Point, Pelican Point, Treasure Cove, and Rocky Bight. Please follow all conservation suggestions when visiting the pools.
For visitors interested in having a relaxing picnic, you will be pleased to note that there are many places to do so within Crystal Cove State Park. While there is no designated picnic area, there are plenty of picnic tables spread out throughout the park, most notably at the Moro Beach Area, Historic District Beach, and near the parking lots. Since there are no shelters or pavilions available to reserve all of the picnicking within Crystal Cove State Park is on a first-come, first-served basis.