Turn off of the Pacific Coast Highway, between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, and you are sure to 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 brought in by the cove’s rolling surf, clean beaches, intriguing tide pools, gently sloping hills, deeply wooded canyons, and astounding Pacific 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 easily walk from beach to beach. Other pathways 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. It’s a good thing you don’t have to, with several campground options, including those for RVs. Crystal Cove provides such an ideal day-use area that you may decide you need more than one to really enjoy it - and it’s highly recommended. You don’t want to miss out on what this piece of California has preserved
RV Rentals in Crystal Cove State Park
Transportation in Crystal Cove State Park
Getting to Crystal Cove State Park is fairly straightforward, as the park is located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. The roads into the park and all throughout 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 can be done 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. This tends to mostly include the beach, which is about a ten minute (or so) walk from the most popular campground, Moro Campground. 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 prior to campground reservations to ensure sites are available that will accommodate larger rig sizes.
Campgrounds and parking in Crystal Cove State Park
Campsites in Crystal Cove State Park
Expect to pay a little more than you may be used to in order to spend a night here at Crystal Cove. It’s a rather popular coastline in California, sharing its waters with Laguna Beach. Typically, RVs and campers can anticipate dishing out $75 for an evening here (plus the reservation fee), but rates go down during the off-season. It’s well worth it, though. Many visitors rave about the site and its 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. The staff is friendly, welcoming, and always willing to help educate the park’s visitors. Of the 58 campsites, 28 of them are designated 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, which are centrally located. No more than two vehicles are permitted to be parked at any of the sites, and this includes if you’ve hitched a trailer for the trip. Extra vehicles will mean an extra charge. A third vehicle is permitted to park in the Moro Canyon day-use area, which is the larger and most eastern lot. This does not include RVs or other occupied vehicles. All vehicles that have previously paid for campground access do not need to provide separate payment for day-use parking areas, as long as parking permits are easily seen by park officials.
It’s a superb getaway. While staying here may be on the higher end of the budget, many visitors agree that it is worth the added investment. With spectacular views, a comfortable setting, and welcoming coast, you’re sure to fall in love with the location.
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. For more spur-of-the-moment excursions, this state park is best enjoyed as a day trip.
Crystal Cove State Park has another three separate campgrounds outside of the more populated Moro Campground. In total, the other grounds available to camp at this state park allow for another 32 campsites. To access these more primitive, backcountry sites, a permit is required. Permits can be acquired online or at the Moro Campground kiosk. Each of these sites start 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 though, 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.
Seasonal activities in Crystal Cove State Park
As the Pacific waters recede and low tide takes over the shoreline, many new rocks, crevices, and pools of trapped ocean life are revealed. When you peer into any of these leftover pools, you’re sure to find a plethora of life. These pools are thriving with all sorts of organisms. The tidepools are a terrific place to learn more about the native oceanic flora and fauna. Four tidepool viewing areas are suggested: Reef Point, Pelican Point, Treasure Cove, and Rocky Bight. As a conservancy, first and foremost, it is important to always respect the rules and regulations put in place to keep this land, and its native species, safe and healthy. Please follow all suggestions when visiting the pools.
The park isn’t just about the beach. Another 18 miles (or so) of trails through 2,400 acres is also available for visitors to explore. There are no places to rent horses within the park, but horses are permitted to be brought in. You’ll likely have to do this activity via an outside third party, but it is nonetheless an excursion enjoyed by many at the park.
While there are no boat rentals provided through the park’s services, boating is still a pursuable activity to enjoy at Crystal Cove State Park. Boats are available only a short distance away, at either Dana Point or Newport Beach. Seeing the coastline from this perspective is a fantastic way to take in California’s beaches.
SCUBA Diving and Snorkeling
Crystal Cove State Park is designated as an “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 fairly heavy as you make your way to the water. Don’t get too tired, though - you still have to hike back up...
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 active 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.
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 great improvement in the size, type, and supply of fish in these waters. Crystal Cove State Park is one area that actually allows fishing, even as a conservancy, being that it is just along the border of Laguna Beach. You can enjoy all the efforts taken by these organizations by being able to catch some spectacular fish.
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 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, 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. As a conservancy, first and foremost, it is important not to disturb the natural order of things at the park.
There are about 18 miles of trails to roam about through the 2,400 acres of this state park. The trails are frequented by many different modes of transportation; whether by foot, by steed, or by bicycle. If you’re planning on staying parked at the campgrounds, it’s well advised to bring a bike to help you get around at a quicker pace. 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 for. Two wheels tend to get you there faster than two feet on their own.
Guided Nature Hikes
Crystal Cove State Park offers a number of 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 really dive deeper into what Crystal Cove has to show its visitors.