Hike El Moro Canyon Loop Trail in Crystal Cove State Park

El Moro Canyon Loop is a nice 5 mile hike in Crystal Cove State Park along the Pacific Ocean. This is a wide and trafficked trail through Moro Canyon where you’ll get to see some beautiful views of the coastline with Newport Beach to the north and Laguna Beach to the south. In the post, I’ll give you the info you need to hike this trail.

Crystal Cove is a State Park with several hiking trails, tide pools and historic beachside bungalows.

Hiking Info

  • Trailhead location: El Moro Visitor Center

  • Loop Trail Hike: 5 miles

  • Rated: Moderate

  • Elevation change: 807ft

  • Parking: There is a $15 park fee for a day pass that goes to California State Parks

  • There are bathroom at the trailhead in the parking lot area

  • Both mountain bikes and horses are also allowed on this trail, but dogs are not.

El Moro Canyon Loop Trail

El Moro Loop is a moderate trail that starts at the parking just below the visitor center. Starting at the Ranger Station, walk downhill and turn left onto the dirt trail before the campground. Stay on the dirt road until you get to this long bridge. The trail starts with an easy mile going east down a well marked trail. Continue on this trail for 1 mile until you reach the East Cut Across trail and turn right.


Once you make that right turn you’ll start a climb uphill, this is where you’ll get a workout in for about 1.1 miles. We stopped at the top for a quick stretch and water break. From this point through the rest of the hike, there are spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean as you descend down the mountain. There isn’t much shade, but hopefully you’ll get a nice ocean breeze!

Vuori clothing, super soft athletic wear

Vuori clothing, super soft athletic wear

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The ocean starts to come into view.

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These photos were taken on our hike in January, where everything is pretty lush from the rain. If you visit here in April or May, lots of mustard plants will be in bloom and color the hills with yellow flowers against the blue ocean. It’s really beautiful!

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These are dried mustard plants below.

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After about 1.6 miles, turn right towards the ocean when you get close to the Pacific Coast Highway. There are a lot of cacti along the trail too, sprinkled in among the brush.

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As you continue downhill there are amazing views looking north along the coastline of Newport Beach.

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Eventually you’ll hit the intersection of Moro Canyon and West Cut Across Trails. Turn right, downhill on Moro Canyon Trail, cross the long bridge, and bear right up a moderate uphill climb, past the campground and back to the parking lot.

Additional Tips

If you've worked up an appetite after this hike (we did!), head to the shopping center just north of the park along highway 1 where there are several restaurants to choose from. My favorites are Bear Flag Company for delicious seafood, the poke is delish! Or Babette’s for new American cuisine.

Alternatively you can explore the Crystal Cove historic district with several historic beach cottages and a few restaurants. The two restaurants located here are the Crystal Cove Shake Shack and Beachcomber Cafe. These are popular spots on weekends so expect to wait quite a while to get seated or get your food. You can also explore tide pools along the beach before or after lunch.

Athletic Clothing featured in this post is by Vuori

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