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El Moro Canyon, Short Loop, Crystal Cove SP

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Ocean views, insulated canyon, coast chaparral, wildflowers, grassland
Near:Laguna Beach, CA
Distance:3.58 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:700 ft
Hike Time:2 hours
Trail Condition:OK, but a few difficult spots

Summary: Rapacious development comes up to the very fringes of this natural area, but dip into El Moro Canyon and you will find near solitude. The hike is best in the spring when wildflowers break out like a blush on a pretty girl's face. This is open, mostly treeless country, so a hat and sun screen are a must. Bring your own water.

You can take the loop either clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you travel counter clockwise the gentler "West Cut Across" is a better choice for the trip up the hill than the Poles trail. Those who go the other way can save about a mile by entering El Moro Canyon via the Poles Trail.

The Ocean View trail (1.6 miles round trip) may be worth it for spring wild flowers, but in other seasons may prove a disappointment with its view of trailer parks and luxury developments.

Trailhead: From Interstate 5, Southbound: Take the Laguna Beach exit. Head south to Laguna Beach. At the Pacific Coast Highway, turn right. Proceed 2.85 miles to the El Moro Canyon turnoff (just past El Moro School.)

From Interstate 5, Northbound: Take the El Toro Road exit. Head south on El Toro until it ends at Laguna Canyon. Turn left on Laguna Canyon. Continue to Pacific Coast Highway where you will turn right. Proceed 2.85 miles to the El Moro Canyon turnoff (just past El Moro School.) (Lat:33.566 Lon:-117.82)

Trail Guides for El Moro Canyon, Short Loop, Crystal Cove SP:
Afoot & Afield in Orange County
by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press)

Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer,
User Groups: Hikers, Bikes,
Ranger Contact: Crystal Cove State Park, 949-494-3539
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joel Sax, who has posted  51 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 3   Submit your own review
Reviewed by on 10/28/2015
This park and it's trails are pretty great. There are lots of options. I have a trip report and detailed hike directions on my blog for a 'best of' loop here.

Reviewed by Rocky on 12/11/2012
I live in area so this is where I get my cardio. The views and trail options keep me coming back. High view of sunsets over the ocean are incredible. For a real workout, go up BFI and along the ridge to East Cut, then down into the Canyon and back up Poles to return. One and a half hours of views and fun.

Reviewed by SM on 3/10/2012
Went with a group from church today and couldn't have asked for better conditions. Blue skies, wispy clouds, well marked trail w/signs, no sight of snakes, warm, but not unbearably hot and cool ocean breeze ALL made for a trip well worth the drive! This is a good leg workout (some pretty steep inclines on the short loop trail), but definitely a good feeling afterwards. Would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a good weekend workout and/or those who are beach and ocean lovers. Btw, Wahoo's in Laguna is the bomb!

Reviewed by Kat on 3/30/2011
My boyfriend and I went on February 10, 2011 to celebrate Valentine's day. It was a beautiful day with 83 degree weather. However, the hike was not beautiful. Most of the trail was shut down, due to unspecified reasons. The canyons were beautiful sight. There was a lot of greenery. However, there was a snake, about 3ft long on the trail. He slithered away on his own accord. Not a pretty sight! I had visions of seeing the ocean from our hike and we did not. Just at the beginning and end of the hike. Also, it is very well populated, tons of people. I would not do this hike again.

Reviewed by sn on 2/13/2011
great way to get my fat lazy friends to get some exercise and the view is amazing.

Reviewed by Dan on 8/16/2010
I went on a summer weekend and it was pretty crowded even at 7 am. It was $15 to park and that is year round the ranger said. As far as I'm concerned it wasn't worth it. I kept having to get over for bikes or runners and there was road noise a quarter of the time and the ocean is only visible for a quarter of the time. Maybe the longer hike would be better but the short loop is just too busy with groups talking loudly. Also no good places to sit and rest. I'll give it another try though. There are lots of trail choices to make the hike longer and each fork has a posted map of where you are.

Reviewed by JL on 4/3/2010
Very nice hike. Splendid ocean view, complete with canyons paint-brushed with yellow and purple wildflowers. I'd just like to suggest to do the loop in the clockwise direction, for two reasons: (1) it is a little less steep this way, and (2) you'll be rewarded with a terrific ocean view as the trail dips back towards the canyon. Will do this hike again.

Reviewed by Travis on 8/30/2009
Hiked it 8/30/09... early to avoid the heat. Hit the trail at 9 am and did the green loop in 70 minutes - much less than the estimated 2 hrs. We are not terribly fit but kept a constant pace. Along the way we upset a rather large rattlesnake right by our feet on the edge of the Lower Moro Trail on our way down. He was all coiled up and ready to strike when we heard/saw him - yikes! Thankfully, they rattle before they strike. The Tunnel to the beach is closed so we had to return to the parking lot and drive up the coast to another lot in order to go for a swim at the end of our hike as planned. Very nice hike for exercise with a cool, wet reward at the end. Will do it again for sure!

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: California Hiking, California Trails, California Hikes, Orange County Hiking, Orange County Trails, Orange County Hikes

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