El Moro Canyon Loop Trail in Crystal Cove State Park offers a leg workout, canyon views, ocean views—and, ta-da!—beach access. The challenging 5-mile (round-trip) loop trail passes through the 2,400-acre Crystal Cove Wilderness backcountry, showcasing the best of Orange County along the way. Leaving from the ranger station, follow the dirt path leading toward the day-use area (you can also start from here to shave a mile off the total).
From there, cross over the wooden bridge and follow the Moro Canyon Trail through a brief riparian woodland of oak, sycamores, and willows paralleling seasonal Moro Creek before veering right on the E. Cut Across trail, forming a clockwise loop. This is where the hike gets more challenging. No shade, and most of the 700 feet of elevation gain is packed into the next mile. Be sure to watch your step; this is rattlesnake turf, and lots of them hang out in the coastal sage scrub surrounding the trail.
After you make a right onto the Moro Ridge Trail, the rest of the way is flat or downhill, offering spectacular views of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach below. Admire the multimillion-dollar mansions dotting the cliffside and watch sailboats drift by as you head back toward the coast. Cool sea breezes offer a break from the dry heat of the canyon, and the ocean below beckons as you breathe in the salty air. Follow the BFI Trail to complete the loop. BFI? Well, euphemisticaly, Big Fat Incline.
NOW, THE BEACH! Reward yourself with some R&R at Moro Beach before heading back to the ranger station. It’s an easy walk. Stop when you reach the day-use parking area at the end of the BFI Trail and cut across the parking lot to find the beach-access tunnel. Much of the beach is surrounded by 80-foot bluffs, so keep an eye on the tide. The narrow beach doesn’t offer much in the way of facilities, but it sure is perfect for cooling off after a hike!
Crystal Cove State Park is between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, about 2 miles south of the intersection of Newport Coast Dr. and CA-1. Turn inland on School/State Park to park in either the day-use area or at the ranger station/visitor center (fee applies). The parking lots can get crowded, so get there early. No dogs.