While visiting a friend in Southern California over the weekend, we decided to follow up a Saturday night LA Galaxy game with a Sunday hike. The original plan was to try to bag Mt. San Antonio, a 10,000 foot peak in the San Gabriel mountains (and the highest point in LA County). Unfortunately, a storm dumped a foot of snow above 7,000 feet, and we weren't prepared for that kind of hike ... so the beach sounded like a great alternative on this 75-degree day!
After a quick search, we settled on Crystal Cove State Park between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. I was a little bit peeved at the $10 fee, but the beauty of the place and the rarity of my hikes along the ocean made it well worth it.
We settled on a moderate 5-mile loop, and hiked it backward from the "recommended" counter-clockwise trail description presented at the visitor's center.
We started up the ironically named "No Name Ridge Trail
" which is also referred to as the No Dog Trail. This is also ironic since the park's website says that dogs are not allowed anywhere in the park, not just this trail!
Anyway, the trail climbs up a ridge on an old dirt road
that is very well maintained and easy on the feet. Hiking north, the views of the San Joaquin Hills
looked lush and green at this time of year. Down to the right the view into Moro Canyon and one possible route to complete the loop back toward the beach.
After ¾ mile and a climb of about 500 vertical feet, we headed down into the canyon via the Pole Trail, a ½ mile, trail that follows a single power line straight down a road that is occasionally so steep, it would really have helped to have hiking poles. A 4-foot gopher snake slithered across the trail during our descent, the only snake of the day.
From the canyon, we headed up toward the opposite ridge on the nearly 2-mile long Crosscut trail. This old road climbs at a slower grade over a longer distance to an elevation over 750 feet. As we climbed, the Pacific came into view
again and the breezes picked up a bit.
At the crest of the ridge, we turned right and began the return portion of the hike on the Moro Ridge Trail. This 2 mile portion was the highlight of my day. Hiking along the top of a flat ridge
with the Pacific in my sights and the breeze in the air was exactly what I was hoping to experience.
The ridge is densely covered
with short shrubbery growing to 3-4 feet high, leaving an unobstructed 360-degree view. After about a mile of hiking on the ridge, the trail leads down the crest of the ridge toward the PCH. At this point, the hike becomes a little less remote as you are exposed to some traffic on the highway below, and rewarded with views of some of the gaudy homes
that litter the coast of Laguna Beach.
The ridge trail dives down a very steep final section, a portion of which is actually a paved
remnant of the former road, and another portion of single-track
. It ends back at the canyon trail, and there's another half mile of very uninteresting trail that leads back to the trailhead parking area.
All in all, if you're in Southern California and are looking to get out and hike for a couple of hours or the better part of a day, this is a great option with some rewarding views.