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Ocean breezes and sights worth seaing
The Laguna Coast Wilderness portion of Crystal Cove State Park is 2,400 acres of native backcountry traversing the picturesque San Joaquin Hills of Southern California, about a mile north of Laguna Beach.
The land for the park was purchased by the State in 1979, preserving what had been cattle grazing land and part of the Irvine Ranch since 1864.
Upon establishment of the park, the ranch roads were closed to vehicular traffic, but are now utilized as multi-use recreational trails. There are 17 miles of trails in the park, mostly consisting of these old roads, but there's also some single-track.
Three parallel trails lead north from the Pacific. The El Moro Canyon trail follows the seasonal El Moro Creek up the canyon and presents the hiker with a gentle upward climb through coastal sage scrub, with some occasional riparian shade provided by oak and sycamore trees.
On the ridges on either side of El Moro Canyon are parallel trails which feature more exposure and subsequently, better views; the San Joaquin Hills, the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, and the coastal cities of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. When you're in the canyon, it's easy to forget that you're in such a densely populated part of southern California, but on the ridges, the distant views serve as a reminder.
Several trails connect the ridge trails with the canyon trail, and provide a bit more of a workout as the ridges rise to over 900 feet above sea level. The connecting trails are steep, but the rewards are great.
There are three primitive campgrounds which can be reserved, and are only accessible by hiking, resulting in a reasonable 3 mile backpack/camping possibility. This area is popular for hiking and mountain biking, but since most of the trails are old roads, there's plenty of room for the shared uses.
There's a visitor center at the trailhead which features maps and a park ranger who can direct you on the most appropriate route through the park for your skill level and time constraints, including separate loop hikes of about 3, 5, or 11 miles.
Check out the Triplogs.