Where is Crystal Cove State Park
- Park Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Crystal Cove State Park hugs the Pacific Ocean coastline within the city of Newport Beach, California. The park entrance is a quick 15-minute drive from central Newport Beach and less than an hour from downtown Los Angeles. Other surrounding beach towns and municipalities include Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach to the north and Laguna Beach and San Clemente to the south.
This state park’s accessible location from Los Angeles makes it an ideal day or afternoon trip for any Angeleno. Crystal Cove US State Park also draws visitors from across the country, due to its pristine beach just outside a major metropolis and diverse terrain island from the coast.
How Big is Crystal Cove State Park
The topography of Crystal Cove State Park ranges from three miles of Pacific coastline to wooded canyons. The park offers a diverse refuge from the surrounding urban areas outside and south of Los Angeles for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and of course beach goers!
Crystal Cove is 2,791 acres in total area on land, but the lesser known and explored part of the park lies in the ocean. The Crystal Cove Conservancy also encompasses over 1,000 acres of an underwater park and re-established kelp forest. This special part of the state park is home to hundreds of plant and animal species that thrive under the marine conservatory protections.
Crystal Cove State Park Weather
Temperate and sunny, the weather in Crystal Cove State Park is pleasant all year long. There are over 270 sunny days a year in Newport Beach, California, and on the “Comfort Index” this part of California rates a 9.2 out of 10.
While summer is definitely the best time for a trip to the beach and exploring Crystal Cove’s famous, rocky tidepools, there truly is not a bad time to spend the day at this coastal gem. Visitors to Crystal Cove State Park in colder months will still find plenty to do in the park.
The average temperature in December, January and February still hits 64°F during the day. Winter, therefore, provides ideal weather for horseback riding and hiking on Crystal Cove’s trails.
When did Crystal Cove Become a State Park
The area of Crystal Cove has a long and fascinating history along the California coastline and nearby canyons. The first visitors and residents of the park property were indigenous populations living in Moro Canyon. Evidence of settlements shows Native Americans lived in this canyon for 9,000 years before the land was given to a rancher by the Mexican government.
In 1879, wealthy businessman, James Irvine, purchased the property to use for sheep grazing and other ranching activity, but it was his son James Irvine II, who had the bigger influence on Crystal Cove becoming the state park it is today.
James Irvine II allowed friends and family to build cottages on the property starting in the early 1920s. Eventually, these became residences and more common in the area, and a number of these beach cottages are still standing and available for rent today.
Then in 1979, the Irvine Company sold the property to the State of California. This became the year that Crystal Cove State Park was officially established, with several land and marine protections put in place between 1979 and 2006.
Things to do in Crystal Cove State Park
There is no shortage of daytime activities available for visitors to explore, kick back, and generally enjoy the outdoors in Crystal Cove State Park. Our State Park Visitors Guide highlights some of the activities you can enjoy at Crystal Cove State Park.
Definitely one of Crystal Cove State Park’s most popular activities is simply a day at the beach. There are four separate beaches in the park, all providing plenty of access to the California sunshine.
Surfing & Body Surfing
In typical California style, there are a few places to try surfing or body surfing throughout Crystal Cove State Park. A great body surfing location is just off Reef Point, a popular beach easily accessible from a large parking lot (for day use).
For visitors hoping to spend some day away from the water, there is no shortage of beauty in Crystal Cove State Park’s stunning canyons. 18 miles of hiking trails allows visitors to explore the park’s trail network on shorter 2-3-mile trails or a longer 9-mile adventure. There are also several backcountry trails.
Horses are permitted on all 18 miles of trail within Crystal Cove State Park and share these pathways with hikers and bikers. There is no place to book horseback riding within the park, but a handful of operators in Newport Beach will offer opportunities to ride within the state park.
Experienced mountain bikers love the continuous up-and-down of Crystal Cove’s canyons and hills. There are few flat sections of trail throughout the 18 miles of available trail to ride, which can be a welcomed or worrisome challenge.
Each year more visitors to Crystal Cove State Park discover the marine life and biodiversity in the rocky tidepools in this California State Park. It is crucial to view, but not disturb or collect from these pools, as they are an integral part of the coastline and protected under a marine conservatory.
When to go to Crystal Cove State Park
Similar to the urban parts of Los Angeles and Newport Beach, it can feel like summer never leaves Crystal Cove State Park. The temperature rarely dips below 55°F and most park activities can be enjoyed year-round, including cottage rentals, horseback riding, and tidepool exploration.
One reason to consider a visit to Crystal Cove State Park in the autumn, winter or early spring is an opportunity to explore the undeveloped beach and hiking trails without a crowd. Crystal Cove has the same increase in out-of-state visitors and day trippers as many other state parks in California, and the beach location attracts more people over the summer. This means winter can offer the opportunity to explore without the crowds
Another great way to miss the crowds at Crystal Cove State Park is planning your visit on a weekday. In particular, the trails throughout the park can be crowded on weekends, with a mix of hikers, bikers, and horseback riders all vying for an opportunity to explore this beautiful state park.
Must-Have things to Bring to Crystal Cove State Park
Before making the commute down from Los Angeles, visitors to Crystal Cove State Park will want to be sure they have everything needed for a fun day outdoors. List of Parks outlines items below that you should consider bringing to the park.
Visitors coming for Crystal Cove’s beachfront location will want to bring a bathing suit or wetsuit to enjoy exploration of the park’s underwater park. Whether you need a warmer wetsuit or not is dependent on your intended activity and time of year.
The complex ecosystem found under the ocean is best explored from Crystal Cove’s undeveloped beach and several tidepools. A snorkel mask ensures visitors can see and experience this water world, but not disturb the many species of plant and marine life.
Even if you do not plan to take a dip from one of the four beaches in Crystal Cove State Park, it is still a great idea to come prepared with a towel and change of clothes. You never know if the blue water of the Pacific will change your mind!
There are over 18 miles of connected trails throughout the coastline and chaparral canyons of Crystal Cove State Park. Be prepared to walk them all with proper footwear.
There are an average 277 days of sunshine in Crystal Cove. Protect your skin from damage and sunburn by making sure you have sunscreen before heading to the beach or hiking trails.
Where to Stay in Crystal Cove State Park
Accommodation and camping are certainly some of Crystal Cove’s best attractions. The history of seasonal and overnight stays on the property extends back to the early 1900s, when the Irvine Company and James Irvine II invited friends to build seasonal residences throughout the property.
These cottages would become more permanent structures and homes for many people - eventually forming the Crystal Cove Community in the 1920s through 1940s. Several of these cottages (currently 21) are still available for rent today in the Crystal Cove Historic District. The beach cottages have both private and dormitory-style rooms to rent, plus several cottages can be rented as a unit.
In addition, there are two ways to camp overnight in Crystal Cove State Park. The Moro Campground has 57 drive-able campsites and another 29 sites that require backcountry hiking to access. Tent campsites are $55 per night, RV sites are $75 per night, and the backcountry primitive sites are $25 per night.
Food Nearby Crystal Cove State Park
Visitors will not want for food options near Crystal Cove State Park. One of the park’s winning features is offering an outdoor oasis amidst several urban centers. Nearby Newport Beach, for example, offers everything from seafood and fine dining to casual delis and cafes.
A few recommendations not far from the park entrance include, Side door, which is a reasonably priced American eatery, Pelican Grill, and Ruby’s Shake Shack. Of course, another local favorite is the Beachcomber Cafe, located in the Historic District of Crystal Cove.
Airports Near Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park makes an excellent day trip from Los Angeles, but many visitors choose to skip the hassle of the city altogether and head straight to this outdoor oasis. Nearby Newport Beach and the now famous Laguna Beach are excellent and high-end places to stay, and of course the Crystal Cove beach cottages and camping offer more economical and laidback options.
For visitors hoping to quickly escape the Los Angeles traffic, there are airport options other than LAX (although LAX often offers cheaper domestic fares). John Wayne Airport is located squarely in Orange County and is only 16 minutes from the state park entrance. Another option is Long Beach Airport, which is a favorite option for domestic flights and is helpfully located on the southern edge of Los Angeles.