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Trail of the Week: Crystal Cove and Laguna Coast

Trail of the Week: Crystal Cove and Laguna Coast


Introducing our first Trail of the Week, a series that highlights favorite trails for running and hiking by the PATH community from around the world. These can be short, medium and long trails from beginner to advanced levels. Our first trail is in our backyard of Orange County at the Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 

Trail running Orange County

My favorite Orange County Running and Hiking Trail

This is one of my favorite local trails, a network of fire roads and single tracks with spectacular coastal views. Most of these trails are runnable with 200 to 300 feet per mile climbs, with a few steep short climbs that I usually hike. The highest point of this trail is at about 1000 feet and the lowest point is close to ocean level. There is often a marine layer, resulting in great views when you run above the clouds. You can go for a quick and easy hike, or you can go for a long and strenuous run.

There are several trail races here with distances from 5k to 50k. Crystal Cove features 3.2 miles of beach. The ocean breeze helps keep the trail temperatures significantly lower than the trails that are more inlands. A detailed high resolution map can be found on the Caltopo site.

Crystal Cove Strava Map

  Elevation Chart Crystal Cove

Park Access, Parking and Camping

Park Hours for Crystal Cove State Park are 6am to Sunset, while Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is open 7am to Sunset. These parks can be accessed from several different starting points. I like to start at Bommer Ridge Trail West Entrance via Newport Coast. This is at 1000 feet elevation, so you will be at one of the highest points of the park. When you arrive early, there is plenty of free parking in the parking lot and on both sides of the street. There is no gate before you can park your car, so you can access this area earlier than 6am. 

There are also paid parking options at the bottom of the trail off Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach via four entrances. Day use parking here is $15.

The park has one campground by the ocean with 27 hookups sites and 30 non-hookup tent sites. There are also primitive hike-in camping options in the backcountry with 32 sites spread out across 3 areas. For more info visit Reserve California.


Crystal Cove Park Entrance
The Bommer Ridge Trail West Entrance via Newport Coast
Trail running Orange County
The marine layer often disappears a few hours after sunrise. Great views when running above the clouds. 
Some parts of the trail are pretty steep to run to we hike these
Some of the trails are pretty steep to run, however everything is very hike-able. 
Trail running with ocean view Crystal Cove
Spectacular coastal views when the marine layer disappears. 

Trail Race - The Whoo's in El Morro 50k

There are several running races here. One of the most known one is The Whoo's in El Morro, with distances of 5k, 10k, 25k and 50k. You can sign up at Ultra Sign Up and download the race map PDF here

Whoo's El Morro 50k map

XTERRA Trail Race

Another local race with a 6k and 15k distance is the XTERRA Crystal Cove Trail Run. The map below shows an overview of the 15k course map. The races takes place on fire roads and single track trails in the El Moro area of Crystal Cove State Park.

Xterra Trail Race Crystal Cove

Trail Safety and Wildlife

There is a diversity of wildlife at the park, including coyotes, rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, bobcats, and numerous species of birds. When there is heavy rain, the trails become very muddy and the park closes down for a few hours or days. The website for Crystal Cove State Park has a lot of great info, including the latest trail updates. 

Rattle Snake on Trail
Coyote trail running

If you are ever in the Orange County area, looking for a great place to run or hike, this is a great park to visit. If you have any questions at all, just let us know in the comments. 



Hi Dean, absolutely. Would be great if you can contribute one of your favorite trails to this. Please use a similar template and shoot it over to me at once it’s done. Thanks!


I’m in Northern CA (Folsom/Roseville). Any way I can contribute to this series?


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