Hiking in Crystal Cove State Park and camping at Lower Moro Campground

My overnight backpacking trip to Crystal Cove State Park this past August was a bonanza of photographic opportunity. I loved the dew-covered flowers, saw two rattlesnakes mating, got a night self portrait, saw a bunch of insects and spiders, and got some fun atmospheric shots of foggy trails and spiderwebs. If you want to see my pretty pictures from the trip, follow those links.

But, in looking at the traffic coming to my blog, a lot of folks are searching for information on camping at Crystal Cove State Park. So, as a final Crystal Cove wrap-up post I’ll share some pictures of the trail and our campsite.

My REI Quarterdome T2 tent set up with rainfly at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground.   A picnic table is visible in the background. (Marc C. Perkins)

My REI Quarterdome T2 tent set up with rainfly at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground.

While I loved my short trip to Crystal Cove’s inland campground, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind:

  1. There is no water available in the park except at the parking lot. So, you’ll need to carry in enough water to last for your entire trip.
  2. The campgrounds are a couple of miles away from the parking lot, and there’s a few hundred feet elevation gain, so you’ll need to be backpacking and give yourself enough time to get there before sunset.
  3. There are rattlesnakes.  There will soon be baby rattlesnakes.
  4. The park is centrally located in Orange County, and may get crowded during peak periods. While we were the only people at the entire campground when we went, friends have reported finding the Lower Moro campground entirely full, and having to hike on to the campgrounds further inland. You’ll also be sharing the trail with day hikers and mountain bikers, so don’t expect a lonely wilderness hike.

You’ll start out your trip at the new Crystal Cove State Park day use area, which comes complete with lots of parking, bathrooms, water fountains, a path to the ocean, and numerous picnic tables.

Crystal Cove State Park opened a new day use area in the summer of 2011.  This photograph shows the row of picnic tables that is adjacent to the parking lot.  There is a path that leads to the ocean, and also a path connecting the day use area to the trails leading into Crystal Cove State Park's inland wilderness. (Marc C. Perkins)

The new day use area at Crystal Cove State Park.

The trail leaves from the end of the parking lot, and after climbing all the way to the top of the coastal hills, you can look back on Crystal Cove State Park:

After hiking up and out of the valley the parking lot at Crystal Cove State Park is in, you're rewarded with this view of the bluffs fronting the ocean at Crystal Cove State Park.  This picture is looking north towrads the new RV campground (on the right), PCH (Highway 1), and the Reef Point area of Crystal Cove State Park. (Marc C. Perkins)

A view of the bluffs fronting the ocean at Crystal Cove State Park. This picture is looking north towards the new RV campground (on the right), PCH (CA Highway 1, visible above the campground), and the Reef Point area of Crystal Cove State Park.

The hiking trails that lead inland are wide and well marked, with heavy-duty signs marking each junction.

The trail heading inland from the parking lot is wide and easy to follow.  It leads through coastal sage scrub habitat, so don't expect east-coast foliage.  Here the fog is rolling in, so whisps of it are visible against the blue sky. (Marc C. Perkins)

The trail heading inland from the parking lot leads through coastal sage scrub habitat, so don't expect east-coast foliage. Here the fog is rolling in, so wisps of it are visible against the blue sky.

The Lower Moro campground itself is marked with a giant sign:

The sign marking the entrance to the Lower Moro campground.  It's tough to miss. (Marc C. Perkins)

Do I really need to say what this is? Oh, fine. It is the sign marking the entrance to the Lower Moro campground at Crystal Cove State Park.

The campground is fairly large with quite a few (dozens?) of numbered spots; we found one we liked fairly quickly (it helped that we were the only ones camping there). The campground has a number of amenities, including lots of picnic tables:

The campgrounds at Crystal Cove are very nice.  They have no water supply, but otherwise have everything you could ask for: picnic tables, trash cans, bathroom, and lots of clear flat areas to set up tents. (Marc C. Perkins)

A picnic table at the Lower Moro campground of Crystal Cove State Park.

The Lower Moro campground at Crystal Cove has no water supply, but does have trash cans, a bathroom, well-worn trails leading to each campsite, and lots of clear flat areas to set up tents.

My REI Quarterdome T2 tent set up with rainfly at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground.  Space markers numbering each camping spot are scattered around the campground. (Marc C. Perkins)

My REI Quarterdome T2 tent set up with rainfly at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground. Space markers numbering each camping spot are scattered around the campground.

As you can see, the fog rolled in on us fairly quickly after we set up camp. It made for a refreshingly cool summer evening, which I’m happy to say was mosquito and tick free.

The tables at the campground were quite sturdy, and easy to eat, cook, and play games on:

A picnic table on a foggy afternoon at the Lower Moro campground of Crystal Cove State Park. (Marc C. Perkins)

A picnic table on a foggy morning at the Lower Moro campground of Crystal Cove State Park.

The bathroom is a single pit toilet next to some trash cans:

The pit toilet and trash cans at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground. (Marc C. Perkins)

The pit toilet at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground.

The pit toilet was clean and well maintained (as such things go):

My friend holds open the door to the pit toilet so you, my kind readers, can see what it's like.  Clean, low-smell, and when we were there stocked with toilet paper.  Note: this photograph has had an element unrelated to the subject of the photograph (documentation of the condition of the toilet) removed in Photoshop. (Marc C. Perkins)

My friend holds open the door to the pit toilet so you, my kind readers, can see what it's like. Note: this photograph has had an element unrelated to the subject of the photograph (documentation of the condition of the toilet) removed in Photoshop.

The fog left a coating of dew over everything in the morning, so if you’re planning on an early departure you may be packing up a wet rainfly (though I didn’t, thanks to spending a few hours taking photographs until the sun broke through the fog).

Fog shrouds the landscape on a morning at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground.  My REI Quarterdome T2's tent's rainfly is covered in water droplets. (Marc C. Perkins)

Fog shrouds the landscape on a morning at Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro campground. My REI Quarterdome T2's tent's rainfly is covered in water droplets.

And that wraps up my post.  I hope you have a great time hiking and camping at Crystal Cove!

I’ll leave you with a view the trail heading home from the campground:

Looking back towards the ocean from Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro Campground, this shows the trail hiking along the ridgeline of the hills. (Marc C. Perkins)

Looking back towards the ocean from Crystal Cove State Park's Lower Moro Campground, this shows the trail hiking along the ridge-line of the hills.

 

More pictures

To see more pictures from the trip, head to my Crystal Cove State Park Wilderness Gallery.

Getting There

Crystal Cove State Park: Located along Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) between Corona Del Mar (Newport Beach) and Laguna Beach in Orange County, California. I camped at the Lower Moro Campsite, which is about a 2 mile hike in from the parking lot. Parking is plentiful at a new parking lot and picnic area past the Moro Campground (for RV’s), but you must pay either a day use fee for the state park or an overnight fee. The park is currently open from 6am – sunset; their website has lots of good information on it.

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