When I think of hiking in California, my mind brings up of images of Northern California, with Yosemite, of course topping the list. The park’s famous Half Dome and Panorama Trail offer great workouts and fantastic views. Then there are the ancient redwood trees along the Muir Woods trail and the Redwoods preserve overlooking Half Moon Bay, both making for some serious and picturesque hiking. But what about the coastal hiking trails in Southern California, where can Southern Californian’s go for a great hike that doesn’t require an overnight stay and a long drive? The answer: Orange County’s El Moro Canyon.
Situated in Crystal Cove State Park, the El Moro Canyon hike offers 17 miles of hiking trails in Orange County ranging in levels of difficulty. The higher trails take you through the mountainous backcountry where it’s not uncommon to see coyotes and bobcats, while the ridgeline and perimeter trails offer incredible views of the Pacific and Catalina Island.
Here is a breakdown of the three designated hiking trails in Orange County’s El Moro Canyon:
Length: 2.9 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
The Green Route is a nearly three-mile loop through the El Moro backcountry. The hike begins and ends at the El Moro Visitor Center. It’s an ideal hike for the weekend hiker, or when you just want a quick workout. The trail starts with a steady climb to about 500 feet in elevation. Then it’s a gradual descent down with just one hill near the end.
Length: 5.5 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
The Red Route starts and ends at the El Moro Visitor Center. This trail loops 5 ½ miles through El Moro Canyon and climbs to over 800 feet in elevation. It will take you along the ridgeline where you’ll get some of the best views of the coastline.
Length: 9.1 miles
Duration: Half day
The Blue Route runs the perimeter of Crystal Cove State Park and El Moro backcountry. This route is for those hikers looking for a more strenuous workout. The blue route is a 9.1 mile hike with some fairly good elevation climbs and takes you up and down several ridges and valleys. Like all hiking trails in El Moro, the blue route takes you high enough to enjoy scenic views of the Pacific as well as the Santiago and Modjeska Peaks.
Notes: There is very little shade along these routes. It can get quite dry and hot so bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen. Stay on trails and watch out for snakes – there are rattlesnakes in this area. Keep an eye out for bobcats and coyotes.
Getting there: Pacific Coast Highway between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Crystal Cove State Park/El Moro Visitor Center entrance, behind El Moro Elementary school.
Parking: Day Pass will cost you $15 – you may want to carpool!
Any of the hiking trails in El Moro Canyon will provide a great workout, test your endurance and provide amazing views of California’s backcountry and coastline!