El Moro Canyon Loop in Crystal Cove State Park is a moderate hike with no shade, however, it does start and end with a peaceful walk along the beach. We hiked this loop on my birthday, which also happened to be National Trails Day. I can’t think of any better way to have celebrated turning one year older. Though the day was overcast, it was still warm, and since this loop offers no shade, it was a welcome reprieve from the Southern California sunshine.
Parking for Crystal Cove State Park is $15 and most hikers will go past the beach lot (directions above) and park on the left-hand side of PCH. Parking there is the same price and, while it gets you closer to the head of the trail, you don’t start your hike on the sand, like we did. Also, if you park in the lot on the left-hand side of PCH, your hike will be about 1 mile shorter. There is upper and lower parking in the lot. Access to the beach is on the far end of the bottom lot near the bathrooms. Once you reach the beach, turn left. There will be a tunnel about half a mile down that will bring you to the start of the No Dogs Trail.
No Dogs Trail turns into No Name Trail before you have to make a left on West Cut Across Trail to start the loop. Some of my hikes from earlier this year highlighted the yellow, mustard grass that grew wild across Orange County after our rainy season. With summer around the corner, those weeds died quickly and their remains still stood tall along West Cut Across Trail. Between the gray clouds, windless sky, and dead weeds that resembled a corn field, it was an eerie scene. But then again, I’m a sucker for getting a little scared in the outdoors 😉
East Cut Across Trail ends at Moro Ridge Road. To complete the last leg of the loop, turn right on Moro Ridge. This trail has several easy hills, none of which compare to the steep ups and downs of West and East Cut Across trails. Another positive about Moro Ridge are the amazing views of the ocean as you make your way down it and back to your starting point. Even with the dying brush and thick marine layer, I was happy to look upon this scene while ending our hike. Happy too that we clocked in 7.5 miles before indulging in too much sushi (is that really a thing; too much sushi?) for my birthday dinner.