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Crystal Cove State Park, so Close, and Yet so Far from the City

Nov 11, 2010 by Sandy Schroeder

It always amuses and amazes me when I visit a park in the midst of a city. One minute you’re literally buzzing through traffic; and the next, you’re walking along a silent path, with just the sound of birds swooping through the shrubs.

A recent visit to Crystal Cove State Park found me moving into that hushed silence as I exited off Pacific Coast Highway at Pelican Point.

From that point I made my way along the coastal bluff with a small stream of walkers, joggers, bikers, moms with youngsters and retirees; many were headed for the boardwalk, replete with its viewpoint and sandy beaches below.

Later, I saw body boarders at Reef Point going to Muddy Creek, a popular body surfing spot. And finally, the lunch crowd took the Los Trancos exit to the Historic District and the Beachcomber Restaurant. There are picnic spots and restrooms throughout the park.

This jewel of a park is one of the largest remaining natural seashore and open spaces in Orange County. It sits between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach.

Crystal Cove really has it all

There is an underwater park with 3 miles of beach and seven separate coves. Then, above PCH, there is a wilderness park with 17 miles of trails through 2400 acres of back country. You can hike, bike, even ride your own horse. You can also camp–which means you carry in and carry out–everything you need, including water. Access starts at the Moro Canyon parking lot.

Swimming, surfing, scuba, skin diving, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, overnight cottage stays, and tidepool explorations are all part of this park which is only minutes away from the urban world.


Since the 1920’s, there have been tents and trailers camped around here. In the twenties people were beginning to use PCH to get out of the city, and this must was a wonderful way to go to the beach. In the 1930’s cabins were built– forming a small colony. They were soon halted by the large property owner, The Irvine Company, and in 1979 the property was sold to the state. so that it was able to be the part that it is today. In the same year, the community was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Movie making too

Over the years, the area has been leased to movie makers and travelers alike. From 1918 to 1988, there were 16 separate movies made here– including Treasure Island, Rain and Sadie Thompson among others, To Have and Have Not, Two of a Kind, Herbie Rides Again and Beaches were some films that were made here.

Staying at the Cove

There are currently 46 cottages in the Historic District located here, with 22 restored for use. Cottages can now be rented and there are dorm units available too.

With a little planning, you could enjoy your own history with a stay in the Cove. The Beachcomber restaurant is located nearby down the beach, and the Date Shake Shack, is located just up the bluff; perfect for weary hikers.

Crystal Cove State Park, is open from 6:00am to sunset with the restaurants open until 10:00pm, daily.

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Beaches, Family, Hiking/Walking, Orange County, Parks, Recreation, SoCal

One Response to “Crystal Cove State Park, so Close, and Yet so Far from the City”

  1. Michael says:

    Sounds like a great park, and if its really that close to the city a treasure to the locals. I have seen a lot of city parks with hiking trails in the center of a city, but most state parks are not so close. The view of the beach from the cliff is amazing, reminds me of sand dunes if it was minus the all green. Great find!


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