There’s not only hiking in Laguna Beach, there’s SERIOUS hiking in Laguna Beach!
Most folks don’t realize that Laguna and Crystal Cove State Park (which includes El Moro) have elevations that rapidly climb from sea level to about 1,000 feet. Granted, you’re never going to snowboard here, but you can get a heck of a workout walking, trail running, mountain biking and horseback riding in El Moro Canyon.
El Moro lies just a quarter mile north of the Laguna Beach welcome sign. Our town’s only elementary school resides at the base of this monstrous hill and both sit across from the Crystal Cove State Park – a flat, beachy mecca that attracts thousands of tourists.
To the untrained eye, El Moro looks like a friendly set of rolling hills … and there are many great trails that accommodate beginner hikers and children, to be sure.
But don’t let El Moro fool you.
Many of her super-wide “fire trails” accommodate professional football and basketball players in training; cross-country teams; and marathon and triathalon greats. The “park” is a mass of long, steep inclines and rollercoaster hills with names such as “Elevator” (one you definitely want to struggle up instead of down), and “Poles” (a 400-foot vertical hill that some people take to crawling up with absolutely no fear of recrimination).
El Moro also throws down single-track careening challenges to professional BMXers and the internationally known “Radicals” (aka: RADS), a super-competitive mountain bike racing fraternity based in Laguna Beach.
Regular sitings if you were to go 4 weekends in a row for a month:
Other people on the hills (usually panting but all friendly): Every 3 minutes
Bunnies: Every 3 minutes
Slow-moving mountain bikers struggling up a steep hill: Every 10 minutes
Hurtling (but ever-polite) mountain bikers coming down a steep hill: 1 small group every half-hour.
Rattlesnakes: There are warnings posted, but I’ve only seen a few random track slithers. Rattlesnakes prefer to avoid humans, especially panting ones.
Red fox: 1 a month
Mule deer: 1 a month
Coyotes: 1 every season. They scramble in the opposite direction from humans.
Mountain lions: Never. (Though you can never say “never,” most state parks representatives will tell you that there’s simply not enough food on the hills for these buggers.)
• There are no bathroom or drinking water facilities on El Moro. Go prepared.
• Absolutely no dogs are allowed anywhere on this hill. Sorry. Leave the pooch at home. Horses are allowed on the trails.
• Campsites are available and can be arranged in advance by calling 949-494-3539
• If you park at the PCH side, you’re usually charged $10 to park UNLESS you arrive before or after the Visitor Center’s official hours …then it’s free! Plan your schedule accordingly
(El Moro) Park Hours:
Mon – Fri 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat, Sun – 6 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
How to Find El Moro:
There are many entries to El Moro from the top of Newport Coast Drive by the 73 toll road, from Laguna Canyon (the 133) and from PCH just north of the city limits. The Visitor Welcome Center (with park guides, bathrooms and maps) is on the PCH side, so I’ll direct you here first:
From the Laguna Beach Welcome sign on the north side of town, travel just ¼ mile to the El Moro School and Park exit to your right (a stoplight). Drive straight through the school lot to the park’s inland-bound road and follow the signs to the parking lot.