El Moro Canyon Short Loop Trail

MODERATE 186 reviews
#4 of 30 trails in

El Moro Canyon Short Loop Trail is a 2.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Laguna Beach, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 2.9 miles Elevation Gain: 479 feet Route Type: Loop

kid friendly


horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

trail running


bird watching





wild flowers


no dogs

Ocean views, insulated canyon, coast chaparral, wildflowers, and grasslands. Rapacious development comes up to the very fringes of this natural area, but dip into El Moro Canyon and you will find near solitude. The hike is best in the spring when wildflowers are in full bloom. This is open, mostly treeless country, so a hat and sun screen are a must. Bring your own water. You can take the loop either clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you travel counter clockwise the gentler "West Cut Across" is a better choice for the trip up the hill than the Poles trail. Those who go the other way can save about a mile by entering El Moro Canyon via the Poles Trail.

5 days ago

Not much else to add except I'd recommend walking the extra couple miles roundtrip along the beach and enjoying a couple beers on the Beachcomber patio in Crystal Cove. You can access the beach via the Crystal Cove State Park tunnel on the south end of the trail.

2 months ago

I hiked this loop with my 9 y/o daughter and we loved the amazing scenery. The wildflowers are in full bloom which made everywhere you turn a sight to see. We went counterclockwise on the loop which meant we went up Poles. As others have stated, Poles is pretty steep and is definitely a good challenge (make sure you have good sturdy shoes), but once you get up to the top, the walk back down with panoramic views of the Pacific made it well worth it. Highly recommend especially in spring.

2 months ago

Hiked this with my family last weekend. It was gorgeous, the flowers were in full bloom and everything and the hills were bright green. We went counter-clockwise and hiked up poles which was steep, but manageable. The overlook of the pacific and surrounding state park was absolutely stunning. If you only have a couple hours and want to explore Crystal Cove State Park, I would highly recommend!

Easy terrain. Almost a groomed path. Poles gets steep about 25% grade.

6 months ago

Nice walk, though the scenery is a tad monotonous. At the trail junctions, there are helpful little signs to help you get oriented.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Loved this trail. All trail mapping is fantastic. So many times I could got lost.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pretty busy. If you start on the north side the incline is very intense and long: my kids were not pleased (4/6) and had to be carried. Trail shoots up then drops down to a flat valley with lots of blooming poison oak right along the trail. State park should remove or control it (it’s everywhere).

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Nice family hike. The most difficult part is crossing through Poles trail, which is a steep incline of just under half a mile. I would definitely recommend doing the trail counterclockwise, which would mean taking the incline uphill, but will give you a beautiful ocean view the rest of the way. Well worth the climb.

Monday, January 15, 2018

I'm not sure who decides the difficulty level for these trails, but I felt like this was on the higher side of "moderate". We parked in at Visitor's Center. You have to pay for parking - $5/hour or $15/day, but they don't let you pay hourly on the weekends. Since it's a loop, you can do this trail two ways. We headed South from the Visitor Center to the El Moro Canyon Trail, followed that up the canyon to where it meets Poles and Jeep Trails. This part of the hike was relatively easy, with a slight incline. The Poles Trail is short but STEEP... most people were coming down. Be sure to have a good tread on your footwear if you decided to hike down. At the top of Poles you make a left and head back down to the Visitor Center parking. The view of the ocean is really nice on the way down, which makes the trek up Poles worth it.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Nice hike on a well maintained trail. As expected, no shade on the hike so bring plenty of water. If you go to the right on the trail you stay almost flat for about 1.5 miles til you reach the very steep incline to get to the ridge. If you go to the left the incline is gradual but then you don’t get the view of the water while hiking.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My 9 year old son and I did this hike. I'm glad we brought our hiking sticks. Some parts were a little steep him, but he did it! We enjoyed it & he would like to do it again with his cub scout pack. The view was great!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nice hike. Strenuous uphill climbs in the beginnings, but nice views of the ocean once you reach a hilltop. Bring shade and plenty of H2O.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

beautiful view.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

This was my first time hiking in a while. I found it a little challenging once we reached the steep incline. Had some nice views and the weather was great! Would recommend.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Starts off a nice walk then gets really steep. Overall a nice short hike. $15 to park. Same Parking for the hike and beach access.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fun trail for family hike. Poles Trail section a little steep for the little people but hey it's all good.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Nice wide smooth dirt trails, with some decent hills. $15 all day or $5/hr parking. Multiple trail options.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Really great hike! Beautiful view of the ocean at some points. There are a lot of options to make the trail longer or more difficult.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

This trail was beautiful, with great views of the ocean, and safe paths to follow, with plenty of guide posts for the beginning hikers and all others. I would definitely come here again!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

hello everybody the hike was great ! View at sunset time was amazing. Be ready to go up seriously the first mile. after that, getting to the view of the mountains on the other side was relaxing and free of car noise :) what a pleasure ! I recommand the hike followed by a beach time to cool off. the only issue about that hike is the 15 dollars daily parking price but I definitively would do again

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Great trail for novice hikers. We were lucky to have an amazing sunny and 75 degree day on Thanksgiving when we hiked this trail. Great ocean views and plenty of trails to choose from as you traverse into the canyon. Day parking is $15 and good for all state parks. Head across the street to the Crystal Cove bluffs (parking covered with your day pass) and walk up and down the beach after your hike. I'll be back for the longer trails soon.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Very dry, not much too see until you reach an ocean view. Nevertheless a good hike, not crowded and right smack next to the ocean.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Great trail for a first timer hiker.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

A rather boring trail head with not much vegetation except from random vines with melons growing, but a great and challenging ascend that the kids conquered (ages 6-11). The views of the ocean and ability to easily walk over to the small beach was well worth it. The kids loved running in the water at sunset and cannot wait to camp there next time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nice ocean view from the top. Otherwise a very boring, dusty trail. Most of the vegetation is weed and only wildlife is a few birds in the lower part. Lots of spider webs, if you want to count that as wildlife. $15 to park your car is outrageous given how awful this hike is. There are lots of options to extend your hike, but I honestly can't see why you'd want to. At least you can head over to the beach afterwards to rinse the dust off your legs. Better yet, skip this hike and walk the beach instead!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Well-maintained and easy, fun hike. Worth doing for the views and I would even say that it's definitely worth the $15 parking fee. The loop is awesome because it drops you off at the beach, which is really rad.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Five stars for the workout getting to the top of the hill and five stars for the view once you get there. The trail was not crowded at all. Well-maintained. Still a beginner at this and so the trek to the top was a little difficult with a backpack full of camera equipment, but once you get there, the views were amazing!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

There were a bunch of different trails to loop around and the maps were very helpful. The hike itself was fairly easy and it wasn't too crowded. however I went just before 8AM. It got busy by about 10. Parking is $15 for the whole day or $5/hr. I'd recommend the day pass. I payed for 2 hours, but I could've stayed for much longer. The view of the ocean and the surrounding hills and valleys was very pretty. Overall it was super fun and definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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