Reef Point and Crystal Cove Trail

easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(729)
Crystal Cove State Park

Reef Point and Crystal Cove Trail is a 5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Laguna Beach, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for running, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from June until November.

Length5 miElevation gain298 ftRoute typeLoop
Kid friendlyNature tripsBird watchingrunningBeachPartially pavedViewsWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleNo shadeHistoric siteNo dogs
Waypoints (11)
Contact
Tips
1
120,000 Year-Old Fossils
Walk further south and you will see these shells embedded in sandstone on the beach adjacent to the cliffs. You may not give them a second thought. Although to the casual observer they appear modern, they are about 120,000 years old. This seems a great age to humans, who typically consider time in hours, days, weeks, years, and human lifetimes. To geologists 120,000 years is just a blink of an eye in a world exceeding 4.5 billion years in age. Because 120,000 years is so little geologic time, these fossils look like modern shells.
33.5719341, -117.8386822
2
Concretions in the Monterey Formation
Visitors to Crystal Cove often ask about the hamburger bun-shaped or UFO shaped rock "formations" littering the beach especially in the vicinity of the Beaches Cottage. These features range in size from a few inches to more than 12 feet in diameter. Look carefully in the cliff towering over the side yard of the cottage. You will see several examples embedded in the Monterey. Geologists call these bodies concretions. Although small examples are common, large specimens like many here are relatively rare - although do occur elsewhere in California such as along the Santa Barbara Coastal Plain and at Bowling Ball Beach at Schooner Gulch near Point Arena. Concretion formation is a fascinating story. A favorite hypothesis is that the rounded masses are like tumors growing in the body of an organism. If you are unfortunate enough to get a splinter under your skin, your body reacts. The site may become infected by bacteria or other microorganisms, and a "tumor" forms walling off the splinter from healthy tissue. The Monterey also grew "tumors" by being infected. How? The Monterey formed in a mile plus deep marine environment. Clay and other fine-grained sediment such as diatom and calcareous plankton tests (skeletons) accumulated to form an ooze (a marine sediment with more than 30% organic material). Heavy rain and flooding brought wood to the beaches. Some drifted out to sea, became water-logged, and sank into the ooze. These "splinters" became infected with bacteria which interacted with the sediment and the wood to produce swelling. The ooze with the nodules ultimately turned to stone.
33.5729487, -117.8394011
3
Monterey Formation and Mass Wasting
Walking south you see the last historic cottage. The "Beaches Cottage" was featured in a 1988 film starring Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey and John Heard. Despite its fame and photogenic character, it was one of the last Crystal Cove cottages to be restored. Why? Because mass wasting of an unstable cliff of Monterey Formation in its back and side yards threatened its destruction until a retaining wall was built. The Monterey threatens landslides and slumps wherever it crops out in cliffs from San Onofre northward through Crystal Cove, Newport Back Bay, Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. Mass wasting has taken down houses, roads and even people along with the rocks. Geologists know to be especially wary when building structures on or down slope of this unstable formation. Visitors may not realize that along our shores over 200,000 cubic meters of sand are moved each year by the longshore (wave-generated) current. If nourishment sands were not added along our coast, we'd lose our sand permanently to the offshore submarine canyons where the current dumps it.
33.57335, -117.83971
4
Meandering "River" and Migrating Ripple Marks
Unlike mountain streams which run quickly and fairly straight and produce V-shaped canyons, streams in areas of low gradient (slope) run slowly and meander (make snake-like curves in their beds) and produce wide flat flood plains. Here you see a scale model of the latter. The outside walls of the bends are called cut banks. As time goes by the stream laterally cuts into this bank and carries away the eroded sand. In contrast, sand is deposited on the inside of the bends called point bars. Erosion occurs where the stream runs more quickly (the outside of bends) whereas deposition occurs where the stream runs more slowly (the inside of bends). Look carefully and you may witness the sideways movement of the entire stream bed. Over time, meandering rivers move sideways through the landscape just like some snakes move sideways over sand dunes. Notice also the ripples in the stream bed. These are small migrating sand dunes. Sand on the upstream side of the dunes erodes away whereas the same sand is deposited on the downstream side of each dune. The result is that through time the ripples march downstream. If you are here on a windy day, you may observe dry beach sand in the form of tiny dunes migrating down wind in much the same way the water ripples migrate downstream. So in this one spot you've witnessed migration of two types - sideways in the stream bed and downstream in the dunes.
33.5738694, -117.8401279
5
Sidewalk Cracks
Observe the cracks in the sidewalk and adjoining asphalt pathway. Why are they here? Ground movement is the answer. But what kind? Faulting, clay soil expansion and contraction, mass wasting (the downward movement of rocks or soil due to gravity - ranging from high speeds such as rock fall to very slow creep), or some other movement? All are possible and occur in the park. Here, expansive clay soils and soil creep are most likely (although large faults - the Newport-Inglewood, Pelican Hills, and Shady Canyon - occur in and near the park).
33.57823, -117.84106
6
Magnetite in the Sand
At some places in the sand you will see streaks of fine black particles. Without really analyzing it, some people conclude these are crude oil or tar. However, if you run a magnet through the streaks, the particles will stick. The black needles are the mineral magnetite, a component of ocean floor basaltic (volcanic) igneous rock. These needles have a positive and negative pole and orient to the magnetic field in which they are placed (in this case, in the field of the magnet).
33.5740616, -117.8403801
7
Recumbant Folds
The severely folded Monterey beds exposed in the cliff at the north end of the beach at Crystal Cove are textbook examples of recumbent folds. These layers are so tightly contorted that it is hard to imagine solid rock bending like this - even under high heat and pressure. Despite the extreme folding, no visible faults are associated with this outcrop. Consequently, these rocks likely folded, not deep within Earth's crust, but at the surface before the sediments lithified (turned to stone). Picture yourself pushing a carpet up against a wall until it folds. Similarly, in the deep water environment, the water-saturated sediments probably slid (triggered by an earthquake) down slope until they folded as you see here.
33.5834101, -117.8605758
8
Caves and Oil
You may have already noticed black oily patches on some of the rocks or the beach sand. Be careful with your identification. Some of the spots may actually be "tar spot algae" or magnetite. On the other hand, some may indeed be petroleum. On a clear day you can see oil platforms off shore Newport and Huntington Beaches. These platforms may host several dozen wells radiating like spokes from the hub of a wheel and extending down to various reservoir rocks (porous, permeable rocks capable of yielding oil and gas). One thing these platforms and many other land-based California oil wells have in common is that the source of oil is the Monterey Formation (although it has since migrated to various reservoir rocks). Nearly all oil originates from plankton in shallow marine environments - not from land plants, which when preserved as fossil fuel produce coal.
33.5833531, -117.8606334
9
Newport Jetty Overlook
From the beach climb the steps up to the bluff top and follow the path left to the Newport Jetty overlook. When looking north toward Corona del Mar, you will see the Monterey cropping out all along the beach. Now observe the rocks exposed on the inland side of the trail. They appear very similar to Monterey Formation rocks rising out of the beach sand and making up the cliffs of the cave and surrounding areas. But we are standing on the 120,000-year-old soils and elevated terrace deposits which overlie the Monterey cliffs. What is the problem? How can Monterey Formation be both above and below the terrace deposits? Look at the Monterey exposed above the trail very carefully. You may have figured out the solution. The rocks above the trail are fake, bogus, manmade! They cover a retaining wall meant to look like the rocks in the vicinity.
33.5834347, -117.8606696
10
Urban Runoff
Why does the water run year round even long after the rainy season? Why does it commonly flood the tunnel under Pacific Coast Highway just ahead? The answer is urban runoff. This is water from homeowners' landscape, city streets, and the golf course. Despite the constant flow, runoff is now much reduced since the installation in 2007 of an elaborate water capture and storage system. The steel doors in the pavement hide the system's water pumps.
33.57687, -117.83993
11
Igneous Rocks
Just before the tunnel you will see hard crystalline boulders embedded in the concrete. These igneous rocks (formed from molten magma) are not natural to the park but were imported to minimize erosion. Nonetheless, look closely at their grain size and color. On this side of the tunnel, most are coarse grained (you can see individual crystals with your naked eyes) and dark in color due to iron and magnesium. When magma cools slowly within Earth's crust, the crystals have time to grow and produce coarse grained texture. Such rocks are called plutonic, named after the Greek god Pluto, ruler of the under-world.
33.576741, -117.8399107

Note: Dogs are allowed on any paved surface/ the multi bluff trail, parking lots, and ramps. However dogs are NOT allowed on any of the backcountry hiking trails, beach, or Beachcomber Cafe. They must be on leash at all times. Please check with the park page for more information. Crystal Cove Alliance http://www.crystalcovealliance.org $15 Parking Fee

Protect your park. Enjoy only trails designated by park maps and signs. Camping reservations are required. Be prepared. Pack plenty of water, snacks, sun screen, and other backcountry essentials. The following are prohibited: Collection of rocks, fossils, plants, seeds, animals, or shells. Smoking or open fire pits in the backcountry. Dogs are not allowed in the backcountry or on the beach. Dogs are allowed on the multi-use trail and the paved areas in the park.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (753)
Photos (706)
Recordings (816)
Completed (1403)
View user's profile page
Eric Palhegyi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 16, 2021
Hiking
View user's profile page
Ed Peabody
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 15, 2021
Hiking

extreme low tide, look only!

View Ed's Recording
View user's profile page
Julie Callas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 13, 2021
Hiking
View Julie's Recording
View user's profile page
michelle choi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 11, 2021
Hiking
View michelle's Recording
View user's profile page
Jordan Thomas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 10, 2021
Hiking

Pretty standard beach loop. Nothing too special. It was a pretty day but a little too warm without any shade.

View Jordan's Recording
View user's profile page
Farah Jarjous
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 10, 2021
Walking

A beautiful and easy trail. It can be done at night as well

View user's profile page
Heather Dee
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 6, 2021
HikingGreat!No shade
View Heather's Recording
View user's profile page
Sun _Walker B
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 5, 2021
Hiking

Just a beautiful stroll along the coast.

View Sun _Walker's Recording
View user's profile page
Jill Ru
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 3, 2021
Hiking

Wonderful. I timed it just right to watch the sunset. Saw the little animal that looks like a marble for the first time, never noticed them before.

View Jill's Recording
View user's profile page
Peter Lau
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 3, 2021
Hiking
View Peter's Recording
View user's profile page
Philip Cutchshaw
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 3, 2021
Hiking
View Philip 's Recording
View user's profile page
michelle choi
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 2, 2021
Hiking
View michelle's Recording
View user's profile page
Lupe Dickinson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 2, 2021
Hiking
View Lupe's Recording
View user's profile page
Laurie Brown
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJanuary 2, 2021
Hiking
View Laurie's Recording
View user's profile page
Sarah Naccarato
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 2, 2021
Hiking

This is one of the most beautiful spots in So Cal. Gets crowded on a sunny afternoon like today. Tons of hiking options in the State Park.

View Sarah's Recording
View user's profile page
Suzanne Hannah Cortez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 2, 2021
Hiking
View Suzanne's Recording
View user's profile page
Anthony Tamburrini
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJanuary 1, 2021
Hiking

Easy trail and beautiful

View Anthony's Recording
View user's profile page
Robin Duncan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 31, 2020
WalkingGreat!

Wonderful walk with food options and a wonderful shake as a bonus!

View user's profile page
Madame Roquefort
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 30, 2020

It is an easy hike. Good part of the trail is on the sand. If you want to enjoy the landscape and the beach, this trail is perfect. If you want to be away from people this is not the best option.

View user's profile page
Madame Roquefort
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 29, 2020
Hiking
View Madame's Recording
View user's profile page
Sydney Bailey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 29, 2020
HikingGreat!

Not a strenuous trail, but an absolutely picturesque one. About half of the walk is on the sand, which is lovely. Highly recommend.

View user's profile page
Gregory Rassolov
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 29, 2020
Hiking
View user's profile page
J Hiker
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 25, 2020
Hiking

nice weather. the rock climbing was fun

View J's Recording
View user's profile page
Cassie Allen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 22, 2020
Hiking

I would prefer the upper part of the loop to have a better view of the ocean, but this is still a nice and easy trail.

View Cassie's Recording
View user's profile page
Mr. Gonzalmen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 19, 2020
Hiking
View Mr.'s Recording
View user's profile page
Genes Lim
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarDecember 18, 2020
Hiking
View Genes's Recording
View user's profile page
DJ Goodman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 13, 2020
WalkingFeeGreat!No shade

This was a nice and relaxing Sunday family stroll. We explored the caves and enjoyed the beach. The historic area was cool. Unfortunately, a lot of places there were closed due to Covid. Overall, it was a pleasant day.

View DJ's Recording
Showing results 1 - 27 of 753