I have very few friends and acquaintances in southern California who go camping. Of the few who did offer me campground recommendations, ALL of them said to check out Crystal Cove State Park. With so many good reviews Catherine and I had give it a try.
Crystal Cove State Park is located in Laguna Beach, CA. The state park includes 3.2 miles of coastline as well as canyons, open bluffs, and offshore waters designated as an underwater park.
At the very tail end of the summer Catherine and I went on a three night camping trip. We spent our first night trying out backpacking in Moro Canyon and secured two nights of luxury camping in Moro Campground.
I can not even express the level of beauty you will experience camping here. Moro Campground is situated right on the bluffs. There are six tiered rows of campsites, allowing everyone to enjoy a sea view. If you’re lucky (and boy were we!), you can grab a front row spot.
Reservations at Moro Campground:
As with most other California state park reservations, Crystal Cove reservations open up six months in advance. As of hitting publish on this post most of the dates up until the end of July are taken. If you want to secure a weekend of camping you need to start looking EARLY. I booked our spots about five months in advance and there were no weekends for the entire summer.
If you have a more flexible schedule and can stay during the work week you will probably have better luck securing a longer stay.
Reservations at Moro Campground as well as the back-country hike-in campsites can be reserved through Reserve California.
What to Expect at Moro Campground:
The entire campground has 58 campsites. 28 are designated for RV and trailers. The remaining 30 are for ‘low impact’ camping which includes soft-side trailers, van conversions and tents. Each includes a picnic table, access to restrooms and showers. Sites can have up to 8 people, but while we were there there were few with more than 4-5.
None of the campsites have fire rings. Wood and charcoal fires are not permitted anywhere. At first I found this pretty sad, but considering the wind on the bluff and the dry conditions it makes complete sense. Compressed-gas barbecues are permitted as well as compressed-gas fireplaces.
Catherine and I were kind of shocked at the level of civility at Moro Campground. They enforce quite hours between 10pm and 6am. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the days we spent there were very quiet, shockingly so. It was a much welcome change from previous campsites we have visited.
Make sure to take advantage of the proximity to the beach as well as the canyon. We hiked up the ridge for panoramic sea views and then spent a couple days sitting on the beach reading.
If you’re into snorkeling or scuba diving you can also visit the underwater park or take a walk around the many tide pools to watch sea creatures up close without getting into the water.
Moro Campground Pros:
- Amazing location. Because the sites are tiered, everyone gets a fantastic sea view. You also have access to canyon hiking, walk up access to the beach and are within a short drive to Laguna Beach if you need some city time.
- Clean facilities. During our stay the restrooms and showers were always clean and taken care of.
- Quiet. For those of you who prefer to backpack and be far away from other people Moro Campground might do the trick without doing as much work.
Moro Campground Cons:
- One of the more pricey campsites to book. At $55/night for a tent camping spot this one could break the bank.
- No fires. While I understand why they are not permitted, I still missed having a campfire. Luckily the sound of the crashing waves filled the void.
I think it goes pretty much without saying that I highly recommend camping at Moro Campground. It’s the most tranquil campsite I’ve ever stayed in. All the park staff were fantastic, our camp neighbors were quiet and the facilities were clean and comfortable. Spending three days so close to the ocean was a real treat for these two girls. While we don’t live that far away from a beach, there’s nothing like falling asleep and waking up to the sound of crashing waves.