The wild, scenic, and distinctively Mediterranean escape from civilization in Orange County.
Anything But Posh...
|Wild, scenic, and close|
Orange County may not be known for its hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor adventures but the free-spirited outdoorsman/woman knows much better. I've been exploring Orange County for years and years and have never found myself unsatisfied by all of its opportunities. Its almost sad to me that many are so unaware of Orange Countys boundless wilderness... and I mean WILDERNESS! I've seen mountain lion tracks, stepped on rattlesnakes, listened to howling coyote packs, run into beehives, gotten stuck in blizzards and heat waves. I've been frozen, burned, lost, found, and have a whole host of adventures in the county that is portrayed as posh, sophisticated and anything but wild. Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite locations for hiking and mountain biking; Crystal Cove State Park.
|Wildflowers in the Spring|
Crystal Cove State Park is located between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach off of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Its very simple to get there. Head out onto the section of PCH that goes between Laguna and Newport and look for El Morro Elementary School. Turn onto the road that goes to the school but don't park there. The road to Crystal Cove goes to the left and around the school and brings you to a large parking lot for the park. It is 10$ for parking and it supports the large state park that preserves this unique wilderness. It can sometimes get packed on the weekends but as long as you hike more than a mile, you should be in a pretty quite place.
|Big ol' rattlers |
Hiking and Wildlife Viewing
The primary activity for Crystal Cove is hiking. A network of well marked trails permeates the park and allows the hiker to explore nearly every canyon of the park. This area is beautifully Mediterranean which means there is a wide variety of flora and fauna (plants and animals). For some reason, there is a rich and diverse amount of wildlife in the park that has a strong desire to be in your photographs. I've seen many golden eagles, rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, salamanders, coyotes and all sorts of other wildlife. This is one of the premiere spots in southern California to experience wildlife viewing. The trails that take you to the mountain tops of the park usually have better birding opportunities. The canyons contains the more dense and green vegetation which provides good sites of the mammals and reptiles that exist in the park. Even the busiest of days at Crystal Cove have never left me unsatisfied in wildlife viewing.
There are too many trails to list here so I'd recommend getting a map at the park. Try and do one trail that takes you up a ridgeline and one that takes you through the Canyons. My favorites have been the "Rattlesnake Trail" and the "El Moro Canyon" trail. But really, anywhere you go will feel like a real escape from the business of the nearby cities.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!