Crystal Cove State Park features 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline and over 2,400 acres of open space, including wooded canyons, open bluffs, and off-shore waters designated as an underwater park. Visitors can enjoy the Historic District (1930s era cottages now restored and used as vacation rentals), the beach, the back country, and activities such as swimming, surfing, sunbathing, scuba and skin diving, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.

The El Moro Campground consists of 58 campsites with picnic tables. 28 are designated as RV and trailer sites, and feature water and electricity (30 and 50 amp); there is a sewer dump station on-site; 30 sites are “dry” camping, for tents, vans and small trailers and RVs; maximum RV length in the RV sites is 38′, and 25′ in the dry sites. There are two restroom and shower buildings with pay showers. Restrooms and showers are well maintained.  The entrance to the campground is accessed by driving behind the El Morro School off Coast Highway.

The best features of this campground are the ocean views and the proximity to the beach, shops, and restaurants.  The park is located mid-way between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, and it is directly adjacent (10 minute walk) to The Crystal Cove shopping center, which features Trader Joes, Starbucks, The Gap, many restaurants, and several other shops.  The beach is a 1/2 mile walk down a (steep) hill (you can drive and park if you like…) and there is a tunnel beneath Coast Highway to access the beach. There is also a snack bar (open only during the summer) and plenty of day use parking with picnic tables and shade ramadas. Two more restaurants are located in the Historic District, about 1 1/2 miles up the coast: the beach-front Beachcomber and the bluff top Shake Shack.

The campsites are large, and every one has an ocean view, due to the terraced hillside streets.  My recommendation for conventional trailers and RVs (with bedroom or bathroom at the rear) are site #13-21, 21 being on the end with unobstructed views from the ocean to the hills. These sites are angled so that the best views are seen adjacent to the side of the trailer or RV.  However, for trailers and RVs with rear living areas, site #2-12 and 22-30 are better. The the parking areas at these sites are situated such that the windows in your rear living room  has a full on view to the ocean.



Rules:  There are many!  No check-in before 3:00 pm.  No wood fires or charcoal BBQs. Propane fire pits and BBQs are OK.  No more than 2 cars allowed to park on the site, in addition to your RV.  Day use closes at sunset!  No day use cars parked at the RV sites.  Pro tip: If you have friends coming to visit for the day, and you have parking space at your site, tell them to get an overnight pass for your site. It costs the same as a day-use ticket ($15.00), but they can then park at your site and they can stay later than sunset…

Overall, this is a great campground for those who enjoy “urban camping”. Easy to get to, no worry if you forget something, plenty of things to do… No bugs, moderate temperatures (it does get cold after dark…), and plenty of ocean, where ever you go…

Reservations:  Reservations open at 8:00 am, on the 1st of the month, six months before you camp. RV and trailer sites fill up within seconds for summer s and holiday weekends; fall and spring weekends might be available for 2-3 minutes after 8:00 am.  It’s a competition!  Be prepared, log on early, and hit “reserve” exactly at 8:00 am!


Philip Terhorst