This California Campground Is A Beautiful Beachside Getaway With So Much To Do

A campsite in Orange County, just a short drive from the busy I-5 and I-405 freeways, might not seem like a true escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, once you reach the Moro Campground tucked away in Crystal Cove State Park, the stunning coastal views and big open sky will have you believing you're worlds away from the city.

If you're a serious nature enthusiast, hike three or four miles from the campground's main parking area to one of the three primitive camping sites located in the woods. While the hike can be challenging, and you won't have easy access to anything too big to carry on your back, the added peace and quiet will be worth the effort. Note that you'll need a permit for these backcountry sites, which can be obtained online or at the campground kiosk.

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors without giving up all the comforts of modern life, take your van or RV to Moro Campground instead. Vehicle campsites offer RV hookups, restrooms, and showers. If you're not a fan of small spaces or sleeping outdoors, look to Crystal Cove State Park's Historic District, where you'll find a cluster of charming vintage cottages. The 24 cottages are situated right on the beach, away from Moro Campground's tents and trailers.

From the water to the wildlife, Moro Campground is a paradise for nature lovers

Crystal Cove State Park and its campgrounds may be quiet compared to nearby Los Angeles, but the area is anything but sleepy. The natural getaway offers enviable access to the beach, where you can swim in the tidepools and surf the perfect California waves. After spending a day soaking up the sun near the water, head to the canyon to catch the gorgeous sunset views.

The coast isn't the only reason to book a trip to the campground. The park boasts 2,400 acres of wilderness, and trails run throughout the area, treating visitors to serene nature and a jaw-dropping perspective of the land from above (add Moro Ridge Lookout to your must-visit list, found just off of Moro Ridge Road, a 30-minute trek from the main Moro Campground). While exploring, look for the diverse wildlife taking up residence in the park, such as rabbits, bobcats, deer, snakes, and birds.

If you don't want to be limited by your tired feet, plan to get around by bike instead. Horses are also welcome on the trails in case you'd like to fit in some horseback riding during your trip.

Preparing for your trip

The first step in planning your stay at Crystal Cove State Park is booking your campsite or lodging facility. The sites open for reservations six months in advance and tend to fill up quickly, so act fast when your dates appear on the calendar, especially if you're planning a multi-day trip or hoping to snag a spot in the summer. Be aware of occupancy restrictions for visitors: four people are allowed in each backcountry camping site; eight people are allowed in each RV, trailer, or van site; and cottage occupancy varies depending on the property. Pets are allowed on the campgrounds and trails, though they should be leashed and never left alone.

On the day of your arrival, make note of where the parking lots are in relation to your campsite (that is, if you won't be heading to a vehicle campsite). Multiple lots are available near the coast (not in the backcountry hiking area), including one near Moro Campground and others north near the Historic District.

The park is great for picnicking, and picnic tables are provided near the campsites and beach, but if you're hoping for a freshly cooked meal, venture over to the park's Historic District to The Beachcomber Café, where you can treat yourself to a hearty breakfast, seafood dishes, and evening cocktails. You'll also find burgers at nearby Crystal Cove Shake Shack, as well as restaurants in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center a short drive away.