For good hiking, good views and good times

From San Clemente, the distance to one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in California is less than 20 miles on Pacific Coast Highway. For a fun, local road trip with good hiking, good views and good times, drive PCH north to El Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove State Park.

Take your time, roll your windows down, and feel the charm of Beach Cities as you head for the canyon. For those riding on two wheels, this is the perfect summertime ride. The scenic route to Crystal Cove, peppered with ocean views along the coastlines of Capistrano Beach, Dana Point, Monarch Beach and Laguna Beach, is part of what makes this such a stellar road trip.

Just east of the Pacific Ocean, El Moro Canyon is nestled between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, with trails of varying length and difficulty. Before you begin, grab a trail map at the Ranger Station to chart your course, then disconnect from your screens and reconnect with the earth. Once you hike a few miles back into the canyon, the sounds of traffic are replaced by a chorus of birdsong. You’re likely to hear the voices of roadrunners, Anna’s Hummingbirds, California Gnatcatchers and other birds. During your hike, keep an eye out for wildlife such as snakes, coyotes and mountain lions.

Afterwards, choose from various Laguna Beach hot spots to eat at, like the delicious Mexican restaurant, Asada. Right on PCH in north Laguna, this spot has indoor, as well as patio seating. Prices are affordable, and after a long hike, Asada’s food hits the spot. As a special treat, they offer hot salsa with seasoned tortilla chips, as well as cheesy tater-tots. All the usual Mexican fare is on offer as well, along with a variety of cold beers.

What you need to know before you go: mountain biking is allowed, but dogs are not. Park hours are generally from 6am to sunset. The California State Park Pass works at the El Moro Canyon lot, so be sure to bring it along if you have one. If not, summer parking fees are $15/vehicle, no matter how long you stay, though there are some discounted sunset rates. You will want to bring plenty of water and protection for your skin and eyes, such as a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Now get out on that open road and explore our beautiful little corner of the earth!