By John McKinney
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Corona del Mar
Crown of the Sea Trail
From Corona del Mar Beach to Arch Rock is 2 miles round trip; to Crystal Cove is 4 miles round trip; to Abalone Point is 7 miles round trip
In 1904, George Hart purchased 700 acres of land on the cliffs east of the entrance to Newport Bay and laid out a subdivision he called Corona del Mar (“Crown of the Sea”). The only way to reach the townsite was by way of a long muddy road that circled around the head of Upper Newport Bay. Later a ferry carried tourists and residents from Balboa to Corona del Mar. Little civic improvement occurred until Highway 101 bridged the bay and the community was annexed to Newport Beach.
This hike explores the beaches and marine refuges of “Big” and Little Corona del Mar beaches and continues to the beaches and headlands of Crystal Cove State Park. Snorkeling is good beneath the cliffs of “Big” and Little Corona beaches. Both areas are protected from boat traffic by kelp beds and marine refuge status.
Consult a tide table. Best beach-walking is at low tide.
Directions to trailhead: From Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, turn oceanward on Marguerite Avenue and travel a few blocks to Ocean Boulevard. Turn right and you’ll soon spot the entrance to the Corona del Mar State Beach parking lot.
The hike: Begin at the east jetty of Newport Beach, where you’ll see sailboats tacking in and out of the harbor. Surfers tackle the waves near the jetty. Proceed down-coast along wide sandy Corona del Mar State Beach.
At the south end of the beach, take the paved walkway and ascend to Inspiration Point, an overlook offering excellent views of the Orange County coast. Continue down-coast a few blocks on the sidewalk alongside Ocean Boulevard to the walkway leading down to Little Corona Beach. Highlight of this beach is well-named Arch Rock, which is just offshore and can be reached at very low tide.
The beach from Arch Rock to Irvine Cove, 2.5 miles to the south, is passable at low tide and is part of Crystal Cove State Park. Trails lead up the bluffs which, in winter, offer a good vantage point from which to observe the California gray whale migration.
Continuing your stroll down the undeveloped beach and past some tidepools brings you to the onetime resort community of Crystal Cove, site of a few dozen funky beach cottages. The wood frame cottages, little altered since their construction in the 1920s are on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the cottages are restored and rented out by the night as vacation getaways.
While “Cove” is something of a misnomer here because the beach here shows almost no coastal indentation, it sure is a pretty place. Rounding Reef Point, you’ll continue along El Moro Beach, a sand strand that’s sometimes beautifully cusped. The state park is transforming what was once a beach lined with private trailers into a day use area with beach access from a campground and the other side of Highway 1.
El Moro is a misspelling of the Spanish word moro, meaning round, and describes the round dome of Abalone Point, which lies dead ahead. The point, a rocky promontory located just outside Laguna Beach city limits, is made of eroded lava and other volcanic material distributed in the San Joaquin Hills. It’s capped by a grass-covered dome rising two hundred feet above the water.
Return the same way or ascend one of the coastal accessways to the blufftops of Crystal Cove State Park. Blufftop trails offer a scenic alternative for a portion of your return route.
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