Pacific Ridge Trail, Crystal Cove State Park

Pacific Ridge/Ticketron Loop (Crystal Cove State Park)

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  • Location: Coastal Peak Park, Newport Coast.  From the 73 toll road, take the MacArthur exit (the last one that’s free).  Merge onto MacArthur, go 2.3 miles and turn left on San Joaquin Hills Road.  Go 2.5 miles, turn right onto Ridge Park Road and drive 1.8 miles to the end, and access the trail from Coastal Peak Park.  From P.C.H., take Newport Coast Drive north for 2.4 miles, turn right on Ridge Park Road and drive 1.5 miles to Coastal Peak Park.
  • Agency: Crystal Cove State Park/Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair on the Ticketron Trail
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Vault toilet at the Deer Canyon Campground
  • Camping/backpacking: The hike-in Deer Canyon Campground has five walk-in sites. Overnight parking is not allowed at Coastal Peak Park so if you are camping at Deer Canyon, you will have to access it from the park’s main entrance. For more information, click here.
  • Recommended gear: Sunblock; sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: Park map here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6

Updated July 2018

This short but enjoyable and surprisingly challenging hike explores the northwest corner of Crystal Cove State Park, providing a nice taste of the area’s back country. On clear days, the ocean views are impressive, as are the views of Old Saddleback and the San Gabriel Mountains.

The hike starts at the end of Ridge Park Road. Enter the Bommer Ridge Trail and turn right on the Pacific Ridge Trail (by hiking counter-clockwise, you get the least interesting part of the hike out of the way first; you also get a nominal amount of shade on your ascent through the canyon). The fire road follows a rolling ridge, heading south toward the ocean, skirting the edge of a gated community. To your left across Deer Canyon is your return route, the Ticketron and Red Tail Ridge Trails.

At 1.3 miles from the start, you reach a junction with the single-track Ticketron Trail. The hike (which is now shared with the Deer Canyon Loop) becomes more interesting as you thread your way among chaparral and prickly pear cacti, descending into Deer Canyon. A few ups and downs bring you to the peaceful Deer Canyon Campground, nestled beneath a few oaks and sycamores, where you can sit at a picnic table and get ready for the 500 feet of elevation gain that await you on the return.

The Ticketron Trail climbs steeply, almost immediately picking up 150 feet as it leaves Deer Canyon to join the Red Tail Ridge Trail. The grade now becomes more level as you head north along the ridge. A short use trail leads to a small but accessible cave (be careful if you decide to explore it).

At about three miles from the start (3/4 of a mile from the campground) you return to the Bommer Ridge Trail. Head left and follow the trail, mainly uphill, back to your starting point. Despite noise from the 73 toll road right below you, this last stretch of the hike is pleasant, providing views of the ocean to the left and the mountains and suburbs to the right. If visibility is good you may see downtown Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains.

Pacific Ridge Trail, Crystal Cove State Park
Geology on the Pacific Ridge Trail with Saddleback in the background
Deer Canyon, Crystal Cove State Park
Looking down Deer Canyon from the Ticketron Trail
Deer Canyon Campground, Crystal Cove State Park
Oaks at the Deer Canyon Campground
Crystal Cove State Park, CA
Inside the cave

Text and photography copyright 2018 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.


    1. Hikes rated PG are usually a pretty challenging workout, although nothing too crazy. If you’ve done some hiking before, you should have no problem, and even if you’re new at hiking, if you live an active lifestyle, it should be pretty easy for you. Enjoy!

  1. I took a six year old and a three year old up here this morning and they ran around and had a great time, though we turned back before the descent to go play on the playground and eat our lunch.

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