- Location: Ocean Blvd., Newport Beach. From the 73 Freeway, take the MacArthur exit and head south for 2.6 miles. Turn left onto Pacific Coast Highway and go 0.9 mile to Poppy Drive. Turn right and follow Poppy Drive to its end at Ocean Blvd. Park where available near the corner of Poppy and Ocean, where the walkway to the beach begins. If you are coming via Pacific Coast Highway, the turnoff for Poppy Drive is about 9 miles southeast of Huntington Beach and 13 miles northwest of Dana Point.
- Agency: City of Newport Beach/Crystal Cove State Park
- Distance: 1.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: Year round during low tide
- Dogs: Not allowed (allowed on leash at Corona Del Mar beach only)
- Cell phone reception: Good at the start of the hike; weak to none for most of the route
- Water: Fountains at the start of the hike and at restrooms
- Restrooms: Near the beginning of the hike
- Recommended gear: sun hat, sunblock
- More information: Video with drone footage of the area here
- Rating: 6
Updated November 2018
The cave at Little Treasure Cove sits at the northwestern end of Crystal Cove State Park. While the most common way to visit the cave is from Crystal Cove’s main entrance, hiking from Little Corona del Mar Beach provides opportunities to visit three other caves. (Parking is free, too – although limited). If tides are low – below zero – the rock scrambling required to reach the cave from the northwest is minimal, although caution should still be exercised. As with other beachside hikes that involve rock scrambling, the challenge here is not in the minimal elevation gain or distance but rather the potentially hazardous terrain.
From the corner of Ocean and Poppy, head down to the beach on the paved walkway, passing some restrooms. At Little Corona del Mar Beach, continue southeast (you can reach another sea cave by heading right or northwest; if tides are exceptionally low and you time your trip right, you may be able to visit both this cave and Little Treasure Cove). At the end of the beach, you will begin the rock scrambling. At about a quarter mile from the starting point, just opposite Arch Rock, you reach the first cave; it is shallow but tall enough to enter.
Continue southeast, past Cameo Shores Beach and to another, larger arch-shaped rock, approximately half a mile from the beginning (your exact route along the coast may vary, depending on tides and your willingness to get your feet wet). Here you will find another small cave system; you can easily crawl inside one end and out the other.
Just before Little Treasure Cove, you reach a large, jagged rock promontory. A small round cave entrance can be seen on the west side of the wall. Using this cave to pass under not only feels adventurous; it also saves you having to climb up and over the rocks, which are sharp and often wet. While the entrance to the cave may be small, it is large enough to slip through and the inside of the cave is much more spacious than would appear.
After leaving through the wider east portal, you cross through Little Treasure Cove and negotiate one last rock barrier before arriving on the beach at the northwest end of Crystal Cove State Park, where you may see visitors walking down a staircase from the bluffs above. The cave is located directly under the observation platform. The front entrance is large but the cave quickly narrows; if you decide to explore the back chamber, watch out for a low-hanging ledge of rock.
You can continue your hike by visiting the various trails of Crystal Cove State Park, but remember that the tide may be coming in at this point, making your return via the coastline more difficult.
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.