Crescent Bay, Shaw’s Cove & Sea Cave (Laguna Beach)
- Location: Laguna Beach, on the corner of Cliff Drive and Circle Way. From Newport Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway south (9.5 miles from Highway 55) and turn right on Cliff Drive. From downtown Laguna Beach, head north on P.C.H. and turn left on Cliff Drive (one mile from Highway 133). Park on the corner, near the signed entrance to the reserve.
- Agency: Orange County Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 1 mile
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: All year during low tide (see here for more info)
- USGS topo map: Laguna Beach
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 5
If you like tidepools and caves, don’t miss this enjoyable rock-hop along the coastline between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. While the sea cave isn’t quite as big as the one at nearby Corona Del Mar, it’s well worth a visit. Make sure you go during low tide, and even then, be prepared to do some scrambling and don’t be afraid to get wet.
From the corner of Cliff Drive and Circle Way, follow the steep walkway down to the beach. You’ll head left (south), walking along scenic Crescent Bay. At the end of the beach, you’ll climb up on the rocks at the bottom of the bluffs, carefully making your way through some tidepools. This brings you to a tiny, quiet cove, in between the rocky promontory you just negotiated, and the one you are about to climb.
This second climb is also tricky, and the descent is perhaps the most difficult part of the route. As you climb onto a flat area of the rock, next to a fence, look for a crevice to your right that appears to drop straight down to the ocean. In fact, there are a few handholds you can use to lower yourself down, although caution is required. If the tide is high, forget it; even if it’s low, expect to get wet on the descent.
Once you’re on the rocks at the bottom, continue making your way along the coastline. You arrive at Shaw’s Cove, another beach, and make your way over yet another jumble of rocks (easier than the previous two). You cross another beach, where the walls of rock take on a yellow-orange hue.
On the opposite side of a beach, beneath a big white building, look for the entrance to a small sea cave. The cave is decent sized; easily big enough to stand up inside.
After exploring the cave, you can return either by the same route, or if you’ve had your fill of tidepools, look for a staircase ascending from Shaw’s Cove. It will take you back to Cliff Drive, where you turn left and walk 0.2 miles back to the starting point.
Text and photography copyright 2012 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
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