Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sea Cave at Thousand Steps Beach

Hiked: 7/19/2015
Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
Summit Elevation: 0'
Elevation Gain: 142' (loss then gain)
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.11
Round trip time: 30 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on PCH
Difficulty: Easy

Laguna Beach Tide Times and Charts

At 9th Ave and PCH in Laguna Beach, a long stairway descends to Thousand Steps Beach. For the record, I counted only 233 steps. It is long enough to discourage some people from dragging all their beach gear down and up so it is usually not as crowded as other local beaches. Parking can be a problem along the PCH, but I got a close spot early in the morning. A half mile south (left) of the stairs is a large sea cave that opens onto a private beach on the other side. To get into this cave, it is key to go at the lowest tide of the day, no higher than 2'. On my first visit, I was turned back by a tide with waves breaking at neck level. They would have slammed me against the jagged rocks had I made an attempt. Lifeguards will close the area if they think the tide is unsafe (and they are on duty). A couple of months ago, an 18 year old was swept off the rocks and drowned in the rip currents. It is definitely more dangerous than the sea cave at Dana Point.

The Thousand Steps Beach stairway, long but not even close to 1000 steps

Approaching the cave on slippery rocks


I returned when the tide was down to 1.3' and had no trouble, though the rocks outside the cave are very slippery and covered with algae. Like most tidal pool areas, there were plenty of feisty crabs on and around the rocks. None were big enough for lunch. As I made my way into the cave, I surprised a couple, probably in their late 20s, doing a different kind of cave exploring. They were frantically trying to get their clothes back on. I apparently interrupted a romantic moment on the slime covered rocks of the sea cave. I offered a "Sorry, guys", then proceeded past them. The cave goes back about 150'. The other opening is on the right, while the deepest part goes straight back and remained in darkness as I groped my way through ankle deep water. After exploring the back of the cave, I made my way out the other side to a private beach area with a warning sign. There are two "secret pools" past the warning sign. After some photos, I scrambled back through the cave and jogged back to the stairway.

Standing in water near the back of the cave

Looking out from the back of the cave

Exit to the other side

Private beach and secret pool area

Early morning body boarders

Closure sign when the tide is high


  1. What? No pics of the young couple? ;)


    1. Hikin' Jim,

      Ha! No, it was an uncomfortable moment for everyone.