Field Trip Information

School Group Reservations & Field Trips

Crystal Cove State Park invites students to participate in a variety of curriculum-based educational programs. These programs are available for school and other organized groups throughout the year in the park.

To protect the park’s resources for future generations, and to ensure a quality educational experience for all of our visitors, Crystal Cove State Park has a daily limited carrying capacity. Reservations are necessary to guarantee space.  A maximum of one group permit will be issued per day for each area of the Park. Available locations are:  Moro Backcountry, Reef Point, Historic District, Pelican Point, and Treasure Cove.  Requests for an unavailable site will be offered alternative sites or dates, when available.

 To qualify for day-use fee waivers, an educational group must submit a California Department of Parks and Recreation, School Group Reservation Request, Form DPR 124.  This request must be on file, at the Park, a minimum of 15 days before the event.  To request a field trip, whether guided or self-guided, please contact the Park Interpretation and Education Office at 949.497.7647 or e-mail “Winter@Parks Bonnin” <>

 For guided field trips, the interpretive presentation fee is $2.50 per student and chaperone.  Teachers are free.  We suggest one chaperone per 10 students.  Due to classroom size and quality of the program, we cap the number of students on a guide fieldtrip to 60 students.  For Homeschool groups, due to the varying ages, we cap the number of students at 40 K-12.  Younger siblings are welcome to accompany their families to the park, but during the classroom presentation will be asked to stay with a parent outside.  To see our selection of guided interpretive programs, please see the descriptions below.  We are also happy to discuss customizing a program to fit your curriculum needs.


 Programs for School Groups

 All our in-class programs are curriculum-based, fun, and interactive and can be adapted to any grade level.  We use taxidermy mounts, bones, skulls, pelts, and puppets to enrich our presentations.  We involve the students in critical thinking and problem solving by asking questions, playing games, and listening to theme-related music.  Ultimately, we strive to mentor the students so that they gain a lifelong appreciation of nature and the environment.

 Tidepools – Tidepools are a fragile ecosystem brimming with life.  In this interactive program, students learn about tidepool organisms’ adaptations, defense mechanisms, and feeding strategies.  The in-class presentation is followed by gentle exploration of the tidepools which allows children to appreciate these magnificent invertebrates that rely on the rise and fall of the tides to provide food, shelter, and space in their actual environment.

 Unhuggables – This program focuses on the scaly, slimy, stingy, stinky, and even scary creatures that people hate to love.  Through the use of stories, props, and games students will learn that all living beings have an ecological role and in some cases, use interesting defense mechanisms to protect themselves. 

 The Mysteries of Migration – Gray Whales swim nearly 6,000 miles to mate and have their babies.  Then, they swim nearly 6,000 miles back to their feeding grounds. In fact, this enormous cetacean makes one of the longest migration of any mammal on Earth.  This interactive program details both the biological and the behavioral characteristics of the California State Marine Mammal.

 Endangered Species – In this program we discuss the major threats facing our native flora and fauna due to human activities such as habitat destruction, overharvesting, and pollution.  We run the gamut from extinction (Saber-toothed cat) to locally extinct (Grizzly Bear) to endangered (Sea Otter.) We also discuss how through proper management practices some animals have bounced back from near extinction including the California Brown Pelican and the Pacific Gray Whale.

 Critters of Crystal Cove – Animal mounts, bones, pelts, and puppets are used to discuss food chains, biodiversity, defense mechanisms, and conservation of some of the Park’s animals including mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles.

 Animal Adaptations – All animals develop both biological and behavioral characteristics that allow them to survive in their environment.  This program focuses on mammals, both marine and terrestrial by sharing fascinating facts about seals and sea lions, opossums, and mountain lions.

 Marine Debris – The beach is not a giant ashtray!  What goes up, must come down!  This program focuses on the devastation of the marine environment due to pollution including trash, oil spills, and household chemicals and encourages students to analyze their own actions and to brainstorm solutions to the marine debris problem.

 Bones – Human skeletons share many similarities and differences with animal skeletons.  This engaging program explores the different families of vertebrates sharing fun facts about mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.  We use bones, both real and clones, and even a life-sized human skeleton, we nicknamed Bucky.

 Ecology of Crystal Cove Hike – Hike the moderate backcountry 3-mile loop trail and learn about native plants and animals, the Native Americans use of local plants, and the problem with invasive species while enjoying beautiful panoramas and canyon views.

 Ecology of Crystal Cove Bluff & Beach Walk – Walk along the coastal bluffs, the wooden boardwalk, down to the beach and along the tidepools, while learning about plants, birds, marine mammals, intertidal organisms, and whatever else we might see along the trail.

NEWAnimal Evidence:  Searching for animal evidence is an engaging way to raise awareness about local wildlife, hone observation skills, share knowledge about wildlife adaptations, and generate enthusiasm for tracking. In this outdoor amphitheater program students will learn about the different signs that help park managers identify the behaviors and food chain dynamics of those animals who live in the park. Students will receive their training as wildlife trackers followed by a walk along the ½ mile Environmental Study Loop to search for animal sign along the trail.

 NEW Birds:  Birds are ubiquitous in the canyon environment and therefore, serve as a reliable and engaging focus to help children hone their naturalist skills. They are not always seen, though they are likely heard.  This programs begins with an introduction to basic bird biology, bird adaptations (feet and beaks,) and evidence of bird life (nests, eggs, and feathers.)  Students will learn how to properly use binoculars and will then head out onto the trail searching for birds that are flying, perching, hiding, or calling.


 School Group Pre- Field Trip Teaching Aids

 Curriculum Materials

Teacher Packet

 Tidepool Ecology Lessons

See the PORTS page on Tidepool Ecology  Additionally, California State Parks presents:  “A guide to the Side of the Sea, A Teacher’s Guide for Field Trips to Rocky Intertidal Areas” at

 Distance Learning Opportunities

California State Parks is using videoconference technology to bring parks and schools closer together. For more information on a virtual field trips visit our Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students  (PORTS) website