Cabrillo Beach & Pier

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Cabrillo Beach

Waves on the breakwater at Cabrillo Beach

Cabrillo Beach & Pier

  • Location: San Pedro.  From the south end of I-110, take Gaffey Street south for 1.4 miles.  Turn left on 19th St., go 0.3 miles and turn right on Pacific Avenue.  Turn left on Stephen White Drive and head into the park.  Parking is $1 per hour (cash only) with a daily maximum of $9.
  • Agency: City of L.A. Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4

Cabrillo Beach Park is one of several popular recreational destinations in San Pedro, along with nearby Point Fermin Park and Angels Gate Park.  The beach also shares the property with the famous Cabrillo Aquarium.  Although this is not necessarily the place to go for peace and quiet (and there’s a good amount of trash and graffiti), Cabrillo Beach offers a wide range of scenery, including Old Saddleback, the San Gabriels, Catalina Island and the characteristic marine geology of the area.

From the parking area, walk along the beach toward the pier. Make your way onto the concrete pier and walk to its end. If the surf is high, you’ll get a great view of the waves crashing over the breakwater on the right.

At the end of the pier, head back, taking in nice views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the way. Here, depending on how high the tide is, you can walk back along beach on the opposite (south) side of the pier, with good views of Point Fermin. At the far corner of the beach, you can walk across a footbridge to the southeast side of Point Fermin, where you can sit and enjoy the sights of the ocean and the marine geology. This is a good turnaround point, although with caution in times of low tide you can make your way around the tip of Point Fermin.

To complete the loop, head back across the footbridge and walk back to the parking lot. You can extend the trip a little bit by heading north along the beach.

While Cabrillo Beach is a little bit short to be a major hiking destination, one can easily make a day of visiting the beach, the aquarium and the other parks nearby.  Film buffs might want to visit the nearby Korean Friendship Bell at Angels Gate Park, used in “The Usual Suspects.”

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 from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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San Clemente Beach & Pier

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View from the San Clemente Pier (Click picture to purchase from the N.H.L.A. Gallery)

Geology on the beach at San Clemente

San Clemente Beach & Pier

  • Location: San Clemente.  From Orange County, take I-5 south to Ave. Calafia.  Merge onto Ave. Calafia and bear right onto Ave. Montalvo (a one-way street).  Montalvo becomes Ave. Lobeiro.  Park along the curb at Calafia Park (0.3 miles from the freeway).  Parking is limited to two hours.  From San Diego, take I-5 north to Ave. Magdalena.  Turn right onto El Camino Real, take another right and cross over the freeway, and turn left on Avenida Del Presidente.  Turn right onto Ave. Calafia and bear right onto Ave. Montalvo.
  • Agency: San Clemente State Beach; City of San Clemente
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours (as restricted by the street parking)
  • Best season: Year round
  • Recomended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • USGS topo map: San Clemente
  • More information: San Clemente State Beach info here; San Clemente Pier “Yelp” page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

Located at the very southern tip of Orange County, San Clemente has miles of beaches that feature both panoramic ocean views and interesting marine geology.  There are a number of trails and access points, and many possible routes for walking and hiking.  The loop described here takes in the nice variety of scenery this area offers. If you don’t mind walking on a bike path, a boardwalk and alongside railroad tracks, you’ll find this hike very enjoyable.

From Calafia Park, head down the stairs to the beach parking area. On the opposite side of the lot, head southeast along a path between the railroad tracks and the bluffs. The marine geology on the left is worth a closer look. Soon, turn left on a paved road heading up to the state beach parking lot. You get nice views of the ocean, up to Dana Point and beyond. After crossing the parking lot, descend on another paved path. This one goes underneath the railroad tracks and arrives at the beach. Turn right and head northwest.

The next mile and a half is an enjoyable walk along the beach to the pier. The going is pretty easy. At the pier, you can head out onto the ocean and get great views of the coastline–and enjoy a snack at one of the shops.

On the return trip, for variety, try walking along the San Clemente Pedestrian Beach Trail. You’ll cross the railroad tracks once and get some more nice, up-close views of the cliffs before arriving back at the parking lot, where you can retrace your steps to the car. While some veteran hikers might not like the amount of company they’ll have on this route, or the fact that civilization is everywhere, most will find that the scenic variety and panoramic views makes the San Clemente beach well worth the visit.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Vista Del Norte Trail

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View from the Vista Del Norte Trail

Ascending the Vista Del Norte Trail

Vista Del Norte Trail

  • Location: Rolling Hills Estates, on the corner of Indian Peak Road and Norris Center Drive. From I-405, take the Hawthorne Blvd. exit and drive south for 8.5 miles.  Turn left on Indian Peak Road, go 0.4 miles and park in the lot at the Norris Center, on the right.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit and head north (west) for 3 miles.  Turn left on Crenshaw Blvd., go 3 miles and turn right on Indian Peak.  The parking lot at Norris Center will be on your left, in 0.4 miles.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Land Conservancy (Vista Del Norte Reserve)
  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round (any day with clear skies)
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 3

If you like instant gratification, check out the Vista Del Norte, where a short climb gives you some great views of the L.A. Basin.  The Vista Del Norte Reserve is one of the many small parcels of land on the Palos Verdes Peninsula operated by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.

From the parking area by the Norris Center, head east along the sidewalk on Indian Peak Road.   Almost immediately, turn right and follow the single-track trail leading uphill.  Take a right on the Vista Del Norte Trail, which switchbacks up the side of the hill.  (The Indian Peak Loop Trail, which heads straight, is poorly maintained and hard to follow.)

As you climb, the views get wider and wider.  After a quarter mile, you arrive at a bench, just below the communication towers, where you can sit and enjoy the view.  If you prefer you can continue past the bench to a summit where clear-day vistas include the Santa Monica Mountains, the ocean, the San Gabriels, San Gorgonio and more.

Obviously, this trail is a little bit short to be a major hiking destination, but if you do the route a couple of times, making it nature’s version of a stair climb, it can be a good workout; it’s also near several other trails on the peninsula that are worth visiting.  While the trail never escapes the sights and sounds of civilization nearby, it just goes to show that even in places that seem unlikely, one can still get out into nature.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Harriet Wieder Park

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Wetlands in Harriet Wieder Park

Harriet Wieder Park

  • Location: 19521 Seapoint Ave, Huntington Beach.  From the traffic circle in Long Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway south for 10.2 miles.  Turn left onto Seapoint Ave, drive a mile to Garfield Ave (past the park entrance) and make a U-turn.  Head back toward P.C.H. and enter the parking lot on your right.  From downtown Huntington Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway north for 2.3 miles and turn right on Seapoint.
  • Agency: Orange County Parks
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “Seal Beach”
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 1

Harriet M. Wieder Park, in the northwestern corner of Huntington Beach, is Orange County’s newest regional park. As of now, the park is open to the public but not yet fully developed. There is no formal trail system here, but there are quite a few footpaths that are easy to follow. The route here samples some of the park’s scenery. The wetlands are similar to those at nearby Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The coastal views aren’t as dramatic and the wildlife isn’t quite as varied as at Bolsa Chica, but Wieder Park is still worth a visit if you’re in the area. It is also dog friendly, which Bolsa Chica is not.

From the parking area, look for a dirt trail heading south toward Seapoint Avenue. Turn right on a wide trail that heads across an open space and then down to a creek. Crossing the creek is the only tricky part of this route, but it’s not too difficult; you work your way through some bushes and arrive at another trail which runs parallel to a fence.

Head up the hill, following two large metal pipes. (Don’t complain; this land could easily have become a golf course.) Soon you’ll see a small path leading downhill to the right. Walk over the pipes and follow this path, carefully crossing over the top of some small bluffs.

Soon you reach the back of the park, marked by another fence. Make a loop, heading back toward the houses. Soon you come to a split where the main road continues toward the park entrance, but you can make your trip a little more interesting by heading left on a single-track trail. This trail completes a loop, soon arriving at a junction where you head right and retrace your steps back to ward the dirt road. Rejoining the dirt road (with the pipelines), you continue retracing your steps. This time, however, before you get to the creek, head right and follow another trail heading back toward Seapoint. When you get there, head left and return to the entrance of the park.

If the route sounds a little convoluted, remember that there are many possible trips you can take at Wieder Park. It will be interesting to see the evolution of one of Orange County’s newest outdoor spaces.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Emerald Vista Point/El Moro Loop/Red Route (Crystal Cove State Park)

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View from the Emerald Vista Point

Heading into El Moro Canyon

Emerald Vista Point/El Moro Loop/Red Route (Crystal Cove State Park)

  • Location: 8471 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.  From the 73 freeway, take the Mac Arthur exit (the last one before it becomes a toll road).  Take Mac Arthur 3.2 miles to its terminus at North Coast Highway.  Turn left (south) and go 4 miles to the park entrance, on the left.  From Laguna Beach, take Coast Highway north for 2.8 miles and the park entrance will be on your right.  From downtown Huntington Beach, the park is 12 miles south on Pacific Coast Highway.   Parking fee is $15 per day.
  • Agency: Crystal Cove State Park
  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map:  Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • More information: here; park map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Crystal Cove State Park may be best known for its beaches and marine geology, but there’s a lot to check out in the back country.  On the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway, the park has dozens of miles of trails to explore.

The moderate hike described here is sometimes called the “Red Route” (there’s an easier “Green Route” and a more challenging “Blue Route” as well.) From the entry station, drive down to the newly built campground and day use area (follow the signs). At the back of the parking lot, begin walking across a large footbridge into El Moro Canyon.

Stay straight as the B.F.I. trail (your return route) comes in from the right. The first mile through El Moro Canyon is pleasant and more or less level. The hills on both sides block out much of the noise of the highway nearby.

Shortly after crossing the canyon, you head right on the East Cut-Across. That this trail has been nick-named “I Think I Can” should clue you in to the fact that you’re in for a little bit of a climb. Fortunately, the views get better and better as you ascend, and in a mile, after climbing about 600 feet, you arrive at a triangle-shaped junction. Go right (south) onto El Moro Ridge Road, toward the ocean.

After about three quarters of a mile, head straight on a short spur that leads to the Emerald Vista Point. Unfortunately, you have to share this spot with a communications antenna, but the views – Dana Point to the south, Catalina Island straight ahead and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the north – are great, especially if the air is clear.

When you’re done enjoying the scene, retrace your steps and head left (southwest) on the El Moro Ridge Trail. It soon starts to descend steeply, giving good aerial views both of the canyon and the beach at Corona Del Mar.

After a mile, head right on the B.F.I. trail. What exactly those initials stand for depend on whom you ask, but the polite version is Big Fat Incline. Your hiking poles will be your B.F.F. on the B.F.I. trail, as it makes a steep dip near the end, crossing a footbridge and completing the loop. Head left, across the larger bridge, and back to the campground.

While the day use fee of $15 is higher than that of most state and county facilities, Crystal Cove State Park has a lot to offer. Unlike the other state parks of Orange County’s coastline, Crystal Cove has an extensive back-country as well as miles of beaches (included in the price of admision). If you make the trip with several friends, you can split the cost.

Either way, it’s still a lot cheaper than Disneyland.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Park Avenue Nature Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)

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Hillside on the Park Avenue Nature Trail

Ocean view from the Park Avenue Nature Trail

Park Avenue Nature Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)

    • Location:  Hills north of Laguna Beach in south Orange County.  From I-405, take the highway 133 exit south for 8.5 miles.  Turn left on Forest, which becomes 3rd St, and after 0.3 miles total take a left onto Park Ave.  Go 1.8 miles on Park to its terminus in Alta Laguna Drive, and head left, and park at the end of the street.
    • Agency:  Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
    • Distance: 1.5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 400 feet
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Difficulty: PG
    • Best season: All year (Hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo map: “San Juan Capistrano”
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6

Readers may notice that this trail’s name spells the word PANT, which is what you’ll be doing a lot of, especially if the day is hot. As short as this trail is, it’s surprisingly challenging.

This trail never gets far away from the nearby residential streets, but it still has a rugged feel, due to its steep descent, interesting sandstone geology and relative lack of foot traffic. The Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park trailhead at Alta Laguna Park is the starting point for this short loop.

From the northwest end of Alta Laguna Drive, follow the fire road, but stay straight as the West Ridge Trail branches off. Another spur to the right leads to the Carolyn Wood knoll, a vista point worth checking out if you have the time.

The Park Avenue Nature Trail descends, staying left as the Canyon Acres Trail branches of to the right. Enjoy the views of the canyon and the ocean in front of you before the trail makes a very steep descent.

After dropping 400 feet in about half a mile, you find yourself pleasantly isolated from the sights and sounds of the nearby residential streets. The trail winds around the side of the hill, passing by some interesting sandstone outcrops, before beginning an ascent back to Park Avenue. You reconnect with Park Avenue a mile from the start. Turn left and continue your climb on the paved street, which brings you to Alta Laguna Drive. Turn left and walk the last quarter mile to the car.

If you have time, you can continue to explore this side of Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park by continuing north along the West Ridge Trail.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Aswut Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)

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View from the top of the Aswut Trail

Modjeska, Santiago and goats on the Aswut Trail

Aswut Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)

  • Location: Laguna Beach.  From the north, take Pacific Coast Highway south of downtown Laguna Beach and turn left on Bluebird Canyon.  Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Summit Ave.  Go 0.7 miles and make a slight right onto La Mirada.  Go 0.1 miles and turn left on Del Mar.  Park on the corner of Del Mar and Balboa, just north of Moulton Meadows Park.  Alternately, from points south, take P.C.H. to Nyes Place.  Turn right and drive 1.4 miles (Nyes becomes Balboa along the way) and park on the corner of Balboa and Del Mar.
  • Agency:  Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 350 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: PG
  • Best season: All year (Hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: “San Juan Capistrano”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5

Located in the southwestern corner of Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, the Aswut Trail makes a short, but vigorous–and scenic–workout, and it can also be used as an access point for other trails for a longer hike.

That the Aswut Trail is really a bike path shouldn’t turn off hiking purists; there aren’t many paved trails that provide both great ocean and mountain views. Keep in mind, however, that the route is completely exposed.

From the end of Balboa, head north along the bike path, taking in great views of the canyons and the Santa Anas on the right and the ocean on the left. At about half a mile, you reach a junction with the Meadows Trail on the right, which leads down into the park. There’s a large pen of friendly goats here, too.

The path continues, heading downhill briefly and then making a steep climb to meet residential Top of the World Drive. The trail branches off to the left, makes a steep dip and then finishes with another steep climb.

On the way back, you can vary your route a little by heading left on the Meadows Trail. Just before the trail dips down into the canyon, head right and walk along a single-track trail that parallels the paved Aswut Trail. Follow this trail back to Moulton Meadows Park, and take a right on a stone walkway to head back down to Balboa.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Emerald Canyon Loop (Crystal Cove State Park)

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On the Old Emerald Falls trail

Emerald Canyon from the Missing Link Trail

Emerald Canyon Loop (Crystal Cove State Park)

  • 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: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (steepness, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map: Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: here; park map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

This trip is like a longer and more challenging version of the Elevator/Slow’n’Easy loop, traveling through both Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Crystal Cove State Park.  Unfortunately, the lower end of Emerald Canyon is closed as of this writing due to trail damage, but the loop still serves as an intense workout with some panoramic views of the ocean, the Santa Ana Mountains and more.

The route leaves from the Coastal Peak trailhead in the northeastern corner of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. It follows Bommer Ridge Road for two miles, through several ups and downs. On the left (north), the views of Old Saddleback and the Santa Ana Mountains are great, especially when the weather is clear.

For the most part, you stay left at the junctions you come to, but when Bommer Spur heads off to the left, stay right to remain on Bommer Ridge Road. Shortly after, look for Emerald Canyon Road branching off to the right. It descends gradually before making a steep plunge into the canyon, entering a wooded area. Unfortunately the trail becomes closed (as of this writing) so the cool shade ends up being a bit of fool’s gold (although it’s a nice place to take a break before the real work begins.)

Head right on the Old Emerald Falls trail, which emerges from the woods and enters a meadow. As you cross the meadow, you may notice a steep fire-break that begs the question, “The trail doesn’t really do that, does it?” Yes, it does.

For the next mile and a half, the trail ascends steeply, finally meeting the Moro Ridge fire road. Bear right and continue climbing to a junction with the Missing Link trail. You can continue on the Moro trail to Bommer Ridge, head left and return to the starting point, but to make things more interesting, try heading left. The Missing Link trail, single-track, parallels Bommer Ridge, with nice views down into Emerald Canyon. The Missing Link trail crosses the Slow’n’Easy trail, where its name changes to Fenceline (after the fence dividing Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.) When the Fenceline Trail reaches the Deer Canyon Trail, head right to rejoin Bommer Ridge. Head left and retrace your steps to the Coastal Peak trailhead.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

El Matador Beach

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Rocks and surf, El Matador Beach

Sea cave on El Matador Beach

El Matador Beach 

  • Location: 32210 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.  From Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway for 24 miles.  Turn left into the signed parking lot for El Matador Beach (just after Trancas Canyon Road and before Encinal Canyon Road.)  Parking is $8 per car per day.
  • Agency: State of California
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year round (low tide – check here for more information)
  • USGS topo map: “Malibu Beach”
  • Recommended gear: swim suit; beach towel
  • More information: here; Yelp reviews here
  • Rating: 6

Past Zuma Beach and Point Dume on the way to the Ventura County line, there are several small, less-visited beaches in Malibu.  One is El Matador, where swimmers–and hikers–can see some of the coastline’s most interesting geology, including some small sea caves and rugged bluffs.

From the parking area, head downhill on a steep, sometimes washed out path (families with small kids will want to take extra care here.) As you descend, you get dramatic aerial views of the beach almost immediately. The path becomes a metal staircase which takes you down to sea level. Head left (west), passing through a natural cut in the rocks. You pass a few small sea caves and eventually come to a steep wooden stepladder that leads to a private home. Beyond the ladder, a large rock outcropping blocks, for all practical purposes, any further progress. Past this, the coastline continues to La Piedra and El Pescador Beaches. The rock walls create a nice, secluded little cove where hikers can sit and watch the waves–and perhaps take a short swim–before heading back.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Abalone Cove

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Sea Dahlia trail at Abalone Cove

Cascade on the shore at Abalone Cove

Abalone Cove

  • Location: 5970 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  From From I-110 in San Pedro, take a left on to Gaffey St., and a quick right onto 1st St.  Go a mile and take a left onto Western Ave.  Go 1.7 miles and take a right onto 25th St.  Go a total of 4.5 miles (25th St becomes Palos Verdes Drive South).  Make a U-turn at Sea Cove Drive and turn right into the park.  Parking is $5 per car.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  All year (12-4pm on weekdays; 9am-4pm on weekends; closed New Years’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas)
  • USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • More information: here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6

Secluded Abalone Cove has some of the Palos Verdes Peninsula’s more rugged, remote scenery.  The parking fee and limited hours, while perhaps a turn-off for some, also keep the crowds slim.

There are a wide variety of trails in the park. The double loop described here samples some of them, creating a short but surprisingly challenging hike with some steep climbs and very sharp drop-offs. Families with young kids will want to be careful.

From the parking area, head east on the Chapel View Trail. Across Palos Verdes Drive South, look for the Wayfarer’s Chapel poking up above the trees. The trial dips downhill to join the Beach School Trail, a paved road. Head down to a T-junction and turn right on the Sea Dahlia trail. A short but steep descent brings you to a canyon. Head right, toward the mouth of the canyon to arrive at the rocky beach.

Head left, making your way over the rocks, toward the huge bluff, passing by a small waterfall.  Just before you arrive at it, head uphill on a paved road, the Olmstead Trail (an option if you want to extend the hike by exploring the far southeastern end of the park). This route uses the other end of the Sea Dahlia trail heads off to the left–steeply uphill, right next to the edge of the cliff. Climb this and begin a panoramic, although somewhat nerve-wracking, walk along the side of the bluffs. (If you have to ask if there is a railing of any kind here, perhaps you might want to bypass this portion of the hike.)

The Sea Dahlia trail eventually descends on a short but steep knife-edge, back into the canyon, and you return to the beach. This time, continue to the right and pick up the Beach School Trail, by the lighthouse. Head back east briefly before picking up the Abalone Cove Trail on the left. It ascends steeply through some brush before arriving back to the bluff top. Access the Via de Campo trail, which has some nice ocean views. It circles around the picnic areas and arrives back at the parking lot.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Salt Creek Beach from Chapparosa Park

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Salt Creek Beach

Old Saddleback from the Salt Creek Trail

Salt Creek Beach from Chapparosa Park

    • Location: Chapparosa Park, 25191 Chapparosa Park Road, Laguna Niguel.  From I-5, take the Crown Valley Parkway exit.  Drive southwest for 0.2 miles and turn left on Cabot.  Drive 0.6 miles and turn right on Paseo de Colinas.  Drive 0.9 miles and turn left on Golden Lantern.  Drive 1.4 miles and turn right onto Chapparosa Park Road.  Drive 0.7 miles and park in the far lot, by the baseball field.
    • Agency: City of Laguna Niguel; County of Orange
    • Distance: 7.8 miles
    • Elevation gain: 600 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: September – May
    • Recomended gear: sunblock; sun hat
    • USGS topo maps: San Juan Capistrano; Dana Point
    • More information: Salt Creek Beach page here; Laguna Niguel trail page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 3

If hiking on a paved bike path doesn’t bother you, this long trip to Salt Creek Beach can be an enjoyable hike with a lot of scenic variety. And even if hiking on a bike path isn’t your thing, this route can be a good one to keep in mind as a training trip for longer hikes, especially on hot days (such as those we’ve recently had). Although the trail is almost entirely exposed, its proximity to the coast usually keeps the temperatures moderate.

From the end of Chapparosa Community Park, pick up the bike path heading southwest into the Salt Creek Corridor. A dirt trail runs parallel to the bike path for the first leg of the trip, to Niguel Road. Although the signs of civilization are plenty, this part of the route is usually pleasantly quiet.

At 0.9 miles in, you cross under Niguel Road and continue south. Stay right at the first junction and left at the second (these are spurs that lead to Niguel Road) and make an ascent. This next portion of the hike suffers much more from road noise than the previous leg, but you also get some nice views of Old Saddleback and your first looks at the ocean.

At 2.1 miles, you cross under Camino del Avion, and pass by the golf course. After this pleasant but not very interesting stretch, you cross under Pacific Coast Highway. Follow the signs for the public trails to Salt Creek Beach. A concrete path parallels the beach, passes by Salt Creek Park and continues to the Niguel Marine Wildlife Refuge, tucked beneath some towering bluffs and the Ritz Carlton hotel. From here, you get great views of Dana Point to the south and the coastline up toward Newport to the north. This makes a good turnaround point, although the trail does continue south along the beach.

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Torrey Pines Reserve: Beach and Broken Hill Trails

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Ocean view from the Beach Trail

Torrey Pine

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.  The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here.   Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Torrey Pines Reserve: Beach and Broken Hill Trails

  • Location: From Orange County, take I-5 to Del Mar Heights Road and turn right.  In a mile, turn left on S. Camino Del Mar.  Drive a total of 1.4 miles (Camino Del Mar becomes Torrey Pines Road) to the reserve entrance.  Bear right into the parking area (day use fee is $12 per car on Monday through Thursday; $15 on Fridays, weekends and holidays) and drive uphill for a mile and park in the lot on the right side of the road, across from the visitor’s center.  From San Diego, take I-5 to Genessee Ave.  Turn left, drive 0.9 miles and turn left on N. Torrey Pines Road.  Drive 2.9 miles and take a hard left into the park.
  • Agency: Torrey Pines State Reserve
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • USGS topo maps: Del Mar
  • More information:  here; here
  • Rating: 8

If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name “Torrey Pines” is the golf course, you might want to give this park a look.  The Torrey Pines that give the reserve (and the golf course) its name, oddly, grow only here and on Santa Rosa Island.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff to see here – not only the pines, but great ocean and beach views, geology, cacti, sage and more.

There are several short trails in the reserve.  The Beach and Broken Hills trails can be combined on a nice, moderately challenging loop hike that takes in some of the park’s best scenery

From the parking area, follow the signs for the Beach Trail.  Follow this trail down toward the water below.  On the way, check out some interesting sandstone geology and plant life as well as the pines.  Detours to Razor Point and Yucca Point can give you nice aerial views of the ocean.

The Beach Trail continues, steeply in some places, winding its way down to the water.  A short spur takes you to the actual beach itself, where you can see the bluffs up close and extend your walk in the sand.  The area is known as Flat Rock Point, named for a large flat rock just off the shore.

To continue the loop, ascend the spur and head right, onto the Broken Hill Trail.  It swtichbacks uphill and soon comes to a fork.  Both routes lead back to Torrey Pines Road, but the left route is slightly shorter.  It heads through a wooded area before joining up with the paved road.  Head left (the road is closed to traffic) and walk half a mile back to the car, taking in nice views of the Carmel Valley to the right and the ocean to the left.

While the Torrey Pines reserve tends to be popular and as such isn’t a great place for wilderness solitude, the scenic variety here  is hard to beat.  And unlike the nearby golf course, other than the parking fee, no membership dues are required.

Hernandez Ranch (Peck Park)

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View of the Long Beach ports from Hernandez Ranch


Woodlands in Hernandez Ranch


Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Hernandez Ranch (Peck Park)

  • Location: San Pedro, on the corner of Upland Ave. and Dunn St.  From the end of I-110, take a right on Gaffey and an immediate left on Summerland Ave. Go half a mile and turn right on Leland Ave.  Go 0.2 miles and turn right on Upland.  Park on the corner of Upland and Dunn.
  • Agency: City of Los Angeles department of parks and recreation (Peck Park)
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested  time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: Peck Park site here; article about the reopening of Hernandez Ranch here
  • Rating: 3
Hernandez Ranch is a recently re-opened part of Peck Park in San Pedro, the main part of which is currently undergoing restoration.  The trails of Hernandez Ranch, including the short loop described here, are a pleasant surprise in an area not known for having much open outdoor space.  Hikers looking for a true wilderness experience will want to keep on looking, but for many, Hernandez Ranch is an enjoyable introduction to the outdoors and proof that many great trails in L.A. are right under our noses.

From the trailhead at the corner of Dunn and Upland, head left (the right trail, an option if you want to extend your trip, dips down into the canyon and comes out on the other end of Upland.) The trail follows the side of the neighborhood, providing nice views of the Long Beach port.

Soon you come to a split. Head downhill (right), cross the bridge and head left. The trail now becomes pleasantly secluded and quiet, especially considering the houses nearby. A short climb brings you to another bridge. You can extend the hike into Peck Park by walking on either side of the canyon, but to complete this loop, cross the bridge and turn left. You leave the wooded area and climb some more, taking in a nice aerial view of the ranch. Soon you reach the split, where you retrace your steps to the trail head.

West Bluff & West Portal Loop (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)

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Aerial view from the West Portal Trail

Ocean view from the West Portal Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

West Bluff & West Portal Loop (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)

  • Location: On the south side of Palos Verdes Drive South, near the Trump golf course.  From the end of the I-110 freeway in San Pedro, take Summerland Ave. for a mile and turn left on Western.  Go 2 miles and turn right on 25th St.  Drive a total of 2.2 miles (25th becomes Palos Verdes Drive South) and turn left into the parking lot on the corner of Conqueror Drive.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Land Conservancy (Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve)
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro
  • More information: here (scroll down to “Ocean Trails Ecological Reserve”)
  • Rating: 3
This short loop is an enjoyable and easy way to beat the heat.  It provides nice aerial views of the ocean and the trademark geology of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  It can also be combined with other hikes in the area.

Start by heading west on the dirt road leading from the parking lot.  The beginning of the trip, which parallels Palos Verdes Drive South on one side and the golf course driving range on the other, may not seem that promising, but once you take a left and access the West Portal trail, you get some nice peace and quiet.  The trail heads down past a small overlook with benches and goes right up against the edge of the bluffs.   You get a nice view down into the canyons, and can see the cliffs of Abalone Cove to the right.

After a short distance, the trail heads back uphill through a somewhat overgrown brush and then draws up along the golf course.  Head left at the next junction and follow a dirt road back to the beginning of the loop, and then retrace your steps along Palos Verdes Drive South.

Elevator & Slow’n’Easy Loop (Crystal Cove State Park)

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Sunset from Bommer Ridge

Geology on the Elevator Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Elevator & Slow’n’Easy Loop (Crystal Cove State Park)

  • 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: 500 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sunblockwidth=
  • More information: here; park map here.
  • Rating: 6

This is a nice, moderate loop hike that visits some of the secluded canyons and high ridges of Crystal Cove State Park’s back country.  There is very little shade on the route, so plan accordingly.

The hike begins on the Bommer Ridge Trail, from the Pacific Ridge trailhead in Newport Coast.  The beginning of the hike might not seem promising, paralleling the 73 toll road, but before long, you angle away from the freeway and suburban Orange County.  Stay straight as the Deer Canyon trail branches off to the right at 0.4 miles.  In another 0.4 miles, turn right on the unmarked Slow’n’Easy trail.  You head downhill and soon arrive at a junction.  It is easier to descend the steep Elevator Trail (left) and return via the Slow’n’Easy Trail in a clockwise loop, but if you’re up for a challenge, consider going counter-clockwise.  Doing this will give you nice ocean views as you descend.

For this post, however, we’ll take the loop clockwise.  Head left on the steep Elevator Trail, which descends 0.4 miles into quiet Moro Canyon.  Note some interesting sandstone geology on the left side of the trail.

At the bottom of the hill, bare right onto the Moro Canyon trail.  Follow it for a nice, cool and quiet 0.3 miles until you get to an unsigned junction.  This is the bottom end of the Slow’n’Easy trail.  Head right and begin your ascent, taking in nice ocean views.  After 1.25 miles, you arrive back at the split, just below Bommer Ridge.

For variety, on your return, consider taking the single-track Fenceline Trail. It branches off to the left of the Slow’N’Easy trail, and follows, well, the fence, paralleling Bommer.  When you get to Deer Canyon, take a right and follow it to the Bommer Ridge Trail, where you go left and retrace your steps to the parking lot.

The trails in this route tend to get washed out during the rainy months and are subject to closure.  The area can get hot during the summer, but with an early or late start (sunsets here are great), and with good preparation, it’s an enjoyable and convenient hike.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

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Pond at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary: South Loop

  • Location: 5 Riparian View, Irvine.   From the 405 Freeway, take the Jamboree exit.  Go south for 0.9 miles on Jamboree, turn left on Campus.  Drive a mile to University, make a U-turn and turn right on Riparian View, and follow the signs to the parking area.
  • Agency:  Sea and Sage Audubon Society
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Tustin”
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 2

Like the Madrona Marsh of Torrance, the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary offers a quick and convenient urban escape, where people can walk in nature and check out some marshlands and wildlife.  Although it’s hard to ignore the sounds of the nearby 405 freeway and Jamboree Road, the trees block out much of the urban landscape.

There are quite a few trails to choose from here.  The South Loop, which is 1.4 miles, tours a few of the sanctuary’s large ponds.  To get there, walk through the garden where interpretive plaques describe some of the wildlife in the area and provide interesting trivia (such as that bees in some way effect one out of every three bites of food we take.)

After strolling through the garden, you pick up the South Loop Trail.  It can be hiked in either direction.  Along the way, you pass several side trails that you can explore, although the main route should be obvious.  There area  few spots where the trees open and you can get a nice look at the ponds.  The South Loop circles ponds 1, 2 and 5, and passes by 3, before returning.  (You can pick up a map in the garden to follow your route, and check out some of the other trails in the park.)

It should come as no surprise that the sanctuary doesn’t present much of a wilderness experience, but for busy commuters who want to get out into nature on their lunch break or before or after work, it’s perfect.  Even veteran hikers should keep this trail in mind for beating the summer heat and getting their outdoor fix between bigger trips.

Badlands Trail (Laguna Niguel)

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Ocean view from Badlands Park

Looking south toward Dana Point

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Badlands Trail (Laguna Niguel)

  • Location: Laguna Niguel.  From I-5, take the Alicia Parkway exit.  Drive 5.9 miles to Pacific Island Drive and turn right.  Go 1.7 miles and turn right on Ocean Way.  Go 0.2 miles and turn left on Isle Vista.  The street ends at a gated community but parking is available on the curb.  Walk to a staircase just before the gate, that leads up to the park.  From Pacific Coast Highway, take Crown Valley Parkway 0.8 miles.  Turn left on Pacific Island Drive and left onto Ocean Way.
  • Agency: City of Laguna Niguel/County of Orange
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  Year round
  • USGS topo map: “San Juan Capistrano”
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Orange County
  • More information:  here
  • Rating: 5

For most people, the name “Badlands” conjures up images of rugged rock formations in the western plains of Nebraska and South Dakota.  However, the badlands of Laguna Niguel, while not as famous as those in the midwest, are well worth a visit if you’re in the area.  You can also expect some panoramic ocean views as well.

From the end of Isle Vista, walk up a staircase and take a left on the Seaview Trail.  (The trail continues to the right, an option if you want to extend the hike.)   Head right at a staircase that heads down to the park, where you can see the interesting rock formations.  The Badlands Trail continues on the left, working its way around the backs of the houses in the gated community.  You get great views to the north, including Aliso Peak and the distant Palos Verdes Peninsula, and when you round a bend, you can see farther south, past Dana Point andtoward San Diego.  A rough trail branches off to the right, where you can descend to a clearing where you get closer views of the ocean.The main trail continues, passing the end of the residential street Monarch Crest, and continues southeast for a little ways, over the top of a steep and deep canyon.  Just over half a mile from the park, you arrive at a sign indicating the end of the county trail.  Here you can enjoy nice views of the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains and Dana Point before heading back.

The Badlands Trail is a great way for people who are new to hiking to explore some of Orange County’s great scenery, and even veterans will be impressed by the ocean views and unique geology.  True, the trail never escapes the sights and sounds of the residential community nearby or P.C.H. below, but it’s a good one to keep in mind if you only have a little bit time.  The coming summer heat is another reason to keep this trail in mind.

Barn Own Trail via Flying Mane Trail

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No, not Anacapa: Flowers and ocean views from the Flying Mane Trail

View from the Barn Owl Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Barn Own Trail via Flying Mane Trail

  • Location: Rancho Palos Verdes.  From From I-110 in San Pedro, take a left on to Gaffey St., and a quick right onto 1st St.  Go a mile and take a left onto Western Ave.  Go 1.7 miles and take a right onto 25th St.  Go a total of 2.2 miles on 25th, which will become Palos Verdes Drive South, and take a right onto Forrestal.  Park below the yellow gate, which may or may not be closed, and enter the reserve.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles
  • More information: Forrestal reserve map here; Portuguese Bend reserve map here
  • Rating: 6

This trip explores the Forrestal Reserve and Portuguese Bend Reserve, two of the areas that comprise the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve.  There are many possible trips you can take on the trails in this area, all of which have dramatic ocean and hillside views; the route here can easily be changed, but as described, it’s a good workout in a short amount of time, and takes in the best of the scenery.  There are a lot of different trails to keep track of, but the signage is pretty good and with a map, navigation shouldn’t be too much trouble.

From Forrestal Drive, begin your climb on the Quarry Trail (stay left at the first junction, with th Pirate Trail).  Take another left at your next junction to get to the Flying Mane trail, which provides some wide-ranging views and a bird’s eye perspective on the athletic fields below.  After some more climbing, you reach a vista point where you get a nice view down into Klondike Canyon.  Head left and descend some switchbacks, soon arriving at another junction.  Take a right onto the Canyon Trail (which is quite overgrown, has some steep and hard to see steps, and should probably be bypassed) and then almost immediately bear left on the Red Tail Trail, which climbs and joins the Vista Trail.  (Confused?  The maps help, and it really does make sense when you see it in person).

The Vista Trail meets up with the Dauntless Trail, which heads downhill to join a fire road, the Conquerer Trail.  If you’re ready to call it a day by this point, you can close the loop by heading left on the Conquerer Trail, uphill, and returning via the Purple Sage trail and the paved Intrepid Drive and Forrestal Drive.  However, given time and energy, a short but steep climb up the Barn Owl trail will give you some more great ocean views.  To get there, head right on the Conquerer Trail; this goes downhill, crosses Klondike Canyon and enters the Portuguese Bend Nature Reserve.  Take a sharp right on the Klondike Trail, climb a little and head left on the Barn Owl Trail.  This trail curves around and soon makes a short but very steep ascent to a vista point.  On the way, it crosses the Klondike Trail again before finally meeting the Burma Road Trail, which ultimately goes all the way to Del Cerro Park.

At this junction, you can enjoy the fruits of your labors with great ocean and canyon views. When you’re ready you can return via the Barn Owl Trail (you can take a detour by going left on the Klondike Trail at the first junction) and the Conquerer Trail, which will take you back to the Forrestal Reserve. A short climb brings you to the Purple Sage Trail, and you return via paved roads. On Forrestal Drive, you get a good up-close look at the cliffs and their geology. Just remember not to climb on the fence.

Palo Comado Canyon

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Hills about Shepherds Flat

Descending into Palo Comado Canyon

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Palo Comado Canyon

  • Location: Off highway 101 near Thousand Oaks.  From the 101 freeway, take the Kanan Road exit.  Head north for 2.1 miles and turn right on Sunnycrest Drive.  Go 0.7 miles and park at the signed trailhead where the street name changes to Double Tree.
  • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo map: Calabasas; Thousand Oaks
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: here; trail map here (Palo Comado area is on the left side)
  • Rating: 7

Quiet Palo Comado Canyon is hidden in the Simi Hills, just beyond the end of the San Fernando Valley.  Although the area gets a fair amount of traffic from mountain bikers and equestrians, there is still a definite feeling of  “being away from it all”, due to the extensive network of trails an huge variety of routes that can be taken.  The six mile-plus trip to a junction known as Shepherds Flat is a nice, moderate hike that should be doable for almost anyone, but if you are short for time and can’t make the whole thing, just a little bit is still enjoyable, and if you want to extend your hike farther, there are plenty of ways to do so.

From Double Tree, follow the trail up a brief incline and down into the canyon. In 0.4 miles you reach the Palo Comado Trail. Turn left and make your way north through the canyon, where your scenery includes some of the taller peaks in the area, some old oaks and some interesting geology. The first mile or so is very pleasant and easy going. Soon you begin the main ascent on the route, climbing out of the canyon and providing great views along the way. Several false trails and fire breaks branch off, but the main route stays straight until you reach the signed Sheep Corral Trail.

Take a sharp right and continue your ascent. Spurs to the right lead to view points where you can look down into the canyon. You start to descend, passing underneath some chaparral along the way, and make your way east. After about a mile, you stay right where the trail splits, pass by a giant oak, and arrive at Shepherds Flat. Here, you can retrace your steps or make the hike into a loop by heading south on the Cheeseboro Canyon trail and west on the Ranch Center Trail.

Zuma Canyon: Ocean View Loop

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On the Ocean View Trail

Close quarters on the Canyon View Trail

Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Zuma Canyon: Ocean View Loop

  • Location: Malibu, near Point Dume.  From Pacific Coast Highway, head north on Bonsall Drive (a mile west of Kanan Dume).  Follow the road a mile to its end and park in the dirt lot.
  • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map:  “Point Dume”
  • Recommended gear: sun hathiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 8

Plotted out on a map, this loop, which links the Canyon View and Ocean View trails in Zuma Canyon, might not look all that challenging or impressive, but in reality, it’s a good workout that also provides a lot of scenic rewards.

From the parking area, head into the canyon on the main trail.  Soon, you pass the Ocean View trail on the right (your return route).   In half a mile, head right on the Canyon View Trail.  The early going is easy, but once the ascent starts, you’ll be catching your breath frequently.  The good news is that each time you do, the views of the canyon, mountains and oceans become better and better.

After a mile or so on the Canyon View Trail, the grade finally levels out.  You make your way around a huge stone outcrop, climb a little more and soon get the full panorama of the ocean in front of you.  The trail descends to the Kanan Edison Fire Road.  Bear right and soon (0.1 miles) take another right on the Ocean View Trail.

The Ocean View Trail certainly lives up to its name, giving you all the Pacific you could possibly want as it makes a steep descent back to the canyon. After a mile, you cross the canyon and shortly after you meet up with the original trail. Take a left and retrace your steps to the trail head.