Blufftop Trail: Palos Verdes Drive West to Paseo del Mar

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Looking north on the Blufftop Trail

Ocean view from the Blufftop Trail

Blufftop Trail: Palos Verdes Drive West to Paseo del Mar 

  • Location:  Palos Verdes Estates, on the corner of Paseo del Mar and Palos Verdes Drive West.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit and head north/west for 5.6 miles.  Turn left onto Calle Mayor, go 1.3 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd.  Go 0.5 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Drive West and go 1.8 miles to the intersection with Paseo del Mar.  Park either on Paseo del Mar or in the small lot on the corner.   From the LAX area, follow Pacific Coast Highway/Sepulveda Blvd. south from I-105 for 8 miles, and turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd.  G0 1.4 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Drive West and go 1.8 miles to the intersection with Paseo del Mar.
  • Agency: City of Palos Verdes Estates
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map:  Redondo Beach
  • More information: video of the trail here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 4

The Blufftop Trail is a non-contiguous path that circles the western and southern edges of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, providing great coastal views. The short section described here is similar to the trails at nearby Point Vicente, although it’s dirt, not paved. On clear days, you can see the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. This part of the trail makes for a nice little excursion, and you can easily extend your trip on the nearby streets or other segments of the trail. The luxury homes that overlook the trail make it hard to forget about all the nearby development, but it’s far enough off the main road so that peace and quiet can be expected.

From the corner of Palos Verdes Drive West and Paseo del Mar, look for a trail heading toward the ocean, dipping down below the road. It follows Paseo Del Mar, briefly rejoining it, and then splitting off again. You walk along the top of the cliffs (there’s no railing, so be careful), taking in some nice views of Bluff Cove and the western peninsula coastline.

At 0.7 miles, shortly before the trail once again joins Paseo del Mar, you come to a small clearing where a tree–its roots exposed by soil erosion–provides some shade while enjoying the panoramic perspective in both directions. This makes a good turnaround point, although you can continue farther south on Paseo del Mar and visit the southern segments of the trail.

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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Portuguese Bend Reserve Vista Point from Forrestal

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View from the Panorama Trail

View from the Peppertree Trail, Portuguese Bend Reserve

Portuguese Bend Reserve Vista Point from Forrestal

  • 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.  If the gate is open, drive a quarter mile to the end of the street and begin on the Purple Sage trail.  If the gate is closed, park below it and walk to the end of the street, adding half a mile round trip.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (Portuguese Bend Reserve and Forrestal Reserve)
  • Distance: 4.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, trail condition)
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season:  All year
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
  • More information:  here; write up of a similar route here
  • Rating: 6

There’s an easy way and a hard way to enjoy the panoramic views from the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  The popular vista point can be reached from above with a short hike from Del Cerro Park, as described here.  But hikers looking for a little bit more of a challenge might want to try approaching it from below, staring at the Forrestal Reserve.  The lower region of the Portuguese Bend Reserve has a wide variety of trails, and the loop described here uses fourteen–count ‘em, fourteen–of them.  Of course, one doesn’t have to follow it exactly, but the trails that make this loop make for one of the more vigorous, and scenic, hikes on the peninsula.  While the flowers in the spring are particularly beautiful here, this hike’s coastal locale makes it a good option for any time of year.  Keep in mind however that there is virtually no shade on the trail, so plan accordingly, especially during the summer.

To get to the Portuguese Bend Reserve from Forrestal, take the Purple Sage trail (1) to the Conqueror Trail (2), which descends steeply into Klondike Canyon. Once you cross the bottom of the canyon, you are in the Portuguese Bend Reserve. Take a hard right on the Klondike Canyon Trail (3), which makes a steep ascent – the first of several you will encounter on this route. Turn left on the Barn Owl trail (4), which quickly becomes the Panorama Trail (5). This route earns its name with nice views of the ocean, the bluffs and the canyon. It descends slightly to a junction with your return route, the short but uber-steep Sandbox Trail. Stay straight and hook up with the Burma Road Trail (6), the main artery through the reserve.

Head left on Burma, and in about 0.3 miles, turn right on the Ishabashi Trail (7). This trail climbs steeply for a little while before mellowing out. Ignore two false trails that lead to the left and stay on the Ishabashi Trail, which eventually reconnects with Burma at a four-way junction. Take a left on the Burma Trail, which takes in great views of the ocean as it heads toward the vista point.

A short climb on the Eagle Nest trail (8) takes you to the pine-shaded vista point, where you can relax and enjoy some great views before heading down. Continue past the vista point on the Eagle Nest trail, which switchbacks down the side of the hill to reconnect with Burma. Head right for a few yards on Burma and pick up the Vanderlip Trail (9), which heads downhill, past some cliffs. Head left on the Kubota Trail (10), which soon meets a steep fire road, the Water Tank Trail (11).  Head downhill for a brief stretch, and just before reaching the titular water tank, head left on the Garden Trail (12), one of the more interesting sections of the hike. The Garden Trail dips into a wooded area, and follows precariously close to the edge of a cliff before coming to a three-way split. Take a hard right on the Pepper Tree trail (13) and head downhill. At the bottom of the hill, take a left on the last trail of the loop, the steep Sandbox Trail (14). Washed out and loose in some places, the Sandbox climbs over 200 feet in less than a quarter mile. Once you reach the Panorama Trail, head right and retrace your steps to the Forrestal Reserve.

The loop is outlined on the map below, which can also be used to pick alternative routes, in case you’re worried about your head spinning from all the different trail names.  While the route might sound like a navigational nightmare, most of the trails are well signed and easy to follow, and no matter what your exact path is, you’re sure to enjoy the ocean, geology and botanical scenery here.

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.

Paseo Del Sol Fire Road to Via Campesina (Palos Verdes Estates)

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Santa Monica Bay from the Paseo Del Sol fire road

Willow tree near the Palos Verdes golf course

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.

Paseo Del Sol Fire Road to Via Campesina

  • Location: End of the Paseo Del Sol fire road in Palos Verdes Estates.  From I-405, take the Hawthorne Blvd. exit and head south for 7 miles.  Take a right on Palos Verdes Drive North, go 0.4 miles and turn left on Silver Spur.  Go 0.7 miles and turn right on Montemalaga Drive.  Go a mile (Montemalaga becomes Granvia Altimara) and turn right on Via Del Monte.  Go 0.7 miles and take a hard right onto Paseo Del Sol.  Park at the end of the road (left side of the street only) and pick up the trail at the dead end.  From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit, go west for 3.1 miles and turn left on Crenshaw.  Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Palos Verdes Drive North, and drive 0.9 miles to Silver Spur.
  • Agency: City of Palos Verdes Estates
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Redondo Beach
  • More information: Outdoor Guide to the Palos Verdes Peninsula
  • Rating: 5

This is an interesting hike that offers both great ocean views and a short but rugged stretch through a secluded canyon.  The destination is a huge willow tree that makes a perfect spot for a picnic, although the trail does continue around the edge of the Palos Verdes Golf Course, so it’s easy to make a longer hike out of it.

From the end of Paseo Del Sol, pass the gate and follow a concrete path.  The trail is similar to the Aliso Summit Trail in south Orange County in that it is not much of a wilderness route, but it offers great ocean and mountain views.  On clear days, you can see both the Santa Monica and San Gabriel ranges, and everything in between from this road.

After 3/4 of a mile, the paved trail ends at Via Campenisa.  Look for a single-track that branches off to the left, heading under a bridge.  The trail is rough in places, but easy to follow.  Some of the terrain may be a little tricky, especially following rains, so be careful.  In about a quarter of a mile, you arrive at a clearing where you can sit on a the ground-level branches of an enormous willow tree.

This makes a nice turn-around spot, as you have already taken in the most interesting scenery and best views, but if you want to continue, the trail leaves the canyon, crosses two footbridges and climbs a hill.  From here, you can take a left and follow the trail to the end of Via Tejon near Palos Verdes Estates, or go uphill, take a right and end up at the golf course.