Dominguez Gap Wetlands (Long Beach)

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Wetlands in the south end of the park

Wetlands in the south end of the park

California Golden Poppies, Dominguez Gap Wetlands

California Golden Poppies, Dominguez Gap Wetlands

Dominguez Gap Wetlands (Long Beach)

  • Location: Del Mar Avenue and Virginia Vista Court, Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach.  From the 405 Freeway, take the Long Beach Blvd. exit and head north for 0.2 miles.  Turn left on 36th St., go 0.3 miles and bear right on Country Club.  Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Los Cerritos Park Place.  Follow it past the side of the park to a T-junction and turn right on Del Mar.  The entrance (unmarked, just a gap in the fence) to the wetlands will be on the left in half a mile, just before Virginia Vista (a private road).  Park on the street for free, keeping in mind posted restrictions about time and days.
  • Agency: Los Angeles County Department of Public Works
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: Long Beach
  • More information: Park description here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 1
0:00 - Entrance to the park on Del Mar Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Entrance to the park on Del Mar Avenue (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Most hikers probably won’t drive too far to visit the Dominguez Gap Wetlands, but for residents of Long Beach – the Bixby Knolls area in particular – this pleasant little pocket of open space is an enjoyable place to explore.  The park occupies a thin corridor between the 710 Freeway and the Virginia Country Club.  In addition to the attractive pools of water, this spot is a good one for birdwatching.  Ducks, blackbirds, hawks and cormorants are among the fowl that might be seen here. From Del Mar Avenue, enter the park through a gap in the chain linked fence.  Follow a wide walkway a short distance to the beginning of the loop.  There are a few benches beneath a shade structure and interpretive plaques describing the restoration process of the wetlands.

0:05 - Interpretive plaque beneath the shade shelter (times are approximate)

0:05 – Interpretive plaque beneath the shade shelter (times are approximate)

The loop can be hiked in either direction.  To go clockwise, look for a dirt walkway descending slightly (as opposed to the spur leading to the paved bike trail).  The opposite end of the loop branches off on the right in a similar manner; use this if you would prefer to hike counter-clockwise.

0:12 - Indian Paintbrush on the west trail

0:12 – Indian Paintbrush on the west trail

The trail borders the wetlands, briefly sharing a portion of the bike path, crossing under a railroad bridge before finally reaching a turnaround point at Del Amo Blvd (about 1.2 miles from the starting point).  Along the way keep an eye out for plant life including California Golden Poppies and Indian Paintbrush as well as the diverse array of birds (possibly rabbits too).  Once you reach Del Amo, turn around and follow the opposite side of the loop back to Del Mar Avenue.

0:27 - Looking back from just before Del Amo

0:27 – Looking back from just before Del Amo

Text and photography copyright 2014 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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Sand Dune Park (Manhattan Beach)

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Looking up from the bottom of the dune

Looking up from the bottom of the dune

Heading back down the stairs into the park

Heading back down the stairs into the park

Sand Dune Park (Manhattan Beach)

  • Location: 33rd St. and Bell Avenue, Manhattan Beach.  From the 405 Freeway, take the Rosecrans Avenue exit and head west for 2.5 miles.  Turn left on Bell Avenue and drive 0.2 miles to the park entrance.  From the 105 Freeway, take the Sepulveda/Highway 1 South exit.  Head south for 2.4 miles, turn right on Rosecrans, go 0.9 miles and turn left on Bell Avenue, and drive 0.2 miles to the park.   To visit Sand Dune Park, you need to make a reservation online and pay a dollar bill (coins not accepted, change from larger bills not given.)
  • Agency: City of Manhattan Beach
  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: Venice
  • More information: here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 2
0:00 - Bottom of the stairs and the sand dune (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Bottom of the stairs and the sand dune (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Hiking purists may not be impressed with it, but the giant sand dune in Manhattan Beach has to be considered one of So-Cal’s more unusual outdoor recreation spots. According to an L.A. Times article, the dune is not only popular with locals, but has also been visited by a wide range of athletes, including Kobe Bryant and Troy Palomalu. It seems as if climbing what basically amounts to an enormous sandbox should be easy–but it’s tougher than it sounds.

0:01 - Beginning the climb (times are approximate)

0:01 – Beginning the climb (times are approximate)

Rising nearly 100 feet, the dune is the dominant feature of the park. Using it requires making an online reservation (see link above). It may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through for a neighborhood hike, but I made my reservation in less than ten minutes.

0:10 - Top of the sand dune

0:10 – Top of the dune

After paying your $1 fee (dollar bills only) at a table by the base of the dune, you enter through a fence and begin your climb. If you’re not used to walking in sand–especially at a nearly 45 degree angle–expect progress to be slow. Even veterans will feel the burn in their calves by the time they reach the top.

0:20 - Walking up the stairs next to the dune

0:20 – Walking up the stairs next to the dune

At the top of the dune, you get a nice view to the east of residential Manhattan Beach. The descent is fun – while the grade would be very steep for a single-track hiking trail, the sand slows you down, so you don’t have to worry about falling. And even if you fell, it would be on…well, sand.

0:23 - Walkway at the top of the stairs, heading south toward 30th St.

0:23 – Walkway at the top of the stairs, heading south toward 30th St.

At the bottom, you can challenge yourself with multiple “reps” on the dune, or you can explore the rest of the park. A staircase runs parallel to the dune, climbing to the end of 32nd St. Turn left and follow a narrow walkway for a few blocks, re-entering the park at the end of 30th St. Head down a staircase through a pleasantly wooded hillside before meeting with another walkway. Turn left and follow the path back to the staircase, where you descend to the park. If you have time and energy, you can try the sand dune again.

0:25 - Heading back down into the park

0:25 – Heading back down into the park

Text and photography copyright 2013 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.

0:30 - Following the walkway back to the stairs

0:30 – Following the walkway back to the stairs

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.

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.

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.

Portuguese Bend Reserve: Rim & Grapevine Loop

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Sunset from the Rim Trail

On the Rim Trail

Portuguese Bend Reserve: Rim & Grapevine Loop

  • Location: Palos Verdes Peninsula between Torrance and San Pedro.  From I-110, take the Anaheim St. exit, head west for about 3/4 of a mile to the five-way intersection and bare left on Palos Verdes Drive North.  Go 3.6 miles and take a left on Crenshaw, and follow it to its end (about 2 miles).  Park on the side of the road at Del Cerro Park.  Alternatively, access Crenshaw Blvd. either from I-405 or Pacific Coast Highway and head south to Del Cerro.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy/Portuguese Bend Reserve
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (semi-loop)
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo maps: Torrance, San Pedro
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 6
This short loop visits the lightly traveled northeastern corner of the Portuguese Bend Reserve.  Best known for its scenic overlook, the Reserve has a wide variety of trails, and this route combines several of them for a brief but aerobic hike.From the end of Crenshaw, follow the Burma Road Trail downhill, as if you were going to the overlook. When you get to the five-way split at the bottom of the hill by the water tank, take the far left fork, the Fire Station Trail, which heads back uphill.

After a quarter mile, you enter the boundary of the reserve and briefly cross into Rolling Hills Estates. Ignore the trail branching off to the left and stay right, on the Rim Trail. This trail lives up to its name, as it carefully navigates the rim of the big canyon below. Here, you get great views of the ocean.

Stay right again at another trail junction, and soon you arrive at the Grapevine Trail, your return route. Bear left and begin a steep descent, arriving at the Ishibashi Trail, 1.2 miles from the start.

Here you have several choices. You can head left on the Ishibashi Trail and explore the lower area of the reserve. You can head right and follow the Ishibashi Trail back to Burma Road. This route, however, head right on the Ishibashi Trail very briefly and then heads right on the Grapevine Trail. The Grapevine Trail heads uphill steeply, making a few switchbacks, rejoining the Rim Trail in half a mile and completing the loop. From here, you head left on the Rim Trail and retrace your steps to the Fire Station Trail, Burma Road and back to Del Cerro Park.

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.

Linden H. Chandler Preserve

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Woodlands in the Linden Chandler Preserve

Linden H. Chandler Preserve

  • Location: Palos Verdes Peninsula.  From Los Angeles and points north, take I-110 south to Pacific Coast Highway.  Turn right and go 1.5 miles to Western.  Turn left and go 0.8 miles to the five-way intersection and take a right on Palos Verdes Drive North.  Go 1.3 miles and turn right on Dapplegray.  Take a quick left on Bucksin, follow it to its end and park by the fence.  From the Vincent Thomas Bridge, stay straight to get onto Summerland St.  In a mile, turn right on Western.  Go 2.1 miles and turn left on Palos Verdes Drive North.
  • Agency: Linden Chandler Preserve/Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • USGS topo map: San Pedro Hills
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 3

Tucked between the Rolling Hills Country Club and Palos Verdes Drive North, the 28-acre Linden Chandler Preserve provides a nice quiet getaway with a good variety of scenery. Hikers can do the short loop described here, or easily extend their trip on a number of bridle trails that radiate outward from the preserve.

From the end of Buckskin Lane, follow the path into the park. From this vantage point, your clear day views include the Los Angeles basin and the San Gabriel Mountains. Take a hard right on a path that heads downhill, and almost immediately, take a left and make a small loop around the end of the golf course. At a T-junction, head right and downhill. You can take a somewhat rough single-track trail that branches off (be careful), or stay on the fire road. At the bottom, head right and into a pleasantly shaded area. This is an example of the riparian habitat the preserve was formed to protect. You climb out of the wetlands and soon reach another junction with the signed Dale’s Trail.

Head left (you can extend the trip by going right, downhill and into a short loop) and soon arrive at the Empty Saddle trailhead. Head left onto the Howard Trail (again you can extend things on the bridle trail that heads straight from here, leaving the preserve.) A steep descent brings you to another trailhead and a dirt road. Head left, past the baseball field and continue through some more woodlands. Stay straight and begin a steep climb back up to the trailhead at the end of Buckskin. You can extend the route on the Dapplegray Trail, which continues east, making a few ups and downs before ending at Palos Verdes Drive East.

In case you were wondering, Linden Chandler (1900-1995) was a concrete and gravel magnate who lived in the area.

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.