Bluff Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Bluff Cove/Flat Rock Point

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  • Location: West side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. From Long Beach, take the Vincent Thomas Bridge to Gaffey St. Take a right on Gaffey and go 2.5 miles to Palos Verdes Drive North (a five-way intersection). Take a hard right onto Palos Verdes Drive North and go 6.5 miles and take a slight left on Palos Verdes Drive West. Go 1.1 miles and take a right on Paseo Del Mar.  After about half a mile, look for a dirt area on the left (ocean) side of the road, with a chain blocking the way. This is in the 600 block of Paseo Del Mar (if you reach the church, you’ve gone about half a mile too far). Park on the left side of the street and access the trail beyond the chain. From the north, take Catalina Ave. in Hermosa Beach to Palos Verdes Blvd. Turn right on Palos Verdes Blvd (which becomes Palos Verdes Drive West) and after 2.2 total miles take a right onto Paseo Del Mar.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Estates Shoreline Preserve (Much of this route is unofficial; hike at your own risk)
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: Year round; best during low tides
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • More information: Map My Hike report here; AllTrails report (longer route) here
  • Rating: 4

Updated January 2019

This short but adventurous scramble along the beach provides views of Santa Monica Bay and some up-close looks at tidepools and marine geology. Like most beach hikes, it is more challenging and potentially dangerous than its modest length would suggest. Make sure you have adequate footwear for the rough traverse along the rocks.

It is possible to explore for several miles along the western coastline of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and if you are comfortable with rock scrambling and the tides are low and you have the time, there’s no reason not to do exactly that. For those who want a shorter trip, this loop – consisting of a city street, a use trail, an established trail and a traverse of the beach – provides a sampling of the area’s scenery and rugged terrain. Indeed, the untamed shoreline contrasts the polished appearance of the multi-million dollar homes that overlook it – proof that Los Angeles’s wild side exists in even the most luxurious residential areas.

This write-up assumes a counter-clockwise direction, which allows you to descend, rather than ascend, the steeper of the two trails down to the beach. If you don’t like the idea of making a sharp descent on loose terrain, you can hike clockwise. From the starting point, follow Paseo Del Mar downhill. Pick up the unsigned Blufftop Trail (a different segment of the trail that can be found farther south) just past Via Alamar. It threads the tight strip between Paseo del Mar and the cliffs that drop abruptly to the ocean. Just past Via Chino, make a hairpin turn on another unsigned trail and begin the descent, likely using your hands as well as your feet in some parts. Near the bottom, where the trail is washed out, some ropes can help with balance.

On the beach, begin your march south across the rocks. After about 0.4 mile, you come to Flat Rock Point, a wide promontory that makes a good resting spot with views in both directions. On the south side of Flat Rock Point is Bluff Cove. After negotiating a tricky descent to the beach, continue along the shore to another rock wall. Pick the easiest route over and then look for the Bluff Cove Trail descending to the beach from the street above. Now comes the easy part: a simple walk up the trail back to Paseo Del Mar, taking in some impressive views of Flat Rock Point and the rest of the coast line on the way.

Blufftop Trail, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Bluff Top trail leading from Paseo Del Mar
Trail to the beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Descent to the beach
Coastline at Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Geology on the shoreline
Tidepool, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Tidepool north of Flat Rock Point
Flat Rock Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Looking north from Flat Rock Point
Bluff Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Bluff Cove
Bluff Cove Trail, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Bluff Cove Trail back up to the street
Shoreline at Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Looking down from the Bluff Cove Trail

Text and photography copyright 2019 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.


  1. I’m a fan of the sunset view here! Easy access from home, and quick easy walk if you’re just doing the trail. Dog friendly. (As of 7/26/11, doggy bags at the top of the trail of Paseo Del Mar)

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely a good sunset hike. Bet the dog loves being able to play in the water!

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