Text and photography copyright 2010 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.
Three Sisters Reserve
- Location: End of Ocean Terrace Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes. From the I-110 freeway, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit and head west for 3 miles. Take a left on Crenshaw Blvd. and go 3.4 miles to Crest Road. Turn right and go 0.7 miles to Highridge. Take a left, and then a quick right on Ocean Terrace. Drive to the end of the street and pick up the trail, heading off behind the last house (#6270).
- Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
- Distance: 2.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- More information: trail map here (Note: the contour lines are in fact 20 meters, not 20 feet as indicated on the map); Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
The 99-acre Three Sisters Reserve is one of several parcels that make up the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, which in turn is managed by the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy. It’s the westernmost of three adjacent parks that face south, toward the ocean; next to it is the new Upper Filiorum Preserve and beyond that the Portuguese Bend Preserve.
The difficulty of this short hike shouldn’t be underestimated. It drops from the upper reaches of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and then climbs back up on a steep grade that will probably test the morale of many hikers. The good news is that the ocean views are great throughout, and in the spring, wildflowers add to the attraction. It’s workable as a summer hike; just make sure you bring adequate protection, as there is hardly any shade on the route. Unfortunately, there’s no public access at the bottom end, so it’s necessary to do it as a “reverse hike.”
From the end of Ocean Terrace, follow the single-track around a bend to an intersection. The McBride Trail heads uphill and east toward the Upper Filiorum Reserve, but your route will be to the right, downhill. At 0.2 miles, bear right onto the McCarrell Canyon Trail, which drops steeply downhill. Stay right at the next two junctions (0.5 and 0.6 miles) and begin heading back north, into a canyon. Other than overhead power lines, this part of the hike is pleasantly quiet and secluded.
You double back downhill toward the mouth of the canyon, passing by a power station. Bear left and follow the trail past a private house toward Palos Verdes Drive South. At 1.3 miles, you meet Tramonto Drive, the entrance to a gated community. Make a U-turn and head left on Palos Verdes Drive South, following a walkway that parallels the road for 0.2 miles. (You will see oncoming traffic, and there is also a bike lane that helps serve as a buffer.)
Turn left on Barkentine Road and follow it uphill for 0.2 miles to its end, where the Barkentine Trail re-enters the preserve. This is a good place to sit and rest before the steep climb that is coming up.
The Barknetine Trail wastes no time, climbing over 600 feet in less than three quarters of a mile. A few small pockets of shade provide some relief, and there are is a flat stretch about two thirds of the way up where you can sit and enjoy the ocean views. Stay left at the first intersection with a false trail, and right at the next intersection with the Three Sisters Trail.
At 2.4 miles, you close the loop, meeting up with the McCarrell Canyon Trail. Head left, and continue your climb back to the McBride Trail and Ocean Terrace.
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.