Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Three Sisters Reserve

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  • 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: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season:  All year (hot during the summer)
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here 
  • Rating: 6

Updated November 2018

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. Three Sisters tends to get less traffic than its neighboring parks. That and its dramatically steep slopes make it feel like one of the more wilder open spaces on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Unlike the Rattlesnake Trail, Pirate Trail and Marymount Trail, Three Sisters can only be done as a “reverse” hike, as the lower end is blocked by private property. Therefore, as you descend the trails and enjoy the ocean views, keep the steep return in mind.

Several trails cross the reserve and with connections to the McBride Trail, longer routes are possible. This post describes a short but challenging circuit around the preserve which makes for a good workout. Sunset views can be particularly enjoyable.

From the end of Ocean Terrace, follow the McBride Trail as it briefly descends, cuts around the backs of some houses and climbs to a junction. Here, you can enjoy the first of many impressive ocean views. Bear right on the McCarrell Canyon Trail which drops sharply down the hillside, soon reaching a junction. This is the start of the loop. Both the Barkentine (left) and McCarrell Canyon Trails (right) drop precipitously, each losing over 600 feet in 0.7 mile. At the bottom, the trail skirts the backs of some homes before making the grueling return. The good news is that as you climb, you are treated to excellent views of the Palos Verdes bluffs and Catalina Island.

If you want to extend your hike, you can explore the southwestern leg of the Three Sisters Trail, which branches off at the junction of the Sunset Trail and descends toward Palos Verdes Drive South. This adds about 0.7 mile and 200 feet of elevation gain.

Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Start of the hike at the end of Ocean Terrace
Barkentine Trail, Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
View from the Barkentine Trail
Barkentine Trail, Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Cacti on the Barkentine Trail
Barkentine Trail, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Descending the Barkentine Trail
Barkentine Trail, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Vegetation on the Barkentine Trail
Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Starting the ascent from the bottom of the reserve
Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Dusk at the Three Sisters Reserve
Three Sisters Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Sunset from the McCarrell Canyon Trail

Text and photography copyright 2018 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 believe you just commented on my blog. I am checking out yours and all I can say is, cool. You have a better camera than I :). I have a cheap target camera, but it works.

    I climbed balday before. I camped up top. 4000 feet up the Ski Hut Trail and 6000 back down the other way. Some of my friends took the lift, but no way…

    Hey, I appreciate you going back in on mine and follow up occasionally. Become a follower. Click an advertiser. I’d love to have this thing take off.

    Is it ok if I post your weblink on my site. Call it a joint venture.


      1. After viewing your blog, I want to quit my job and hike full time to cover the ground you do! Today, I am hiking for an hour in open space. It satisfies the requirement that I set forth for myself but hardly qualifies as a nice hike!

        Also, I am jealous of how nice your blog looks. Oh well, the main thing is, I’m doing it and every time I climb a peak, I am immediately rewarded.

        Have a good weekend…

      2. Thanks for the kind words – I did the whole set up through WordPress with the “spring loaded” theme. I’m lucky to have a job where I can make my own schedule and travel plans to include places to hike in between appointments, but part of the theme of my blog is that there are hundreds of trails out there even if you can only get away for an hour or so, or on the weekends. Happy hiking, thanks as always for reading.



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