San Ramon Reserve, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA

San Ramon Reserve

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  • Location: Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes. The nearest access point is a small parking lot on the south side of the road, shortly past the intersection with Palos Verdes Drive East. From Western Avenue in San Pedro, turn right on 25th St., which becomes Palos Verdes Drive South and head west for a total of 2.2 miles to Conqueror Drive (0.7 mile past Palos Verdes Drive East). Make a U-turn and head back 0.6 mile to the parking area where there is room for a few cars. If you are coming from the west, the parking area will be about 5 miles east of Hawthorne Blvd. The approximate coordinates are N 33.7304, W 118.3398.
  • Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (San Ramon Reserve)
  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year-round but hot during the summer
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: Hiking poles; sun hat
  • More information: Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 4

The 95-acre San Ramon Reserve sits on a steep slope on the southeastern side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. On clear days, the reserve offers impressive views of the ocean, Catalina Island, the port of Los Angeles and the bluffs along the peninsula’s south shore. It also offers a short but very rigorous workout. The elevation profile of about 600 feet in 0.7 mile each way suggests a challenging but manageable grade of just under 1000 feet in a mile – but the Marymount Trail, one of the two routes through the preserve, packs in almost 400 feet in a quarter mile – comparable to the infamous Iron Mountain of the San Gabriels, if at a much smaller scale. Suffice it to say that the Marymount Trail offers more leg burning per foot than almost any other hike in the L.A. area.

To reach the preserve, head east for a short distance on Palos Verdes Drive South. Carefully cross the street at the intersection with Palos Verdes Drive East (there’s no traffic light or crosswalk, although traffic usually isn’t too heavy). The Marymount Trail begins at the signed entrance to the preserve. Much huffing and puffing brings you to the top of the trail where it rejoins Palos Verdes Drive East. A chunk of asphalt makes an efficient if not particularly attractive place to sit and enjoy the well-earned views.

When your legs are rested, retrace your steps a short distance to the Switchback Trail. This route heads southeast across the preserve, gradually descending, taking in more ocean views. The name Switchback may seem like a misnomer as the trail follows a more or less straight line. However, the name dates back to the preserve’s previous nickname – Switchback – referring to the serpentine course of Palos Verdes Drive East.

In 0.4 mile, the trail reaches the eastern boundary of the preserve. A pine tree provides some shade. It is possible to cautiously work your way down Palos Verdes Drive East for 0.4 mile back to the starting point, but it’s safer (especially if you have kids or dogs) to retrace your steps. The steep descent along the Marymount Trail, while requiring care, isn’t particularly difficult, especially if you have hiking poles.

San Ramon Reserve, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA
View from the parking area on Palos Verdes Drive South
San Ramon Reserve, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA
Entrance to the preserve
Marymount Trail, San Ramon Reserve
Climbing the Marymount Trail
Switchback Trail, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Pine tree at the end of the Switchback 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.

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