- Location: 5970 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. From From I-110 in San Pedro, take a left on to Gaffey St., and a quick right onto 1st St. Go a mile and take a left onto Western Ave. Go 1.7 miles and take a right onto 25th St. Go a total of 4.5 miles (25th St becomes Palos Verdes Drive South). Make a U-turn at Sea Cove Drive and turn right into the park. Parking is $5 per car.
- Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy
- Distance: 1.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: All year (12-4pm on weekdays; 9am-4pm on weekends; closed New Years’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas)
- USGS topo map: “San Pedro”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- More information: here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Secluded Abalone Cove has some of the Palos Verdes Peninsula’s more rugged, remote scenery. The parking fee and limited hours, while perhaps a turn-off for some, also keep the crowds slim.
There are a wide variety of trails in the park. The double loop described here samples some of them, creating a short but surprisingly challenging hike with some steep climbs and very sharp drop-offs. Families with young kids will want to be careful.
From the parking area, head east on the Chapel View Trail. Across Palos Verdes Drive South, look for the Wayfarer’s Chapel poking up above the trees. The trial dips downhill to join the Beach School Trail, a paved road. Head down to a T-junction and turn right on the Sea Dahlia trail. A short but steep descent brings you to a canyon. Head right, toward the mouth of the canyon to arrive at the rocky beach.
Head left, making your way over the rocks, toward the huge bluff, passing by a small waterfall. Just before you arrive at it, head uphill on a paved road, the Olmstead Trail (an option if you want to extend the hike by exploring the far southeastern end of the park). This route uses the other end of the Sea Dahlia trail heads off to the left–steeply uphill, right next to the edge of the cliff. Climb this and begin a panoramic, although somewhat nerve-wracking, walk along the side of the bluffs. (If you have to ask if there is a railing of any kind here, perhaps you might want to bypass this portion of the hike.)
The Sea Dahlia trail eventually descends on a short but steep knife-edge, back into the canyon, and you return to the beach. This time, continue to the right and pick up the Beach School Trail, by the lighthouse. Head back east briefly before picking up the Abalone Cove Trail on the left. It ascends steeply through some brush before arriving back to the bluff top. Access the Via de Campo trail, which has some nice ocean views. It circles around the picnic areas and arrives back at the parking lot.
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.