Upper Filiorum Reserve: Ford and Pony Trail Loop
- Location: Rancho Palos Verdes, off Pacifica Drive. From I-110, take the Pacific Coast Highway exit. Head west (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) and go 3 miles. Take a left on Crenshaw, drive 3.4 miles and take a right on Crest. Go 0.7 miles, take a left on Highridge, and a quick right on Ocean Terrace. Take a left on Pacifica, and look for the trail leading between the first two houses on the left side of the street. In Google Maps, the address 32000 Pacifica Drive will get you the approximate location.
- Agency: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy/Upper Filiorum Reserve
- Distance: 1.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: Year round
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (watch out for snakes)
- Cell phone reception: Fair
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None
- Camping: None
- Recommended gear: sun hat hiking poles
- More information: here; AllTrails report here
- Rating: 5
The Palos Verdes Peninsula’s Upper Filiorum Reserve offers more challenging and varied hikes than its modest size and proximity to civilization would suggest. Below is a short but surprisingly vigorous hike that can easily be knocked off in an hour or so, featuring panoramic ocean views and some steep ascents and descents. Hikers with more time can extend this trip east toward Portuguese Bend and the steep Rattlesnake Trail.
From Pacifica, head east on a short access path to the McBride Trail. Turn right and almost immediately turn left onto Zote’s Cutacross, which makes a curving descent into the Upper Filiorum Reserve. At the bottom of the trail, one quarter mile from the start, you reach a junction; the start of the loop. Head straight, staying on Zote’s Cutacross (hiking the loop clockwise, as described here, will break up the ascent on the return.)
The trail crosses Vanderlip Canyon and then arrives at another junction. Turn right on the Ford Trail, which heads south through some tall mustard grass plants before beginning a steep, loose descent to the lower reaches of Vanderlip Canyon. At 0.6 mile you reach the stream bed and begin a steep ascent to a junction with the Pony Trail. Bear left and follow the Pony Trail west as it traverses the south slopes of a bump known as Jack’s Hat. On the way, you’ll get exceptional views of the ocean and coastal bluffs. Catalina Island’s Blackjack and Ortega Peaks poke up above the marine layer when it rolls in. Prickly pear cacti dot the hillside above and below the trail.
Just over one mile from the start, the trail makes a sharp right turn and ascends steadily, doubling back toward Jack’s Hat. At 1.3 miles, turn left at a junction and begin a short but steep climb, picking up about 100 feet in 0.1 mile. Before continuing back to Zote’s Cutacross, you can make a short side trip to Jack’s Hat for some more views. Once you reach Zote’s Cutacross, completing the loop, turn left and retrace your steps back up the hill.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.