When most people think of the Southern California coastline, they think of huge flat swaths of sand, paths for bikers and roller bladers, bikini-clad women and muscular men lying sunning themselves by the bright blue waters. While these things are true, there are also spots where the mountains end into the sea and rocky cliffs drop down to the beach, where hikers are as common as beach-goers. One of these places is Palos Verdes.
Jutting out into the Pacific between Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Palos Verdes (literally “green sticks”) Peninsula is a collection of affluent suburbs like Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates. Home to about 65,000 people, during nice weather weekends it welcomes tens of thousands more for its scenic beauty and as guests in its upscale resorts. For residents of LA, or even for travelers, it makes a great place to spend a day. Here are some of the highlights.
Note: as of this writing, COVID-19 has forced the closure of indoor areas throughout Los Angeles County. Please check before making any plans to visit these locations.
There are two main sorts of hike in Palos Verdes: those by the water and those inland on the peninsula.
Inland, head for the Portuguese Bend Reserve, part of the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. Here, from a starting altitude of a bit over 1200 feet at the main entrance (where Crenshaw Blvd. ends into a pedestrian gate), a multitude of trails wind their way down toward the ocean. These trails vary widely in their width, grade of ascent/descent, and upkeep, so be sure to choose those that are right for you, as well as to wear appropriate footgear. And bring lots of water; there is little shade.
Portuguese Bend holds an interesting distinction. It is one of the most geologically unstable areas in the region (hence its designation as an open space in an area where it would otherwise be parceled into high-end residential plots). The soil here shifts as much as 1/3 of an inch per day, and rock slides are regular occurrences, leading to a nearly constant repair job of Palos Verdes Drive South, the main road through the area. It also means that some trails are likely closed for repairs. Please heed those signs, as they are for your safety.
For those more interested in the coastline, I recommend Abalone Cove. A fairly short, but steep, hike will take you from the main road down the cliffs to the beach, and lovely tide pools. Again, the cliffs are unstable, so lifeguards who tell beach-goers to avoid sections of the beach where rock falls are imminent are not just being mean.
Abalone Cove (Courtesy of Two Traveling Texans)
Other than simply enjoying the view, Palos Verdes offers a couple of wonderful activities for non-hikers. Chief among these is the magnificent Wayfarer’s Chapel. Designed in 1951 by Lloyd Wright (the son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright), it is made almost entirely of glass, incorporating stark geometric designs that contrast with the natural beauty of the surrounding grounds and ocean views. The Chapel is part of the Swedenborgian Church of North America, which in turn is a branch of The New Church, a small Christian faction founded by Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th Century. With less than 10,000 members worldwide, The New Church is a tiny offshoot, but this building is one of the most lovely churches you’ll ever see.
Right? It’s just incredible. (Courtesy of Two Traveling Texans)
Admission to the Chapel and the grounds is free (when open), though the interior of the church is used regularly for events, during which time visitors are not permitted inside.
If the views of the Pacific and the Channel Islands are the main thing calling to you about Palos Verdes, consider visiting – or staying at – one of the many luxurious resorts. I have, along with my cousin Anisa from Two Traveling Texans (who provided some of the photos for this article) had a wonderful drink while listening to music on the outdoor terrace of Terranea, one of the most beautiful resorts in the area. It’s a great place to watch the sun set and relax after a day of hiking! Click here to read all about the day Anisa and I spent together on her amazing blog.
The view from Terranea (courtesy of Two Traveling Texans)
No matter what you decide to do, Palos Verdes is a great place to spend a day. Enjoy!
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