Point Vicente / Long Point
I needed a short day of hiking so a few trails in Palos Verdes was my choice. My main problem for the day was that the guidebook I was using was very out of date. Two of the parking locations were looked very different than from that described, so that caused confusion right off the bat. I also, for whatever reason, completely ran out of gas after about five hours of hiking. I’m not sure why, especially after I had such a strong hike last week. Still, hiking on Palos Verdes Peninsula is a feast for the eyes. I must come back more often.
My first stop was the Point Vicente Fishing Access Trail. From Hawthorne Blvd. I drove past the Point Vicente Interpretive Center and then turned into the lot for Pelican Cove Park, a total of 0.8 miles. In my guidebook there is no mention of Pelican Cove Park. Today, on site, there is no mention of a fishing access trail. Names and signs have been changed, but this park is where the trail begins.
The views are great, especially the straight on view of Catalina Island and, just up the coast, Point Vicente.
I hiked past the restrooms to the trailhead and began descending to the beach. The next point down the coast, Long Point, is former home to the SeaWorld-type theme park MarineLand, which closed in 1987.
For all the wealth and luxury in Palos Verdes, somehow I imagine the beaches should be more user friendly. Instead they are rocky and narrow and the trails up and down can be steep and sketchy. It can be rough going. It reminds me of the beach equivalent of hiking creekside in Ojai.
My first goal was to hike up the coast and around Point Vicente so I could get a nice, clear shot of Point Vicente Lighthouse. The trail hugs the hillside right above all of those rocks. I scrambled and rock-hopped up the shoreline. Keep your head in the hike or you might end up twisting an important body part.
Nice rocks, shaped by eons of erosion. I believe this bird is a cormorant. It looks like he may be involved in a courtship ritual, spreading his wings and standing tall to impress his ladybird friend.
I continued on for awhile and it was obvious I was right under the lighthouse, but I couldn’t see it. I began to feel quite uncomfortable with the level of the tide. I didn’t want to get trapped here, clinging to the steep hillside while I waited for the tide to recede. I decided to play it safe and turn back. On my way back I noticed a sketchy looking trail heading into the hills. I have no idea where it goes. I then headed toward Long Point and the fabulous pointy rock which stands below.
Photo 1 – Lots of dead snails. I wonder what happened to them. Photo 3 – Rocks that look like candy with a cream filling in the middle. Photo 4 – The water was getting closer but I went as far as I wanted.
Looking back at Point Vicente, I could finally see the lighthouse.
I returned to the original trail, seen running up the hillside in photo 1.
After finishing with my first trail I got in my car and circled back to Point Vicente Interpretive Center. I had read that the lighthouse would not be accessible and wasn’t really sure what I would find there. The Interpretive Center is a nice little park with a museum and more awesome views. Point Vicente and it’s lighthouse from the Interpretive Center grounds. The tide had already blocked the path around the point. Good thing I turned back when I did.
I walked up to a platform near the museum where several people sat with binoculars. They were watching for and counting gray whales but hadn’t seen any on this day. Photo 3 – There was an image of a whale carved into the concrete. Here is his eye.
I hiked to the other end of the park to get as close as I could to the lighthouse. As expected, there was no access on this day. It’s all fenced off but if you have a magic carpet you can fly around this gate and then to the top of the lighthouse.
I stuck my camera between the strands of barbed wire to get this shot.
My next stop was Long Point. My guidebook said to exit Palos Verdes Drive a half mile from the Fishing Access Trail (Pelican Cove Park) at the Long Point turnoff and then drive to the end of the enormous parking lot which used to be a part of Marineland. Well, there is a turnoff a half mile from Pelican Cove but there was no mention of Long Point. The road I tuned on to is called Terranea Way Drive. And there wasn’t an empty lot on the land either. There is a giant resort called Terranea. After asking a couple of people I was told that indeed this was the right place – Terranea stands where Marineland once did. I drove down to the bottom of the road until I reached the entrance of the main hotel and a circular driveway. I parked in the lot on the left in an unreserved spot.
I used a concrete golf path to make my way out to the bluffside trail that runs in both directions. I started by heading down coast.
There is a serious drop from the bluff to the rocky beach below. I was surprised at how clear the water looked from above.
Looking back toward Terranea Resort from the edge of the property. Just around this corner of this point is the razor shaped rock I hiked up to earlier in the day.
I backtracked, passed the point where I originally joined the trail and hiked into the heart of the resort. A road heads down to the pool and then meets a dirt trail which runs down to the beach.
Shots from Terranea Cove
Pylon standing in the middle of the water, all that’s left of some long gone structure.
I reached the end of the trail and a lookout point. I saw two women sitting on a picnic table. What a sad commentary on the World in which we live today. Here they were in an incredible natural area, views like many people will experience only in photos, and still they just can’t get their faces out of their phones. If some higher power came to Earth, I imagine the first thing It would say is, “Humans, put down your phones!”
My next stop was Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, which just about a mile down the road from Terranea. It is well marked so no confusion for this destination. There is a parking fee, up to $12 if you stay more than two hours. Once again I set out toward the beach.
Gorgeous Portuguese Point
I planned to hike along the beach, up to the bluffs on Portuguese Point and then on to the next point, Inspiration Point. But suddenly I felt poorly – overheated and exhausted. Maybe one too many tweaks in my hiking prep? I had to turn back. As I staggered up to my car, feeling really out of it, church bells rang out from above.
One last stop, to soothe my mind, body and soul, was Wayfarers Chapel. This is a shady, magical little spot with well manicured grounds and architectural design provided by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son Lloyd Wright. Photo 2 – The visitor’s center is beautiful in it’s own right.
I walked around a corner and discovered the bell tower that serenaded me as I walk along the beach below.
Saving the best for last, I walked to the center of the property.
I always find it reassuring when I find a little gem like Wayfarers Chapel. Humans are capable of creating extraordinary beauty, not just cookie cutter housing tracks and ugly strip malls. We just need a higher motivation than greed to achieve greatness.
I sat on one of these sheltered benches and ate lunch. I looked out to Portuguese Point and vowed to return soon.