Forrestal Nature Reserve to Abalone Cove

How much magic can be squeezed into one hike? It was hot in Palos Verdes and there wasn’t much shade on the trails. Beyond that my day was nearly perfect. The views from the hills are spectacular. The views from the bluffs below are equally amazing. The trails are smooth, well maintained and well signed – a pleasure to hike on. This was just one of those rare days when everything seemed to fall into place. Helpful maps of this area can be found here: Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy

Driving Directions: When I hike in Palos Verdes I exit the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica and take Lincoln Blvd. in a south east direction toward Venice. Near LAX Lincoln becomes Sepulveda Blvd. Around Hermosa Beach Sepulveda changes names to Pacific Coast Highway. From PCH just past Redondo Beach, turn right onto Palos Verdes Blvd. At the large roundabout, veer right onto Palos Verdes Drive West. Drive several miles and Palos Verdes Dr. West becomes Palos Verdes Dr. South. You will pass Hawthorne Blvd., Point Vicente Interpretive Center, Pelican Cove Park and Terranea Resort. Just a couple of miles beyond Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, turn left and head up Forrestal Dr. Park on the street near Ladera Linda Community Center. Forrestal Dr. is closed to cars beyond this point, except on days when soccer matches are contested on the fields adjacent to the road. I ended my hike by returning on the closed road.

1     2   Ladera Linda Community Center has clean restrooms that were open at 6:15 a.m. Good way to start the day.  I also like the unique water fountain, for adults, children and dogs. The trailhead is in plain sight across the street from the Community Center.

3   I began to climb and had to make a quick choice, the lower route, known as Quarry Trail, or the upper route, Pirate Trail. I took Pirate Trail and think this was a good choice as the higher elevation provided better views. The huge hole in the ground which both trails pass is a former quarry.

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At a junction I went left on Mariposa Trail. Photo 1 is a good example of how well these trails are signed. I think every junction had markers with trail names. Basically I tried to stay on the northern most trail while moving west. After Mariposa I took Flying Mane Trail, Canyon Trail, Dauntless Trail and Conqueror Trail until I reached Portuguese Bend Reserve which borders Forrestal Reserve.  Photo 4 – Houses hidden  on top of these hills must have the most unbelievable views.

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Catalina looked huge compared to how it appears in Malibu, maybe three times as big. I’m used to seeing the island as a dark silhouette. Here I could make out fine topographical details.


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In addition to Catalina, I could easily make out Portuguese Bend, Inspiration Point, Sacred Cove, Portuguese Point, Abalone Cove and Long Point. I could even see the bell tower over at Wayfarers Chapel.

15     17     16   Photo 1 – Some of the hills are rather steep.  I crossed over into Portuguese Bend Reserve. I stayed on the low road paralleling Palos Verdes Dr. I needed to get down to the road and continue alongside for about a half mile. In the middle right of photo 2, one can see two trucks and a trailer parked in a dirt lot. The trail took me down to this lot. From here I crossed over the road and headed toward that first point, Inspiration Point.  Photo 3 – Swirling currents near Inspiration Point look like a giant blue eye.

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Inspiration Point on zoom

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On Palos Verdes Drive.  I came to an archery range. There is a trail that runs around the range but I decided to stick with the road as I was quite close to Inspiration Point.

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32   The trail that heads out on top of Inspiration Point is very well marked.  Although it is certainly wide enough to be considered safe, the point was also skinny enough to make me nervous.

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Looking down to the beach and over to Portuguese Point.

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35   Walking on the edge of Inspiration Point.

36   Portuguese Point in the foreground, Long Point in the background. Notice the huge sea cave on Portuguese Point.


Portuguese Bend to the east


Sacred Cove and Portuguese Point to the west

27     28   There is a small network of trails inside Sacred Cove.  I spoke to a worker from Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, the organization that maintains Forrestal Reserve, Portuguese Bend Reserve and other areas I hiked today. He told me that people do visit the sea cave and then pointed out a crazy looking trail running down the side of the hill (photo 2).  There are actually two trails leading down to the beach in photo 2.  The second runs next to the long, black pipe.

39     40   I backtracked to the road and saw a short trail leading out to a viewpoint.  At the end was a memorial for little girl who died here at Inspiration Point. This stopped me in my tracks.  An unexpected and heartbreaking discovery.

41     42     43   I walked up the road just a short way. I came to another trail, this one leading down to the beach and the big sea cave. It was hot and I hadn’t planned on expending the level of energy it would take to get up and down these steep trails.  I went for it anyway.  I followed the trail next to the black plastic pipe steeply down.  There is a point right before the beach where I had to crawl over the pipe. I was wearing shorts and burned the insides of my legs on the hot plastic.

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The Portuguese Point sea cave.


Providing scale, a woman in a black t-shirt stands in the water in front of the cave.

48     50   Photo 1 – The endless, pounding surf has sculpted the rocks into beautiful patterns.  Photo 2 – Unfortunately the tide was too high to go into the cave.


One last look at the awesome sea cave


Sacred Cove from the beach

51     52     53   I had to get back to the road again. Instead of taking the trail by the pipe I took the crazy looking one pointed out by the worker on Inspiration Point.  It’s very steep and the dirt is soft. Thankfully I had my Microspikes and hiking poles. I only had to put a hand on the ground once or twice to help pull me up.

54     55     56   At the top of the crazy trail I came to the top Portuguese Point. Portuguese Point is probably three to four times as wide as Inspiration Point.

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Photo 1 – Sacred Cove and Inspiration Point  Photo 2 – Catalina Island


Abalone Cove and Long Point

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Photo 1 – Terranea Resort, where I hiked in April, sits atop Long Point.  Photo 2 – Wayfarers Chapel sits inland just across the road.

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From Portuguese Point I headed down to the beach in Abalone Cove. I spoke with a couple of lifeguards. One suggested I hike over to the sandy part of the beach in front of the lifeguard tower and take a swim. He told me they also have an outdoor shower. This suggestion, like the information the worker had given me about the trail to the sea cave, I let guide me as if it were a sign. I usually try to stick to my predetermined plans. On this day I decided to believe that fate, the universe, the Hiking Gods or whatever you want to call it had put these people in my path for a reason. I headed over to the sandy part of the beach, stripped down to my shorts and went for a refreshing dip. Afterwards I walked up and showered off. Cooling down like this was a great relief. I felt totally refreshed.

66     67   From the beach I headed back to the road and crossed over. I reached the shady and placid grounds of Wayfarers Chapel.


The exquisite Wayfarers Chapel

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I headed inside. I love the glass walls, embraced by redwood trees just outside. Nature and architecture at peace with one another.

73     74     75   Leaving the chapel, I explored the rest of the grounds.


There was no planning or waiting for this shot, just pure chance. I turned my camera skyward just as the Sun crested over the cross on the bell tower.


Portuguese Point from Wayfarers Chapel

79     80     81   I spotted a lone bench under tall trees, the perfect place to rest.

82   Back on the road and headed for Forrestal Reserve.

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85   As I passed the points I noticed how low the tide had become. I knew returning to the sea cave on this day was simply not going to happen. Another day for sure.

86     87   I returned to Portuguese Bend Reserve and Forrestal Reserve. I took a slightly different route back to my car – Conqueror Trail to Dauntless Trail to Vista Point Trail to Exultant Trail to the closed portion of Forrestal Dr.

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From the vista point on Vista Point Trail, I looked back over the land I had traveled.  Also right below, Trump National Golf Course.

90     91     92   Exultant Trail took me right above the soccer fields on Forrestal Dr. and then down to the road.  I’ll remember this great day for a long time. Thank you, Palos Verdes.


  • Neat hike and cool trail names. Thanks for exploring and giving great info. I’ve never been to Palos Verdes, but I think I’ll start with this hike. Beautiful area, and I want to hit Pirate Trail and the Sea Cave.

    • Thanks very much. I’ve really enjoyed all of my hikes in Palos Verdes – rough, rocky beaches, blufftop trails and incredible views. Hope you have a fantastic time!

  • Wow! Totally dig when happenstance occurs on the trail. To be honest, i notice when that kind of stuff happens, you also have to be open to it like you noted in your report. Not a lot of people would be open enough to notice something like the sun behind the tower. Nice write up!

    • Allowing myself to be open to that kind of thinking really did make the hike more fun and more special. Thanks for the kind words!

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