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Excuses for early morning hikes in Palos Verdes, CA

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For most weekend warriors in Southern California, hiking one of our scarce local trails usually occurs as an afterthought. You wake up on Saturday, realize how vibrantly brilliant the sky and sun are outside your window, and make mid-morning plans to commune with nature. By the time you arrive at the trail head, 3 dozen other people have made the same decision with their friends, and you inevitably get stuck behind a group that can’t stop talking with dust growing around their shuffling feet like Pig-Pen. They (and you) may as well be at a mall.

But there’s a solution! Make your commitment now to make the hike your immediate goal when you awake this weekend, or even better, go mid-week before work. The noises you hear will be twittering birds, dogs barking hello to those on the trail, wind sweeping in to awake you, and yes, Peacocks sound like they are saying “Hel-lo”. Here’s the experience of a Friday pre-breakfast hike at Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes.

Palos Verdes Nature Preserve
Palos Verdes Nature Preserve Christina Kull Martens

Palos Verdes Nature Preserve

The Portuguese Bend trail winds through the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve. This disjointed preserve spans 10 smaller reserves incorporating 1,400 acres and has over 30 miles of trails that stretch between sea level and 1,300 feet. The Portuguese Bend Reserve includes sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, and Catalina Island when the fog clears.  

The Trail Head
The Trail Head Christina Kull Martens

The Trail Head

1.    The main entrance to the trail head is at the dead end of Crenshaw Blvd, near Del Cerro Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275. Simply park in the non-red side of Crenshaw Blvd (don’t recommend parking within the neighboring communities- many have parking restrictions and HOA’s). Bring water as it gets very dry, and there are not water fountains along the trail. Follow the lead that thousands of hikers have tread to enter the park around the metal gate.


Preserve Rules
Preserve Rules Christina Kull Martens

Preserve Rules

1.    Be a good visitor and follow the Preserve rules-especially the no smoking. In August 2009 a wildfire burned over 100 acres within the Reserve destroying vegetation and habitat for threatened wildlife species. Keep out of the restoration area, and enjoy the trail as is- there are plenty of look out points and spurs to explore that are currently in existence.

The View
The View Christina Kull Martens

The View

1.    Mere steps upon the trail you are treated with your first awe-inspiring view. Taking a deep breath, you’ll notice the fragrant shrubs and moist foggy air that covers Palos Verdes in the morning. Enjoy the rocky, steep canyons and verdant (if soon after a rain) hills. Realize that this is not Vermont- it will not glow green with chlorophyll; this is a coastal sage scrub habitat, with drought resistant plants.

Filiorum Nature Reserve
Filiorum Nature Reserve Christina Kull Martens

Filiorum Nature Reserve

The largest of the 10 reserves, Portuguese Bend is almost 400 acres and was established in 2005. At the trail head, you are technically looking out over the Upper Filiorum Nature Reserve. It’s (literally) all downhill from here.

Trail Signs
Trail Signs Christina Kull Martens

Trail Signs

1.    This trail is simple and as wide as a fire road in most places. Simply follow the trail signs in and back. Don’t feel you have to drop all the way to the beach to get a benefit from this trail- stop when you start to feel tired and soak in the view. After all- returning to your car will be all uphill! Watch out for mountain bikers and horseback riders (and their deposits) on and off the trail (there are several feed-ins to the main Burma Road from housing developments).

Terranea Christina Kull Martens


1.    As the sun breaks through the fog, and you look out upon Terranea Resort, realize that this was the old Marineland of the Pacific, a public oceanarium and tourist attraction eventually bought out in 1987 by Seaworld, who then moved the Killer Whales and animals to San Diego (Shamu was once “Corky” here).  Kismetly, Portuguese Bend is named after shore whalers  in this cove in the 1800’s.

Close to Civilization
Close to Civilization Christina Kull Martens

Close to Civilization

1.    In this area of Palos Verdes, you’ve noticed on the trail massive land slippage. Thus, there is a blessed moratorium on more building in the area, but as you exit you remember how close you still are to homes, though they are shoring up their foundations with walls and jacks.

Peakcock in the Tree
Peakcock in the Tree Christina Kull Martens

Peakcock in the Tree

1.    That final sound that you just couldn’t put your finger on what created it is the ubiquitous Palos Verdes Peacock saying “Hel-lo”. Originally a gift from Mr. Baldwin to Mr. Vanderlip for his PV Estate, these peacocks have spread like rabbits, creating several colonies across the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Early in the morning, like on this hike, you’ll find them safe from predators in the trees.

Portuguese Bend Trail
Portuguese Bend Trail Christina Kull Martens

Portuguese Bend Trail

1.    Though you won’t need it for the hike (going in, hike down, going out, follow the big Burma Road up), here’s the Portuguese Bend Trail Map: