Rancho Palos Verdes is a city in Los Angeles County, California atop the Palos Verdes Hills and bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. A suburb of Los Angeles, known for its rocky beach bluffs, trails and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. This area of coastline is more private and less trafficked because of the treks to get down to the beach coastline as well. Most of the beaches are harder access hike in type beaches off the bluff and offer quiet and privacy in nature. This is the perfect area for hikers and beach lovers. There are several beaches and bluff areas to hike in Abalone Cove and a large private sand beach at the bottum. Wayfarer’s Chapel a gorgeous glass light filled tree sanctuary on the bluff overlooking the ocean right next to Abalone Cove as well.
How to get there
Rancho Palos Verdes is a 40-45 minute drive south of Los Angeles city and an hour drive outside of Orange County. From Los Angeles you take the 110 south all the way until you exit. From Orange County you take the 5 to the 405 to the 110.
Things to do
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Abalone Cove is a nature preserve park that is massive and oceanside featuring 2 beaches plus trails, caves & picnic areas. This is one of the best outdoor hiking areas with the best bluff view trails as well as Altamira Canyon which is gorgeous and reminiscent of hiking through a baby Grand Canyon with tall rock walls and narrow passages that the light shines into which I share more about below. This park is filled with trails to get a good workout hiking before you take a refreshing dip on your private beach. The two beaches are called Avalon Cove and Sacred cove. There are tide pools, bluff top viewing points, and trails that criss cross the wilderness of the preserve. The 109-acre Preserve contains an official State Ecological Preserve with important natural marine resources, and the bottom of the Portuguese Bend landslide. Two promontories, Portuguese and Inspiration Points, frame Sacred Cove, black sand and rare plants. Portuguese Bend has a historical old school building that still sits on the private beach that the main Abalone Cove Hiking Trail leads down to at the bottom of the hike.
Park Hours: 9am-4pm daily
- 1 Hour Before Sunrise to 1 Hour After Sunset
- Parking Lot: 9am-4pm
5970 Palos Verdes Drive South
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
- Public Restrooms
- Drinking Fountain
- Adjacent Picnic Area
- Staffed Facility
- The parking lot has a gated entrance with an attendant where you pay your parking fee or you will be ticketed! CASH ONLY!
- Dogs are allowed but must be on leash
First 30 Minutes: FREE
30 Minutes to 2 Hours: $6
Over 2 Hours: $12
Seniors 62+ and Handicapped are FREE year-round
Abalone Cove Trail– This is a 1.4 mile loop trail that has 269 feet elevation gain and has beautiful wildflowers in the spring and is a fairly easy trail. This is the main trail in the area and the first one you have access to in the park. Surrounded by tide pools and a rocky beach, the trail is unique and full of scenery. This is the trail that also you hike on to get to all the other trails on the bluff listed below. These trails lead to the second Sacred Cove beyond the first cove, Abalone. The trail map is here with all these trails listed. So there seems to be about 8 trails that you can traverse in this park between two different coves and private beaches. This great map shows all the trails for the cove areas in great detail.
- Beach School Trail
- Sea Dahlia Trail
- Olmsted Trail
- Smuggler’s Trail
- Inspiration Point Trail
- Cave Trail
- Sacred Cove View Trail
Altamira Canyon is a valley and is close to Upper Beach and Portuguese Point. Altamira Canyon has an elevation of 7 meters, and is nearby to Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve and Abalone Cove. This is part of the Abalone Cove trail system that is on the beach school trail and Sea Dahlia trail near where they intersect. You walk through this canyon going towards Olmsted trail and if you are doing the Portuguese loop or headed to Sacred Cove. This is one of my favorite trails and areas in California for beach hiking. Walking through these tall and narrow rock slot canyons was an amazing experience. The rocks are beautifully formed and shaped and the light that comes in from above casting shadows is so beautiful.
Portugese Bend Nursery School Private Beach
If you follow Abalone Cove trail you will come to the school beach trail and have the option of going down to this small private beach with a small preschool school house that is still there with painted murals. Portuguese Bend Nursery School is a non-profit preschool geared for kids three to five years of age. With our toes in the sand, and views of the great Pacific in the back yard, PBNS has a rich history with far reaching roots back to 1953, when first established by Elin Vanderlip. Located on the pristine, private, and naturally protected Abalone Cove Beach in Rancho Palos Verdes, is the best kept secret on the peninsula: a world class preschool. There are stairs down into the water and a small expanse of sandy beach all to yourself. This is a great beach to hike down to and spend the afternoon or you can continue hiking to one of the farther coves and beaches. This is a very rocky beach and is difficult to swim. This whole section of the coast is pretty rocky beach line and is painful stepping into the water without some kind of water shoe.
Wayfarer’s Chapel is a beautiful Christian chapel on the bluff-side overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This is an airy stone-&-glass chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright & set in a redwood grove.The trees are seen all around through the glass walls and ceiling with light streaming in and filling the beautiful and peaceful space. They are a space that holds lots of weddings but has space open daily to the public as well. The chapel says its an ecumenical Ministry of the Swedenborgian Church and the National Memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg that is dedicated to the glory of God. The Chapel grounds are open daily to the public from 9am to 5pm. The sanctuary will close to the public when there are events in progress, but the grounds will remain open. Please contact the Visitors Center for our daily schedule. Visitors Center is open daily from 10am – 5pm. See the chapel details and site here.
Chapel Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Price: free entrance, wedding cost for private event $2900 during the week and 3 grand plus during weekends.
Korean Friendship Bell Park
This is a monument in San Pedro just 15 minutes south down the coast from Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. Set under an ornate pagoda, this historic bell was a gift from Korea & has expansive sea views. This is a beautiful seaside park with expansive ocean views and trails down to what is called, the sunken city in San Pedro. The park has lots of open grass and benches with room to lay out and have a picnic or explore the local trails.
Park Hours: 7am-7pm daily
Cost: Free entrance & parking
Sunken City is a trail and hiking area to explore the lost ruins of the San Pedro landslide. The back story is that many homes in Point Fermin slid into the ocean. The area is supposed to be closed off and there have been dangerous accidents on the rocks and cliffs in this area so the trails are supposed to be closed now. You can, however, ignore the trespassing signs and climb under one of two fences to enter the area. Keep in mind that this may result in trespassing misdemeanors that may lead to fines and possible imprisonment. This trail used to be open and has been closed permanently now. Point Fermin Park is 26 miles south of LA and is where the starting point for this hike is hidden. You now have to climb over a 3 foot cemented wall and squeeze under a metal gate where there is a narrow space to fit. Sunken City has 3 tiers.
- Tier 1: The top-most part of the ruins, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean
- Tier 2: The halfway point between tier 1 and tier 2, the “middle” of the cliffs with a few small (and really short) trails
- Tier 3: The base of the cliffs
This sunken city is most known now for its impressive graffiti art all over the old cement ruins and boulders. The hike is more just a walk along the bluff and down some rocks to the beach only about a mile.