Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiking Portuguese Bend

Nestled in the rolling hills of Palos Verdes (The PV) is Portuguese Bend Reserve. There are many trails winding their way through those hills which give you a lot of ocean-viewing bang for your buck. There is also danger lurking in those rolling hills but we will get to that in a bit.

Starting out, you park on Forrestal Drive and if the gate is locked (which it was the date I visited) you have to walk down a paved road for about 0.30 of a mile but the pavement brings you your first piece of eye candy.

At the end of the road, you can either continue left and hook up with the Purple Sage Trail, which will bring you directly into the Reserve or you do not take a left, completely miss the trail and start to worry if you get lost, go on this trail.

Which will take you through the Southern side of the canyon, eventually hooking up with the Purple Sage/Conquistador Trails. If you get lost, try and get to a high point and you will see that as long as you are tracking West (towards the Pacific) you are headed the right way.

Eventually you do actually get into the Reserve and there are many, many trails to take. Some of the trails I took were Landslide Scarp Trail, Garden Trail, Vanderlip, Ishibashi, Eagle's Nest, well you get the idea. Instead of boring you with the details of these trails (most were 0.50 miles or less) I figure I would give you my overall impressions of the place.

First there is the Burma Road Trail. This trail is a wide fired road/canoe trail that snakes its way through the entirety of the Reserve. This is the main "highway" through the Reserve and the few people who were hiking in the Reserve were on this trail.

The rest of the trails are smaller, offshoot type trails that make their way off the main Burma Trail only to eventually loop back onto the trail.

As these are hills, there is a certain "up" factor to several of the trails. One of which is Owl's Head which is no joke going up hill.

I am hiking pretty much every weekend and even I was winded a bit by this sucka. Still at the top, you start to take in the views of the Pacific and everything mellows with the scenery.

Other trails have a decidedly downward slant and you find yourself hiking through "Western" feeling canyons.

When you hike in SoCal you often get the sense that you are hiking in California, not so much "the West" or your conception of the West. However, this Reserve, in parts, hearkens back to what you think a John Ford film looks like.

There is a variety of wildlife as well and they just wouldn't SHUT UP! Seriously, the barn cats were having a symphony which then inspired the crows (maybe gulls, I am a terrible bird person) to squawk for awhile. There aren't many people doing these trails but between the rabbits, the lizards and the cacophonous birds, you won't be "alone".

Given the variety of trails in the place, which ones are really worthwhile?

Well, I am a huge fan of the Eagle's Nest Trail. Not only is it the name of a bike shop in my old hometown but gives you spectacular views of the Pacific

and The PV hills

I also really liked the Vanderslip Trail and while it doesn't look like much

It is a nice amble with only a little of the up and down and gives you a real rural sense of the Reserve.

After ambling to and fro, I then made my way on the Eastern portion of the Rim Trail which makes its way up through the swale grass and burned out trees.

The signs of fire were everywhere and a whole swath of the Reserve was, well, reserved to help grow plants and trees.

The Eastern portion of the Rim Trail once again brings you to face the Pacific with a beautiful trail leading over the notch.

Now this is very important, once you see this rock formation

head right onto the Paintbrush Trail.


One of the things I pride myself on is telling you the whole story. Did I not have enough gas in the tank that day and gave up? I tell you about it. Do I have a knee injury? I will let you know how it affected my hike.

So, when I make a stupid decision and hike on the incredibly narrow, rock strewn Rim Trail and hiking it East to West (i.e., downhill), I will tell you about it. I do not seek out these types of trails, I am happy with the kayak trails that bring me to nice vistas. I do not like trails where your danger radar is on full alert because of the evidence of previous rock falls and you are basically butt scooting down a trail that should be closed to the general public (there were trails branching off this trail that were closed but not the Rim Trail itself).

Yet I found myself on this trail and I made it through by following my dad's advice, take it slow, keep your feet pointed downhill and don't panic. Should I have turned around and hiked uphill, which would have been the easier way to do this? Yes. I didn't and I will learn from it. If you hike the Reserve in PV, stay off this trail. To satiate your curiosity about the trail, here are the pictures, now let's never speak of it again.

Once you get back on the main Burma Trail, you make your way South until hooking up with the Conquistador/Purple Sage Trails which then is a straight shot back to the street parking.

Overall, the ocean views can't be beat and you can get offtrail with minimal people to commune with noisy nature. As with anything in the outdoors, there are risks, just be aware of your limits and don't be scurred to turn around when it gets hairy. Trails other than the Rim Trail are great and worth the stop off the 110.

Since there are a ton of trails, this map will help you make sense of them all. http://www.pvplc.org/_lands/docs/PBTrail%20Map2011.pdf


  1. Love this post. Having hiked most of the trails overy here, I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to write. Hope to see you out there and don't forget to bring along some snipping shears to keep the trail clear!

  2. George, thanks for writing! I really dig the Portuguese (just not that one section) and it is a HIGH recommend for anyone looking for an ocean hike.

  3. I love the Rim trail and have hiked it 30 times or so. I go to the park specifically to hike up it. Great work out. Incredibly nice bee hive in the rocks. I almost always go up. From the Burma road till the paintbrush trail turn off takes 12 minutes. Awesome work out. I hope they never close my most favorite park. BTW, I've hike out there about 40 times. I love to hike starting at the Forrestal Reserve and doing the whole perimeter. The Panoramic trail is amazing! I think this is one of the best hiking areas in the United States.


Design by BlogSpotDesign | Ngetik Dot Com