Here’s a hike where the payoff comes with every step you take, not just in a hero view from a summit perch. The oceanside trails of Rancho Palos Verdes keep the dramatic Pacific in sight—and its breezes on your skin—all along the 5 miles of clearly marked paths of the Ocean Trails Reserve. They take you from the sand on the shore to a balcony view of the blue horizon.
The reserve has 65 acres of restored habitat for the local seagulls and California gnatcatchers. The surrounding beach areas served as a filming spot for the Fox series The O.C., and Disney filmed scenes for multiple Pirates of the Caribbean films along the bluffs and coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
For a great 3-mile (round-trip) out-and-back sampling of the trail network, start on a sidewalk through Founder’s Park, which is surrounded by a golf course. Head toward the water to a dirt pathway on the west side that leads to Sunset Trail. (It easily lives up to its name.) A series of short switchbacks lead down to the beach. The trail (now called Sunrise) then turns eastward and takes you along the bluffs for a quarter-mile before ascending to the top of the cliffs to link into Catalina Trail. If you want another close-up of the gentle surf, you can trek down the steep switchbacks of Dudleya Trail—it forks down from Catalina Trail and traces the rocky beach for a half-mile before ascending back up to rejoin Catalina Trail. Catalina Trail follows the edge of the coastal ridge through the Ocean Trails Reserve for a mile and concludes at the fork of Sagebrush Walk and Gnatcatcher Trails. Are the views just as great on the return trip? Duh.
From Palos Verdes Dr. S., turn south toward the ocean on Trump National Dr. Continue to the end and park in the recreation lot on the left. Dog-friendly!