Looking for a holiday hike that keeps the whole family jolly? Combine a bluffside ramble along a dramatic coastline with a fireside break on an outdoor patio overlooking the ocean. It all happens via a 2-mile (round-trip) stroll on the Palos Verdes Peninsula; the Bluff Top Trail runs right up to Nelson’s, a Pacific-hugging bistro (and part of the Spanish-style Terranea Resort).
The trail starts from a parking lot on Palos Verdes Drive, just north of the resort. Hike through coastal sage and prickly pear cactus along the bluff, taking in unobstructed views that include a spectacular vantage of Point Vicente Lighthouse. After half a mile, the path reaches Nelson’s and continues down a stairway to a rocky shoreline where waves crash 10 feet from the trail. Explore tide pools before continuing to Terranea Cove, a cobblestone beach that marks the trail’s end. From here Catalina Island looks close enough to swim to, but we don’t recommend trying. Warm up from the sea breeze back at Nelson’s, where the patio features a firepit and a stone fireplace—perfect for enjoying a hot chocolate with a dash of naughty cheer (there’s a full bar). Or pair the fish tacos with a seasonal microbrew like a Snow Day Winter Ale from New Belgium Brewery. Pucker up: poinsettias and mistletoe are part of the décor; but the best scenery is out toward the sea. Toast the coast!
BONUS: December 2, starting at 5 p.m., Terranea Resort hosts its annual tree-lighting ceremony. The event is open to the public and there’s no charge to attend.
The parking area for Bluff Top Trail is located at 6610 Palos Verdes Dr. Take I-405 to Manhattan Beach and exit at Rosecrans Ave. Drive 1.5 miles west on Rosecrans to Sepulveda Blvd./Pacific Coast Hwy. Turn left and continue 5.9 miles south to Palos Verdes Dr. Turn right and drive 7 miles to the trailhead, 1 mile past Hawthorne Blvd. on the right. Begin down Bluff Top Trail from the south end of the lot. Hug the cliff’s edge for half a mile, crossing pavement at Nelson’s to return to the wide dirt trail, which dips past tide pools to reach a south-facing overlook. Turn right down Shoreline Access Trail, descending a couple short staircases or taking a serpentine dirt ramp to reach Terranea Cove. The Bluff Top Trail and Nelson’s are dog-friendly!