Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 850feet
Temperature day of hike: 85 degrees
Directions: From the 405 South, exit Crenshaw Blvd. Head West on Crenshaw Blvd 9 miles until it ends. Park anywhere.
Sasha: Sunday, March 15th was the LA Marathon, and after weeks of street signage warning us of impending street closures, we decided to get outta Dodge and head away from the action for hike 10. Even though I’m from LA, I had never been to Palos Verdes, but read that there were several beautiful hikes along the peninsula. After grabbing extra-large water bottles and lathering on sunscreen, we put the top down and headed south to the Portuguese Bend Reserve. We took the 405 South through Inglewood and Lawndale, and after a long drive down Crenshaw Blvd through Torrance and past several dilapidated mini malls, we made it to the white picket fences of Rancho Palos Verdes.
After we parked at the end of Crenshaw Blvd, we walked through the marked gate to Burma Road, a wide path that takes you through the reserve and all the way to the bottom of the peninsula. While researching this week’s hike, we were immediately intrigued by the idea of an “upside down” hike – a hike that started and ended at its highest point. This meant that while we would get an easy start on a hot and muggy day, we would lose our cool down and finish the hike with the hard trek back up the mountain at the hottest part of the day. We also noticed that while we could follow Burma Road down and then back up the peninsula, there were several smaller single-track off shoots, which gave us the chance to choose our own adventure.
Once we made it through the gate, we were immediately overwhelmed by the gorgeous seascape ahead, with Catalina Island directly in front of us. Burma Road was a little crowded for our taste, and after overhearing a young girl make a pinky promise with her bestie “to marry millionaires,” we decided to veer off the road most taken to the Eagles Nest Trail, a single track trail which we could tell would lead to a beautifully framed view of Catalina. After taking a quick view break at the Harman Overlook, we continued on the Eagle’s Nest Trail until it met up with Burma Road again. We followed Burma Road until we noticed the single track Panorama Trail, which traversed a steep hill I did not want to climb (but later had to, on the steeper side).
Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the idea of an “upside down” hike was a welcomed challenge, since it offered something we’d not yet tried. We approached the trail and it was a pretty easy first half, since it was a steady decline with unbelievable views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. After the first overlook, we had fun randomly choosing “left” or “right” at each of the trail markers. Until we took the Panorama trail to the Barn Owl Trail, which forced us up a very steep side of the mountain. Fortunately, at the top, there was a rock that made for a nice resting spot as we soaked in the views and tried to cool down. The heat had not only warmed our bodies, but also our water, making it really tough to stay hydrated. At this point, we looked at our phones and the weather app read 87 degrees.
After our brief cool down, we decided to make our way back to the top. This is where things got really tough.
Sasha: The short but very steep climb up the Barn Owl Trail had been such a struggle in the heat that we were not excited to begin the climb back up the peninsula. As we fantasized escape plans, I made the executive decision to take the Burma Road Trail straight back up the mountain. From the bottom of the hill, it looked like the least steep way to get back to the top, so we took swigs of our bath-water temperature water, and started trudging back up the hill. While the path was not steep, the hot weather made this quite a workout, so I’d definitely suggest taking this hike on a cooler day.
Abby: When we finally approached the final horseshoe bend, I looked to my left and saw what looked like an incredibly steep hill. I believe I said, “Holy shit, do we have to climb that?” to which Sasha replied, “That’s why I keep looking at you; I’ve been waiting for you to notice. Yes, we do.”
After I grumbled and took a drink of my hot water, we trekked our way up to the top and agreed it was a priority to find a place to buy a freezing cold water immediately. We found a gas station, and after drinking half of a large SmartWater bottle, I finally felt my body start to cool down.
- Incredible views
- A significant workout at the end, though, not the beginning
- Not very busy
- Peaceful, despite the heat
- Plenty of photo opportunities
- We weren’t fans of the upside down hike
- It was way too hot to be enjoyable for us, go on a cooler day
- Very little shade
- Don’t forget a camera
- Be cognizant of the weather
- Bring extra water and wear sunscreen
Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10. You have endless views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island, with luscious greenery and beautiful flowers along the trail.
How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 There is a steady incline on the way back, but not for too long.
Post hike grub spot: We drove around the area for a bit to find something to eat, but we could only find chain restaurants without a view, so we decided to grab a cold water at a gas station and make our way to Manhattan Beach. We parked the car and headed toward the water where we found The Strand House. We were seated right next to the window overlooking the beach right away, and the food was delicious and we both loved their fruity cocktails.
Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike to track, but also relied on tips from Hikespeak.com.