White Point Preserve may not be the most picturesque setting, but it's a good place to learn about the area's history and a worthwhile side trip when visiting the more beautiful White Point Beach/Royal Palms County Beach just across the road. Set among the preserve's 102 acres of restored coastal sage scrub habitat is a network of trails (most are single-track) and a visitor education center.
The land, which the Air Force deeded to the City of Los Angeles in the 1970s, has a rich history. In the mid-1500s the Tongva people used the area as a seasonal camp. In 1784 the Palos Verdes Peninsula was part of the first land grant in California and was used for livestock grazing. By 1857 an abalone fishery run by Japanese fisherman thrived here. In 1941 the U.S. military took control of the site for coastal defense purposes, installing two 16-inch gun emplacements capable of firing 2,700-pound shells within a range of 26 miles. You can still see the massive bunkers today. A Nike missile facility was built during the Cold War; 20 years later it was deactivated. Today you can walk close to the launching pad site. In 2000 the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy took over the area's management and habitat restoration.
Visitor Center: The White Point Nature Education Center is in a repurposed historic missile assembly building. Multimedia exhibits tell the cultural, military, and natural history of White Point and the preserve. An adjacent native plant garden has medicinal plants that were used by the Tongva people ("people of the earth") who once lived here.
Some small stretches at the beginning of the trail are firm-packed dirt, but most of it is asphalt.
If this is your first visit, start at the visitor center to learn about the various trails from helpful docents. From there head west on the road that parallels Paseo del Mar about .2 miles before it turns inland. Interpretive panels along the route describe the area’s vegetation, the weaponry found here, and the human history. Follow the trail uphill to a crest, where on a clear day you can see the ocean, Catalina Island, and White Point Beach/Royal Palms County Beach, although the beach itself is not visible. After .5 miles you reach Battery Bunker, built as a coastal defense site during World War II. After a short distance you reach another bunker, where you will need to retrace your route because the trail becomes too narrow for wheelchair riders. Other trails that connect and intersect with the Vista Trail are also too narrow for a wheelchair. On the return trip you can enjoy the broad ocean vistas.
This easy loop trail at the lower end of the reserve encircles an area restored with native bunch grasses. It is good for both manual and power wheelchair users. From the visitor’s center you can follow the loop in either direction. Heading east, you quickly come to the Nike missile site; shortly after this is a detour around a major landslide that took place in November 2011. Interpretive signs along the trail describe the site's history and flora. In less than .5 miles you can connect to the Vista Trail, but this section of it is single-track and steep––not wheelchair-friendly. Follow the loop back to the visitor center.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
A short distance from the visitor center and parking lot
Other Things of Interest
Close by in San Pedro is the Korean friendship bell; a duplicate "sister" bell is in South Korea. The bell is surrounded by a large grassy area, and people often fly kites here. Across the road from the reserve is White Point Beach/Royal Palms County Beach,
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