Pelican Cove Park: Terranea Discovery Trail
Sections of the trail travel through Terranea Resort, previously the site of Marineland of the Pacific Oceanarium. You’ll want to leave time for a leisurely stroll through the nicely landscaped property or to grab a bite at one of several restaurants.
Terranea Discovery Trail
Trailhead: From the west parking lot, at the end farthest from the accessible spaces
Length: 1-2 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: Gentle
Terrain: FirmNear the trailhead are some soft spots where the decomposed granite has loosened, but I had no problem negotiating them in a motorized wheelchair.
DescriptionAlthough it is called the Terranea Discovery Trail, locals know this as the Blufftop Trail, and as the name implies, you will travel high on the bluffs with unlimited ocean views. At the trailhead a detailed map shows six interpretive stations (all are accessible) along a mile-long stretch. The accessible route follows a circuitous path because of stairs in some locations, making it seem as if you’re on a scavenger hunt. After a slight downhill at the beginning, the trail levels out, and in about a quarter of a mile you reach the first station, Lady of the Light. Here you can see Point Vicente Lighthouse on the southwestermost point of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. A telescope for viewing the lighthouse is not accessible (a lowered telescope is at station 4).
After you pass the second interpretive station, to avoid a set of stairs, follow the spur trail to the left and down a slight hill, exiting onto an access road at Terranea Resort. From here you can either travel on the paved resort road several hundred feet downhill to station 3 or weave your way through the resort to reach the other stations (see map). When you reach the east side of the resort, look for the switchback ramp that leads to Cielo Point, a blufftop pool. The sight of this pool in its gorgeous setting instantly had me planning a return visit for a romantic getaway with my husband.
Beyond the pool is station 5 and the trail. Because of the detour around the stairs, you are now traveling backwards along the interpretive trail and will reach station 4 at two-tenths of a mile past station 5. Here, too, the trail ends at stairs. You’re close to the ocean at this point, and spray from the crashing waves may make you damp.
Retrace your steps to the pool, but for a delightful side trip—and to check out the source of the barking seals you may be hearing—turn right when you reach asphalt to follow the one-eighth-mile Beach Trail slightly downhill to a cove and small beach. This lovely trail provides a different perspective of the shore as it travels below the cliffs near sea level. At the beach, a small wooden bridge has a step down onto the sand; unless you can negotiate the step, you’ll need to turn around here.
To reach station 6, go back up the switchback ramp by the pool and turn right onto the wide walkway. Turn right at the first opportunity and follow the trail to the last interpretive station. From here you can continue on Flowerfield Trail, which leads to the parking lot at Terranea, or meander back through the resort.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking: YesTwo locations serve the trail: at Terranea Resort on Terranea Way, across from the golf course, and at the west lot off Palos Verdes Drive South (.25 mile from Terranea Resort), which can only be reached when traveling eastbound.
Accessible Restroom: YesNear the accessible parking space at the west lot off Palos Verdes Drive South is a paved route to the restroom; take that rather than the dirt path, which has a step at the restroom. I also used the restroom at Terranea resort, but the property is tricky to navigate.
Other Things of Interest
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- wildlife viewing
Reviewed by Ann Ruth, May 4, 2013
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