Terranea Beach Cave Trail is an easy 2-mile hike in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, that offers stunning ocean vistas and the opportunity to explore a beach cave.
Also known as Terranea Discovery Trail, this easy hike is popular with hikers of all levels, offering great views of the Pacific Ocean. The hike is mostly dirt with some pavement and descends gradually down from ocean bluffs to Terranea Beach.
|Elevation Gain/Loss||150 feet/-150 feet|
|Trailhead Coordinates||34.1933456, -118.1686449|
|Location||Palos Verdes, California|
|Best Season||Year-round, summer recommended|
The information in this guide is for informational purposes only. We use Gaia GPS for mobile devices and also bring high-quality printed topographic maps while in the backcountry, and recommend you do the same.
Getting to Terranea Beach Cave Trail
Terranea Beach Cave Trail is located about 30 miles (50km) from Central LA, and there are many ways to get there. It’s probably easiest to just Google Pelican Cove Park, or use the button above.
The following route will get you there as quickly as any other: From Downtown LA, head southwest on Harbor Freeway (CA 110 S) for around 19 miles and take Exit 4 for Northwest Pacific Coast Highway (stay in the right two lanes).
In 3 miles, turn left onto Crenshaw Boulevard. After 3.4 miles, turn left onto Crest Road. In 1.6 miles, turn left onto Hawthorne Boulevard and in 2.1 miles turn left onto Palos Verde Drive West.
In about a mile, you’ll see the parking lot for Pelican Cove Park on the right. The trailhead is located at the East End of the parking lot. There are restrooms in the park.
The Terranea Discovery Trail is itself a very short but scenic hike lasting about 2 miles. The trail offers beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and there are typically many wildflowers along the hike.
The Terranea Discovery Trail starts on the bluffs near Pelican Cove Park and follows the bluffs south before bending east and eventually leading down to the beach.
Along the flat, dirt trail are kiosks that share interesting and educational information about the environment, sea life and habitat. There are stairs at various points.
This is a family friendly trail, but I would not recommend a stroller beyond the bluffs near the parking lot as they can be tricky to navigate. Otherwise, the trail is not particularly challenging.
There is no shade, so hikers are exposed to the full glare of the sun. While there is often a pleasant ocean breeze to bring down the temperatures, sun protection is strongly recommended for all hikers.
The trail is flanked by native drought tolerant plants, shrubs, flowering bushes and cacti. At one point the trail passes through Terranea Resort and goes past Nelson’s, the resort’s restaurant.
Here, you’ll find the spot the sea lions are usually lounging for a spot of wildlife. A little further along the trail swings back close to the shore and you can access narrow stretches of beach.
Continuing along the marked trail for a third of a mile beyond Nelson’s, the trail will pass by a swimming pool facility and descend to Terranea Beach. Cross the beach and climb over the rocks to see the cave.
Low tide will allow you to scale the rocks and get to the cave. You can walk in and check it out for yourself. There’s usually many visitors who are doing the same.
This trail is low on the adventure scale but it does offer spectacular views and the cave is an interesting feature. This is the pull for many and why it is so popular–I really cannot overstate how beautiful the views are.
In good weather hikers should definitely check out the tide pools, when the tide is not too high to make it unsafe or unpleasant. Note that there has also been the introduction of a disease along the coast that has killed off the sea stars.
There are a few drinking fountains along the trail that may be owned by the resort. However, they are not very well maintained at all so hikers should be sure to bring plenty of drinking water with them.
To find other terrific trails in the Los Angeles area, visit our guide to Los Angeles hiking.