Palos Verdes, Vasquez Rocks, Big Tujunga Canyon and Point Dume are lesser visited, but gorgeous locations that are a short drive away from the Los Angeles city center. So next time you have a free Saturday afternoon, check out these 4 destinations.
1. Vasquez Rocks
If you live in Los Angeles and take road trips, you’ve seen Vasquez Rocks. It’s the place you see as you drop back into the the Los Angeles basin after coming back from anywhere in Eastern Sierras or Death Valley.
Like Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley, the area got its name from its wild west days, when one California’s most famous bandits, Tiburcio Vasquez, used the rock formations to elude law enforcement. It’s easy to see how effective a strategy that was when walking through Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. The sandstone ridges extend out of the earth at all angles and heights, and with few marked trails, getting lost is easy. However, if you do lose your way, scan the horizon for the largest and most recognizable formation, the “Famous Rocks”, to reorient yourself. You won’t miss ’em.
Without traffic, Vasquez Rocks is only a 35 minute drive from downtown Los Angeles. So really, there is no need to stop here on the way back from a long weekend. Instead, pick a day, fill a picnic basket and set off to Vasquez Rocks.
2. Palos Verdes
There’s a beautiful bit of coastline in Palos Verdes. The weathered cliffs, tide pools and sea caves are reminiscent of Montaña de Oro. At only 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes is a good stand-in for the Central Coast for a weekend day trip.
We added a 6-mile hike to our beach visit by parking at Del Cerro Park and hiking down to the coast through the Portuguese Bend Reserve. The area is filled with well-marked side trails so you can choose to lengthen your hike or take the fire-road directly down. We meandered a bit, but luckily got to the beach at low tide so we could explore the tide pools and rocky outcroppings. We snacked at the entrance to a large sea cave before heading back up, 3 miles and 1200-ft elevation gain to our car.
2. Big Tujunga Canyon
Because we like to power up the mountains, we pass a lot of people while hiking. While most people are courteous, constantly trying to maneuver around them can hinder training hikes and dampen spirits. That’s why we like the less travelled trails in Big Tujunga Canyon. If you’re looking uncrowded trails, try hikes like Fox Mountain and Mount Lukens.
4. Point Dume State Beach
As Angelenos, we are willing to put in extra effort to find a good beach. To get to Point Dume requires driving out to Malibu, nabbing one of the limited street parking spots and navigating to a hidden, rickety wooden staircase to the beach – but it’s worth it. From the top of the bluffs are sweeping views of the coastline and, in winter, a great spot for gray whale watching. Down on the uncrowded beach, you can spend the afternoon swimming, surfing and peering into tidepools. ▲
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