White Point Nature Preserve is located at the southern end of Palos Verdes Peninsula, offering a unique window into the regions past. Rings of trails connect the visitor center with the park’s main attraction, a retired military bunker with everlasting ocean views. This 102-acre history-packed park provides a one to 2.5-mile loop with 150 feet of elevation gain.
Beginning from the botanical gardens outside the information center, head west-northwest up a wide dirt road parallel to Paseo del Mar. After a short distance, a single track breaks off to the right toward the bunker, which can be seen up on the hill to the northeast. The road continues straight, becoming paved and curving gradually up to the northern battery. The single track traces the edge of the field before climbing a sagebrush slope to the southern battery of the old military stronghold. Both routes reach Battery Bunker after just half a mile.
An Army crew poses in front of a gun at Battery Bunker in 1946 (Courtesy of the Fort MacArthur Museum)
The bunker at White Point was built as a coastal defense site in World War II, and was in service from 1942 to 1978, though it never fired on the enemy. A panel along the trail describes the weaponry at White Point:
During World War II, Battery Bunker housed two 16-inch guns, each capable of hurling 2,000-pound shells up to 26 miles. Every time the great guns were test-fired, the booms broke hundreds of windows in San Pedro!
The bunker is now abandoned, allowing visitors to walk around the grounds and imagine the peninsula in a militarized state. The 17-foot thick, steel-reinforced concrete ceiling over the 4,000 square foot facility creates an artificial hill that will be standing for quite some time. Another thing that won’t change is the pacifying ocean view, which you will have the opportunity to enjoy as you hike back to the trailhead.
Looking down over White Point Nature Preserve
Follow the track south to loop back to the visitor center. Make a right at two minor trail junctions for the most direct path, or angle to the left around the contours of a grass field to the south. There is a noticeably vacant concrete platform in the center of the field. This area housed surface-to-air missiles during another US military campaign. At the start of the cold war, White Point was used as a Nike Missile site, part of an early system designed to protect Los Angeles from soviet missile attacks. San Vicente Mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains and Mount Disappointment in the San Gabriel Mountains were also part of this defense network.
While not the most picturesque parcel of the peninsula, White Point Nature Preserve is an excellent place to learn about the history of the headland. The city owned park was dedicated as an open space in 1999, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, which manages the area, has ensued that your visit will be an informative one. Panels along the trail describe the area’s vegetation and human history, providing some good learnin’ on a short hike. Dogs are allowed, but bicycles are prohibited. No fee or permit is required to visit White Point Nature Preserve, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From Los Angeles take the 405 or 110 Freeway south to the 405-110 interchange near Carson. Continue south on the 110 Freeway for 8 miles to the end of the freeway. Turn left on Gaffey Street, and make the third right on First Street. After one mile, turn left on Western Avenue (Route 213) and drive 2.3 miles until it becomes Paseo Del Mar. Turn to the left to stay on Paseo Del Mar. Turn left again into the parking area for White Point Nature Preserve after 1/3 of a mile.
Trailhead address: 1600 West Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731
Trailhead coordinates: 33.716086, -118.315161 (33° 42′ 57.90″N 118° 18′ 54.57″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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