George F. Canyon Nature Center and Preserve

by Wendy Purdy

The PurdyCool gang recently participated in a free interpretive nature walk at the George F. Canyon Nature Center and Preserve. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy sponsors these walks the second Saturday of each month at various locations around the area. Hikers on this trail can park either at the nature center itself or in a lot next to the trailhead.

Our guided walk began at 9 a.m., so after signing in with event organizers, we proceeded down the trail with our guide, Russ. This particular trail was about 1.5 miles total in an "out and back" layout (meaning you walk to the end and then double-back to the beginning.) I would estimate 75 percent of the trail was an easy, flat hike, with the remaining 25 percent on a moderate incline (uphill on the "out" portion...downhill on the "back").

On the "out" portion of the trip, Russ stopped frequently to teach us about various plants, rocks, animals and canyon history. Of course, leave it to me to ask about a dangerous plant along the trail: the castor oil plant. We also saw some of the peninsula's rare Catalina Schist ...a very pretty turquoise rock. We walked fairly steadily on the "back" portion of the trip, usually only stopping when one of the participants wanted to ask a question.

Our hike lasted almost two hours. After it finished, we decided to visit the small nature center. The main portion of the building includes a few live critter exhibits, a large insect collection in pull-out drawers and a couple of microscopes with slides for exploration. Restrooms with really cute murals are also available.

The nature center is located at 27305 Palos Verdes Dr. East in Rolling Hills Estates. Basically, it's at the intersection of Palos Verdes Drives North and East. Hours at the nature center are 1-4 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. According to its brochure, the center also offers first Saturday family hikes (free, 9 a.m.). fourth Wednesday bird walks (free, 8:30 a.m.) and monthly full moon hikes ($12/person, ages 9 and up). For more information on this center and other peninsula trails, visit the Pals Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy page at