Partington Cove Trail Julia Pfeifer Burns State Park Trail Big Sur Hike

A great way to explore the dramatic waterfront on the Big Sur coast is to take a hike down the action-packed Partington Cove Trail. Partington Cove is part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park begins from Highway One, just north of McWay Falls.

Partington Cove Trail Big Sur
Partington Cove Trail

The 1.5-mile hike to Partington Cove begins at the top of a gated fire road on the west side of Highway One and descends toward the coast to a junction at an information kiosk 0.3 miles and 200 feet below. To the left, a short 0.1-mile spur goes to a shady area along Partington Creek. To the right of the kiosk, a single-track continues for a couple hundred feet to another junction.

The main trail turns left across a bridge to Partington Cove, while a footpath heads straight to an isolated beach. Definitely visit both destinations.

The trail to the cove crosses the creek, turns right, and reaches a tunnel carved through a wall of rock. Walk through this 60-foot tunnel to the long cove on the other side. The tunnel was constructed in the 1880s for John Partington, who transported oak from the Tanbark forests in the mountains above to ships moored in the eponymous cove.

Partington Cove Tunnel
The tunnel to the cove

Beyond the tunnel, follow the trail along the right side of the cove to Partington Point. Enjoy the view up and down the coast before hiking back 0.2 miles to the junction.

Partington Point Big Sur
Partington Point

The path to the beach is a quick 0.15 miles through high brush and blackberry bushes. The path ends at a beach of boulders and sand in a small cove where the waters of Partington Creek spill out over the rocks and join the sea. There are no sweeping coastal views, but this is a nice spot to relax and look out at the big blue.

Partington Cove
The beach

All that is left to do is hike back up to Highway One, after a very enjoyable multi-faceted coastal excursion. Just across the road is the less visited Tanbark Trail, which accesses mountain forests upstream. A bridge a quarter mile from the highway forms the top of a quick loop, or you may venture farther up the trail in to the Santa Lucia Mountains. No fee or permit is required to visit Partington Cove, so get out and enjoy.

Trail status: As of 2018, Partington Cove Trail is open, even as other areas of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park recover from storm damage.

To get to the trailhead: The top of the trail is located on the inside of a bend in Highway One, 6 miles south of Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, and 2 miles north of the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (across from McWay Falls). From Ragged Point, drive 39.3 miles north and park along the highway at the trailhead (62.1 miles north of Cambria).

Trailhead address: Highway 1, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA 93920
Trailhead coordinates: 36.1770, -121.6937 (36° 10′ 37.2″N 121° 41′ 37.3″W)

Elevation Profile
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These photos were taken in May of 2010. Click to enlarge.
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This 0.6-mile hike looks out on a stunning Big Sur waterfall that pours 80 feet right on to the beach.
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Tagged with · Big Sur · California State Parks · Free Trails · Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park · Ocean Views
Distance: 1.5 miles · Elevation change: 270 feet

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11 Comments on Partington Cove in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

  1. Alan Partington wrote:

    So, so beautiful. Thank you, Julia. My brother’s name is John and my daughther’s name is Julia too, Maybe one day we’ll come and visit “our” cove.

  2. Katie wrote:

    Are there campgrounds near here, or where can I find back country camping?

  3. Faye wrote:

    Are dogs allowed in this trail?

  4. Gary wrote:

    Hi – Where do you park for this trail? Thanks!

    • hikespeak wrote:

      There is parking on the side of Highway One. It’s at a big bend in the highway a couple miles north of the park’s main entrance. Just follow the directions above and enjoy the hike!

  5. ed wrote:

    The last time I visited this trail, I specifically took my family to show them what I discovered but to our disappointment the tunnel was closed. Is this open now?

  6. Grace Bogdan wrote:

    Are there any trails in Big Sur that allow dogs?

  7. Mike wrote:

    I literally found this hike by accident while looking at my phone at a gas station and absolutely loved it!

  8. Don Uribe wrote:

    1968 I was invited to the point by a hippie named Happy. There was no trail other than the one Happy n friends created. Pines and brush covered what now is a government gate. Going through the tunnel was climbing over rocks that had fallen from the ceiling. They had a rope set up to climb down to the beach. Everyone were in their birthday suits. Happy led me around to the point where we climbed over rock cliff as we went north about 50 yards we climbed up towards a opening to a big cave where they all lived together in. Great experience will never forget it since I have taken many friends and showed them what I experienced. Beautiful spot in the world.