Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
37 miles south of Rio Road 
$8 Park entrance fee per car
Plenty of picnic sites along the Big Sur River
Free to Guests of Big Sur Lodge

Almost 2,000 acres of coastal, canyon and mountain greatness, our sister State Park is a fantastic place and a perfect introduction to Big Sur.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is 11 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and covers 7 miles of exquisite coast with many coves.

Within the park are idyllic trails, waterfalls, underwater parks, historical gems, riparian hardwood forests, mystic redwood groves with ancient growth trees, and deliriously beautiful scenery.

McWay Falls Trail - A short walk through a tunnel and along the cliff of a cove to the Brown's Waterfall House site. Entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns is 11 miles south of The Big Sur Lodge and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on Highway One.

Canyon Trail - A third-mile walk into old growth redwoods to waterfalls of the South and North Forks of McWay Creek.

Ewoldsen Trail - A 4.5-mile loop hike through old growth forests to the top of the coastal range.

Partington Cove - A steep trail to a tunnel and a historic cove, and also to the big rock beach where Partington Creek enters the sea.

Tan Bark Trail - A 3.2-mile hike through ancient forests, mountain springs to a mountain top with spectacular views of the coast- a 6.4-mile round trip hike. 

 

Canyon Trail and Ewoldsen Trail

A 4.5-mile steep hike to the top of the Coastal Range.

From its beginning at the parking area of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the trail ascends along the McWay Creek through a redwood-forested canyon.

The Canyon Trail continues beyond the intersection of the Ewoldsen Trail. At its end you face a high waterfall, an ancient redwood emabracing a large granite boulder and steep canyon walls graced with ferns.

The Ewoldsen Trail ascends the canyon before the Canyon Trail's waterfall. For the first half of the trail you walk along McWay creek in a water wonderland with many water cascades.

The trail is well-marked, is well-maintained, and excellent bridges cross the creeks. After a mile up the trail, you encounter a two-mile loop.  

After a quarter mile along the Canyon Trail, the Ewoldsen Trail intersects the Canyon Trail, then branches off to the right and up slope.

It maintains a steady ascent out of the canyon, crosses creeks deep in redwood forests, rises through sunny oak and chaparral scrub. At times, you'll see lots of butterflies and wildflowers.

Ewoldsen Trail is a deep, quintessential Big Sur watershed experience.

Evidence of the wondrous powers of regeneration is all around the hiker for most of the trail.

The Partington Canyon watershed showcases the distinctive riparian woodland of Central California's coastal watersheds. The summer fog forms from the clash of warm land air and cold water upwelling from deep offshore canyons.

Partington Creek frolics rambunctiously around huge boulders, pools, rapids and cascades. Giant sycamores and redwoods regally congregate around seeping, bubbling springs.

Partington Cove Partington has two great hikes. First, is a two-mile loop to the ocean. It begins at an iron gate along Highway One - nine miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and 35 miles south of Rio Road.

It is a fine trail down to the beach, but steep. The trail goes down to the Partington Creek's graceful little exit to the Pacific Ocean. Then you back track up the creek to a bridge (there's an outhouse nearby). Over the bridge you soon come upon a 100-foot tunnel to Partington Cove.

The picturesque little cove is home to sea otters and seals, very clear waters and a kelp forest. It is a wildly aquatic experience. On the point is an old hoist stanchion, formerly used for loading cargo, lumber and tanning bark. The iron eyes for tying up the ships are still in place. You can imagine pirates and bootleggers rousting about.

 

Tan Bark Trail

The second Partington hike begins on the east side of Highway One. Bring drinking water and maybe also a flashlight, just in case. For the first third of the trail there is plenty of good fresh water. Not so, later.

Initially, the trail can be confusing. If you start out going to the left of the creek, you will have a lovely saunter in the redwoods, and come upon an idyllic picnic spot -- a boulder hanging over a wide sparkling pool, with a waterfall in a cathedral of Sequoia sempervirens. But, this is the wrong trail. It dead ends at a cliff.

The real trail, the Tan Bark, goes along the south side of Partington Creek, and then up. It branches to the left in three spots, leading into forests deeper within the canyon. It stays right, ascending the canyon. There are a few signs. The Old Coast Trail crossed here, and surely the ghost of poet Robinson Jeffers is about.

The trail follows a 2,000-foot rise in elevation over 4 miles through a redwood canyon.

Then the Tan Bark Trail climbs along a roaring stream, waterfalls, springs bubbling out of hillsides, and into thick stands of exotic oaks, venerable madrones and manzanitas.

The McLaughlin Memorial Grove, on a ledge in a nook of the forest, high above the raucous creek, is awesome. The Grove is home to redwoods with spiraling bark.

In several places, particularly farther uphill in the Swiss Camp area, you see arduous stonework made 70 years ago. Gunder Bergstrom, who lived here in the 1920s, did the work, and it shows a deep love for the area. The stone bridge he built is like a little human cameo to accent a wish to preserve one of nature's finest settings. The bridge allows the place to be appreciated and protects the stream environment from human impact.

You cross streams and pass springs that bubble up in fern groves, and out of the sides of the canyon. The trail switches back into sycamore, then tan bark oak and into unusual old growth redwoods.

The trail hugs the canyon slope which is chaparral-studded with colorful madrones and manzanitas and piercing views of the sea, across to Partington Ridge, and up into the Santa Lucias. You ascend on a moderately steep gradient, about 12 to 14%, continuing up until you are 2,000 feet above the ocean, and can see it through redwoods. It looks like another planet. On summer afternoons you can watch huge fog banks flow toward the shore far beneath.

Near the top you encounter a well-graded road. This can be your return trip. It is considerably shorter, descending to Highway One about three-quarters of a mile south of the point at which you started. So, you will have to hike up the highway to get back to your car.

Up here you feel you are at the top of the world. From here the coastal views are sweeping and the sea is endless. The view east is to the Santa Lucia high country.

You find the Tin House at the top. It was built by Lathrop Brown, who lived in the grand home across the cove from McWay Falls. Brown was a high official in the U.S. State Department during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. Oddly, the house up here was built of tin salvaged from gas stations before World War II. Its design is strange, too. Even though the Tin House is situated atop a 2,000-foot mountain, practically on top of the ocean, with unobstructed, majestic vistas, it has no view from inside the house to the west.