Big Sur - Partington Cove and Canyon

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Trail Map

Partington is a Big Sur explorer's complete treat. It is a promontory with two distinct water habitats, a riparian wonderland and a Santa Lucia highland.

From sea otters to cougars, Partington is a quintessential swatch of Big Sur. Hikers can experience it all with an excellent trail

On the south side of the point is a historical tie up for ships. The hoist stanchion is still in place, so are the iron eyes drilled into the rocks.

This is an historical novelty. It looks like a pirates' hideout. Or a booze smugglers cove. Probably, it has been both.

More than 100 years ago, John Partington built a tunnel through a formidable rock promontory.

Six feet wide, eight feet high and one hundred feet long, a transit from canyon to cove, it was used to haul tan bark to ships. Mules hauled the wagons down the canyon and through the tunnel to the cove.

It's a dramatic spot from any angle. Looked at from above, which is possible because the road to the south is convenient, it is a scene down a steep cliff into a deep cove that cuts into the landscape. Remarkably, the cove side is completely cut off from the creek side. From down in the cove, it is serene, and so powerfully aquatic, that one feels submerged.

On the north side of the point, Partington Creek flows into pools and drops into a very blue ocean. Strangely, only about 200 feet from the surf, stunted Redwoods are growing. Dwarf Redwoods grow in other places, but never this close to the ocean. But, this is due to the salty wind against the trees. They look like Bonsai Redwoods.

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

A 2,000 ft. rise in elevation in 4 miles through a redwood canyon, along a roaring stream, waterfalls, springs bubbling out of hillsides, and into thick stands of exotic oaks, venerable Madrones and Manzanitas.

The Partington canyon watershed showcases the distinctive riparian woodland of Central Coastal California watersheds. The Summer fog comes from the clash of warm land air and cold water upwelling from deep offshore canyons.

In the steep canyon, Redwoods collect fog and drip its moisture about the forest. Amidst the many springs seeping up and out from all around, they appear to be luxuriating in a rain forest. In one grove, on a plateau over the rambunctious creek, Redwoods have bark that spirals like a cork screw up the tree. Sycamores spire high like giant sentinels. Huge, ancient Madrones augustly linger about. Tan bark oaks are in thick stands, like a forest of their own.

Hiking Trails in Partington Cove and Canyon

For a complete description go to: Big Sur Hikes

Pelican Member Hiking Journals:

Margie and Gregg

CalConnie's Journals

Today this well trailed hike from the road down to the beach, back up the creek to a bridge over to the tunnel for the cove is a two mile excursion. Be warned it involves a steep slope for a quarter mile at the beginning, which is all downhill, and easy hiking, but coming back up is a different story.

East of the highway is a very different and a distinctly great hiking experience.

A trail into a wonderland and up to the top of the world. From the cove to the ridge and back is 8 miles, steadily steep and will take 4 to 5 hours.

Big Sur Watercolors - A Special Series by Jeff Bryant

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