Partington Cove Trail, Big Sur
The Big Sur coast is lined with trails that start at pull-offs from Highway 1. Partington Cove is one such trail. The trail starts at a metal gate on the ocean side of the highway, and descends steeply down the hillside. It is an old dirt access road, and many of the guides I found suggested that the trail is well maintained, but at my visit in January 2020 I encountered deep ruts from runoff. I had to step widely or hop across some of them, and generally found myself zig-zagging my way down the trail. There are incredible views of the surrounding mountains and coastline from the trail.
The trail descends about 3/10 mile to a level area at a sharp curve overlooking the sea – this is a good place to stop and take in the view, but there are no places to sit — and then descends steeply again for another 3/10 mile before leveling out. Here the trail forks. Straight ahead is a level 1/4 mile spur trail along a redwood-lined creek that was very peaceful. To the right is access to the ocean; follow this path briefly before coming to another junction.
At this junction, the right spur leads to a very short, steep and potentially slippery path to a beach. The beach is lined with boulders and waves crash into the cove; it was a thrilling experience, and there are many rocks to sit on, but be aware of potential wave danger.
The left path leads to Partington Cove. Cross a bridge over the creek and then the trail curves and enters a 60-foot-long tunnel – the tunnel is over 6 feet high and 7 feet wide, the level path covered with packed gravel. Exiting the tunnel, you will be on a narrow trail high on the cliff with a wooden barrier on one side. Look down and slightly behind you to see the place where boats would land in the cove. Follow this path for about 100 feet; at the end is a bench and open exposure to the cliffs, coastline, and sea. The views are quite remarkable. This area is all rocky cliff side, so be careful about venturing too far if you don’t have sure footing.
When you’re ready, head back through the tunnel, over the bridge, take a right at the junction and then a left at the next, and start the climb back up the hill.