Explore The Hidden Rock Caves At Partington Cove

Partington Cove trail , Big Sur, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Photography, Yoga, Hiking, Diving

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Cliff Jumping

Beautiful Ocean views. 60 foot tunnel. Undersea forest. Hidden rock caves. Out-and Back Trail. 1 mile hike. 280 foot elevation gain.

Partington Cove which is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, is one of Big Sur's hidden gems. It's a very short hike with enough views to show why Big Sur earned the nickname " Little Yosemite." The whole hike can easily be completed in less than an hour, although there are definitely enough views to make you sit back and let time stand still.

The head of the trail begins at an access road which once used to be used for mule trains heading down to the cove. You'll be at a birds eye view as you descend, looking downward at the tree tops. Once you have reached the bottom you'll have three choices : go straight across a wooden bridge, head left towards Partington Creek, or go right toward a path along the creek to the cove.

Heading down the wooden bridge you will wind toward the right, leading you into a wooden 60 foot tunnel. On the other side of the tunnel is Partington Cove. Look down toward the ocean and you'll see huge eye bolts in the rocks that have been there since the 1800's. These were once used to tie up timber ships as well as ( rumored ) bootleggers boats during prohibition. At the end of the trail is a perfectly placed wooden bench which offers beautiful views of the coastline and ocean.

Hidden Rock Caves? Yes! Most people will turn around and call it a day at this point. Another hidden gem awaits on the other side of a short steep climb directly towards the right of the bench ( not recommended for children or beginners). It's a scramble through a very narrow path high above boulders alongside the ocean. There will be a single tree towards the top of this area (see picture). Continue towards the right of this landmark where the dirt path will turn into just boulders. Approximately 15 yards to your right look up for a long horizontal boulder. Sramble over the top and you have come across your first cave. Inside the cave you'll see firewood and other remains of obvious camping. Rumor has it that a few locals had been camping, when a huge boulder tumbled down toward them, smashing their Coleman ice cooler into pieces. You can still see the rusty remains under the boulder at the entrance.

The second boulder cave is approximately 10 yards descending towards the left of the first one. This one is a lot shorter but still offers a great picture opportunity, as well as a great place to relax and eat some lunch before heading back.

NOTE: It's easy to miss the caves. If you reach a boulder with a large keyhole, you've gone too far ( see picture).

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Camera
  • Lunch
  • flashlight or headlamps
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Overall rating: 

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Definitely worth the trek downhill. The tunnel is truly amazing and the peace and quiet you get on the other side caps off the hike. I didn't see the caves, probably because I wasn't using Outbound at the time, but will have to go back and check them out!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Xavier Salgado

It's not about seeing the obvious. It's about seeing the unseen!

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