Hike to Big Sur's Tin House

Rate this Adventure San Francisco Tanbark Trail

Added by Clare Healy

  • Distance: 6.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,980 ft
  • Amazing view of Big Sur Coastline
  • Abandoned tin house at peak

When it comes to the beauty of Big Sur, a half day on Tanbark Trail to the Tin House captures it all. From the redwood forest along Partinton Creek, to the abandoned Tin House, to Highway 1 and coastal views, you can't ask for much more.

The hike starts on the east side of Highway 1 - the northern trailhead is recommended. You will quickly come to a bridge that crosses south over Partington Creek and joins up with the main trail. The trail will continue to take you along the southern bank of the creek, through a scenic canyon of redwoods, ferns, and massive boulders.

As you continue, the trail steepens and switches back and forth up the canyon wall. A little less than a mile in, at the spot where the trail hooks to the right past a sign that says "Donald H. McLaughlin Grove," look over to the left and up. A couple more switchbacks and you are now heading to the crossing of the south fork of Partington Creek, in an area known as Swiss Camp, about 2 miles from the trailhead. There is a bench under the huge redwoods at this spot, and this is a great place to stop for lunch or rest before the final ascent to the Tin House.

The final uphill stretch of the Tanbark Trail tops out at the junction for the Tin House, where the trail itself ends at a fire road, about 3 miles from the start. Take the road left for a short hop down to the Tin House and a spectacular view of the coast, especially north towards Partington Canyon.

The Tin House was built in 1944 by Lathrop Brown, a former Congressman from New York, who also built the home above McWay Falls that was finally removed in 1965. The tin sheeting and parts came from two old gas stations, and the house was fully finished inside with rich blue walls in the living room. When completed, the Browns spent one night there and soon discovered that the tin structure made a lot of noise as it expanded and shrank with the temperature changes. They never returned.

When visiting, you can meander around the structure, exploring openings. You can see each room, with blinds still on some of the windows and electrical sockets in the walls. You can also eat lunch on the patio of the house, enjoying the serenity of the ocean sounds and forest mist.

After you are done exploring the Tin House and area, head back up the fire road to where it meets the end of Tanbark Trail, and head left down the well-graded road a couple miles to the coast. The fire road is quite steep, and will eventually emerge from the trees to allow great southern views of the ocean and Highway 1.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Lunch
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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Added by Clare Healy

Adventure and travel storyteller from the west, but currently soaking up the South from Chattanooga, TN. If you're in the area, let's go on an adventure.

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