Partington Cove: A Beautiful Hike in Big Sur

Partington Cove is just another unmarked turn off on the beautiful Big Sur coastline. There is a gate and a small dirt turn out but if you didn’t know what you were looking for you would easily pass right by it. Doing that would be a mistake though as this short steep hike is one of my favorites as it takes you through a 60 foot tunnel to a immaculate cove with a single bench you can sit on at the end.

Paddington Cove 14


  • 1 mile round trip
  • 300 feet of elevation

Paddington Cove 2

This trail starts on a small turn out about 20 miles South of the Big Sur Cafe, for directions to near the location check out the map at the end of the post. When you reach the turn out you will see a closed gate and a steep dirt road down to the water and forrest below. This is the path you will take.

Paddington Cove 3

From here you just continue down until you can start to see the water. From this vista you will see the junction below you of which you will take the middle path in the below picture.

Paddington Cove 5

From here you can also see the tunnel cut out of the side of the hill that you will help you with your barrings.

Paddington Cove 18

When you reach the junction the middle path crosses over a bridge and that is the one you will take.

Paddington Cove 7

This trail bends around until you see the 60 foot tunnel ahead of you.

Paddington Cove 9

This tunnel is about 6.5 feet tall and 7 feet wide as you can see by the below picture of me in it.

As you make your way through the tunnel you will start to see the beginning of one of the most beautiful coves you will ever see.

Paddington Cove 15

This cove reminded me of something that you would run into on Hawaii as the water is so clear you can see the kelp and what seems to be the ocean floor below.

Paddington Cove 12

The path continues for about 100 feet until it ends at a small bench that may be one of the best bench views I have ever seen.

Paddington Cove 16

If you are feeling adventurous you can climb out on the rocks and look at the remains of what used to be a loading area for the tanbark that they would ship out of the area.

Paddington Cove 11

I always find this type of urban / nature mixture very interesting to photograph as it tells the history of human and nature interaction and often leaves a scar.

Paddington Cove 10

I sat out on the rocks for a while and just took it all in before walking back through the tunnel and starting the climb up the dirt road to where I parked.

Paddington Cove 17

If you are looking for a quick stop this is a beautiful place to explore while traversing Big Sur and I highly recommend it. Hopefully the directions below will help you find it.

Center map

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  • love big sur! this looks like a cool hike. i’m going to put it down as one of my next things to do in cali.

    • Ya Big Sur is one of California’s best places, I go up there any chance I get!

  • Gorgeous photos! I’ve absolutely got to take a trip here sometime. Love it.

    • Thanks for the comment! I love this area, I wish I could have spent more time at the cove!

  • Absolutely beautiful photos and a great blog! I just found it through Yes and Yes blog. I’m a California resident too and love traveling around this gorgeous state.

    • Thanks for the comment and for the kind words about the site! Let me know if you have any California suggestions for me!

  • snookedbe

    Hey Josh, the article says “Paddington” but the map says “Partington” just wanted to point out the typo. Thanks for a great article btw. I’m travelling up north this week and will definitely check this out.

    • Thanks for the comment I have updated it!

  • Hi Josh! Great read. We’re thinking of visiting next month. How much time do you think we would need to set aside for this stop? Thanks for the post 🙂

    • Depending on how fast you hike it is a relatively short spot. I doubt we were there for more then an hour when we went. Obviously it is beautiful and you can spend more time if you want to but the hike is relatively short and you dont need a lot of time for it.

  • ernesto wicab

    This looks like an awesome stop . Do you think the short hike is safe for children i have two 4 year old’s. keep up the good work josh.

    • The hike itself is short but is a little steep. I would think it would be ok for children, you may have to carry them back up the steep part though depending on how tired they get though.

  • Karina

    Do you think it’d be safe to swim in the cove???

    • I would say it might be hard to swim there as there is not a great access point down to the water but I did not look too hard myself

  • thank you so much for sharing this! just spent 5 days doing the sf-slo drive and this was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. 🙂 in love with your site!

    • Thanks for the comment and I am so glad you enjoyed your drive. I agree, this is one of the best spots as well!

  • Whitney Jeanne Kaharick

    Thank you for sharing this!! I can’t wait to hike it!

    • It’s a beautiful spot, have fun!