Hardcore hikers, lace up your boots! The 6.5-mile (round-trip) Tanbark Trail—closed for rehabilitation and repair after the 2008 fire—recently reopened; and it’s ready to rock your thigh muscles. The upside? Well, that’s kind of the whole point. This challenging trek up Partington Canyon rises steadily via switchbacks on a fern-flanked, single-track trail. You can always chalk up the huffing and puffing to the breathtaking scenery. The path edges both a creek and a peaceful redwood forest whose charred sections offer a sobering reminder of the fire damage. When the trail splits you’ll veer right, passing the towering redwoods of Donald H. McLaughlin Grove. Time to get your glutes in gear. The trek ascends rather relentlessly, for 3.2 miles along the canyon’s edge. Serene clover valleys offer an attractive distraction. When you peak, follow signs to the Tin House where you’ll find the remains of a spooky old building (listen for its groan in the mountain air). Okay, maybe the sound comes from the tin expanding and contracting in the famous coastal fog, but you never know. One thing is for sure—on clear days the sweeping views of the Pacific from this vantage are otherworldly. Keep the good scenery rolling on the 2.1-mile descent along the dirt fire road. The ocean and cliff views are pure Big Sur.
WHERE TO STAY:
The 1-mile hike-in campgrounds at Andrew Molera State Park
are first-come, first-serve, offering 24 sites clustered around a sycamore grove. For drive-in camping, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
has over 200 sites under towering coastal redwoods. For a real rustic charmer in the heart of the redwoods, stay the night at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn
, a not-for-profit organization listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Twenty rooms in log cabins, built from the 1930s to 1960s, harken to Big Sur days of old and are favored by the hipster set.To arrive at the Tan Bark Trail, park at a large (and free) pullout on either side of Highway 1, located 2 miles north of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park turnoff, or 9 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance. Note: After descending the hike you’ll land back on Highway 1 south where you’ll have to take a short (0.8-mile) roadside jaunt north (remember to keep with oncoming traffic) to reach the trailhead where you began. No dogs.