Hike This Strenuous Trail For Great Coastal Views Of California

While the West Coast may feature many beautiful landscapes offering incredible views, those in California's Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can often be combined with a strenuous yet rewarding hike. This park is considered one of the most beautiful parks on the West Coast, and one of its most popular hikes, featuring great views of the coast, is the Tan Bark Trail and Tin House Loop.  

Situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles, not far from the township of Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is part of California's state parks, so it is covered by the $10 day fee per car that allows you to enter the park from 8 a.m. until sundown. That inexpensive cost makes it the perfect place to stop while traveling along the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway. And once you've finished the Tan Bark Trail and Tin House Loop, there are many more trails to hike and enjoy more of this beautiful landscape.   

How to enjoy the Tan Bark Trail and Tin House Loop

The Tan Bark Trail and Tin House Loop is commonly considered a challenging hike, so it requires a reasonable level of fitness and some hiking experience to complete successfully. The 6.5-mile circular route takes around 4 hours to complete and features a strenuous elevation gain of 2,050 feet. It can be accessed via the Partington Cove trailhead. At around the midpoint are the remains of an historic old tin house, with stunning views of the coast. The house's original owners apparently only stayed in it once, because the tin creaked so loudly during the night as the temperature changed that they couldn't sleep! 

If you'd rather go for a shorter hike, you can walk to the Tin House and back, rather than continuing the loop. You might also extend your stay at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in the park's two available campsites, which cost $30 per night. They are generally booked for around six months beforehand, so planning ahead is essential if you want to camp near this secluded spot. And while you're here, you might as well see one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the West Coast. 

Other hiking trails at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Another popular hike in the park is the easy McWay Falls Overlook Trail, which is short enough to be done after the Tan Bark Trail, and only takes five to eight minutes to get there. Follow the trail from the McWay Beach Parking Lot, just off Highway 1, under the highway and around McWay Cove to the viewing platform. There you'll see the stunning McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall emerging from a steep cliff, in all its glory. In December and January, you can even see gray whales migrating to Baja California from the platform, so bring your binoculars. Sea otters, harbor seals, dolphins, and California sea lions can also sometimes be seen swimming in the coves. There is no access to the beach, and it is actually an arrestable offense to attempt to climb down there, so it's a good idea to stay safe and stick to the trails.

There's also the Partington Cove Trail, a moderate hike that's just over a mile long and splits into two, with one route taking you down to the cove on a rocky beach, while the other takes you through a tunnel that overlooks an old ship loading bay. Both of these trails can be enjoyed all year round. But before you head out, note that Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can be prone to bad weather, which can affect some of the hikes. If you check the park's website ahead of time to avoid closures, you're bound to enjoy the perfect hike here.