The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Spring Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 1

Lost Trails of the Wilderness

The Anderson Canyon Trail
by Phil Williamson

Map data from USGS Lucia 15’ Quadrangle, 1921

The Anderson Canyon Trail connected the coast ridge at Marble Peak with the coast at Burns Creek, just south of the site of Anderson Landing.

The Anderson Canyon area figures very prominently in Big Sur history. The creek was originally known as Pino Pelado Creek, and Anderson Peak as Pino Pelado Peak, supposedly after a tall pine, “peeled” of its bark by a lightning strike, that once stood on the mountain’s smaller southeastern summit. The modern names refer to early settler James Andersen, who emigrated from Denmark in 1874, and his brother Peter who arrived in 1883. The Andersens became one of Big Sur’s important families, with family and business ties to the Pfeiffers, Slates, Danis, and many others.

Until the construction of the coast highway reached Anderson Canyon in 1926, there was a great deal of economic activity in the area. Local families extracted gold, limestone, redwood lumber, and tanbark, exporting their goods from the tiny “doghole ports”, such as Anderson Landing, scattered along the coast. Anderson Canyon seems to have been heavily exploited for its timber resources - the area was served by no fewer than three commercial landings. It’s even possible that these landings were used by rumrunners during the Prohibition years!

Things changed with the coming of the Coast Highway. In 1932, a camp was established at Anderson Creek for convict laborers. Then came the Bohemians - Henry Miller lived here in 1946 and ’47, and wrote about the antics of the “Anderson Creek Gang” of artists and writers, including avant-garde musician Harry Partsch and collagist Jean Varda.

Today, the country that was traversed by the Anderson Canyon Trail is a patchwork of private and public holdings. The lower part of the trail’s course crosses the Marble Peak Ranch, and the area around upper Anderson Canyon is now part of the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary, and not accessible by the public. Any attempt to walk the old trail today would involve trespassing, and should not be considered. The Anderson Canyon Trail is a Lost Trail indeed.


USFS Monterey National Forest Map, 1918
USGS 15’ Series, Lucia Quadrangle, 1921
USFS Los Padres National Forest, Monterey District Map, 1953
Jeff Norman, A Brief History of the Anderson Canyon Area, in the Big Sur Historical Society Newsletter, Issue 51, Summer 1997

|| DCQ || FeedBack ||