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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

A half-mile hike brings you to some of Big Sur’s most spectacular sights, including the much-photographed 80-foot McWay Falls, which drops from a vertical bluff to a little beach below. Unless it's a cold or windy day, consider having a picnic on a bench at the end of this trail, on a terrace perched high above the ocean in the shade of the eucalyptus trees. You might spot a sea otter or sea lion offshore. In December and January, gray whales pass by en route to their breeding and calving grounds in the bays of Baja California.
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

McWay Falls Overlook Trail

Trailhead: East end of the lower parking lot

Length: Under one mile total

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Gentle

Terrain: Moderately Firm

Varied surfaces, including hard, smooth asphalt and fine gravel; some boardwalk as you pass the falls.


The ramp to this trail is closed until further notice due to hazardous conditions caused by fire and mudslides.
The mostly paved trail slopes slightly down, crosses McWay Creek on a wooden bridge (note the waterwheel, preserved from early settlement days), and travels to the west side of the highway through an eight-foot-wide culvert. From there it's cut into the cliffside. At the viewing site for the waterfall there is a boardwalk. A terrace is all that remains of the residence of Lathrop and Helen McWay, who owned a ranch here until 1962, when Helen gave it to the state for use as a park.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Accessible Parking: Yes

Parking lot nearest the entrance is steep; level places are available in the lower lot, which is also where the trail starts.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

The restrooms are near the upper parking lot and up a steep hill from the lower parking lot. The ramp up to the restroom is also steep, with a cross-slope. Most wheelchair users will need assistance to get to the restroom entrance.

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

One table in the lower parking lot
McWay Falls Overlook
McWay Falls Overlook (Dan Hill)

Features icon key

  • hiking
  • picnic
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur
Nearest City: Big Sur
Phone: (831) 667-2315
Hours: A half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset
Fees: Entrance
Dogs: On leash
Dogs are only allowed where vehicles can travel, and must be on a six-foot leash.
Public Transportation: Monterey-Salinas Transit 

Did You Know?

The park is located on land that was originally called the Saddle Rock Ranch, because of the rock formation in McWay Cove that resembles a saddle.

Reviewed by Ann Sieck, January 24, 2009
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing