Visit McWay falls and Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

One of the most Iconic spots to visit and photograph in Big Sur area is McWay waterfall. A visit to McWay falls is easy with a short trail hike to an observation area above the falls. The iconic Big Sur Waterfall is a popular spot to visit and photograph and do some selfies at this popular venue.

Where is McWay Waterfall falls located?
Big Sur coastline California

Where is McWay Waterfall falls located?

Located at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls in Big Sur is one of the most scenic falls in the state and cascades from the cliffs and lands directly on the beach area facing the ocean area in a dramatic view to the ocean. As you travel on Highway One around the park area of Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it curves to the right, look out for the McWay Falls sign and parking areas.

One of the most iconic waterfalls, McWay Waterfall in California stands out because it empties directly into the pacific ocean from the cliff top.

How to get to the observation area

This Big Sur waterfall hike is very easy and capable for all age groups to walk the short distance to the observation area. Basically, follow the signs on Hwy 1 and you’ll pass through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park which curves to the right and you’ll see signs for McWay Falls with just parking on the road or in the small turnout parking spot and small tunnel you can walk under the road way to the short cliffside walk. Turn right after the tunnel and walk your way to the end for perfect views of the McWay Falls in California. Access to the beach area is illegal, ha and there is no easy access to the bottom, if you are caught by rangers, you get a hefty ticket for trying to do so.

Interesting fact – you’ll see some sandy areas below that the McWay waterfalls directly fall into and this was originally created by a massive landslide in 1985 that added tons of debris and soil to the beach area and created the beach area around the waterfall base.

A Brief History of McWay Waterfalls
Big Sur coastline California

A Brief History of McWay Waterfalls

Fairly straight forward the falls, creek and canyon area are named after Christopher McWay an early settler and farmer in the area who came here in the 1870s with his son. The other well known name Julia Pfeiffer came here with her husband James B. Burns and were also early settlers and pioneers that ran the ranch at McWay Canyon. Mc Way falls in Big Sure was dedicated to Mc Way as one of the pioneer farmers in the area.

Interesting note – You’ll see the remains of the Waterfall House which was a summer seaside home of socialites Lathrop and Helen Brown built in the 1940s and left the property after 16 years and donated it to the state in 1961 and dedicated to Julia Pfeifer Burns, an early pioneer of the area. The state demolished the home and left the foundations and gardens standing.

Other details to the hike at McWay waterfalls
Big Sur coastline California

Other details to the McWay waterfalls hike

Cost – free

Hike details – .5 miles roundtrip hike to observation area of McWay falls

Difficulty – easy

There is no access to the beach area and you can just view the beach and waterfall from above and in the observation area. This is definitely better for crowd control and keeping the beach area pristine without people trying to enter the area. The Big Sur waterfall is always a must on your check list of places to visit at Big Sur and is relatively easy to get to from the highway.

If you want to do some additional hikes close by, check out the park website here for more details to visiting and what is currently open for day hikes in the area.

Other things to see around Big Sur area
Big Sur coastline California

If you are looking to stay around Big Sur at McWay Falls

Most of the lodgings in the area can be relatively affordable if you camp or RV to more moderate and then very expensive luxury experiences here around Big Sur.

Ventana Big Sur – Luxury resort with Alilla brand with amazing service, amenities, delicious food and stunning luxury resort at Big Sur.

Big Sur Lodge – classic style lodge and rooms and located at Julia Ffeiffer State Park. Moderate prices to this lodge in a great location.

Contenta Inn – located at Carmel Valley and value priced for the area and easy access to highway and other attractions in the immediate area.

Check out all these well reviewed places at Big Sur here for updated prices, availability and calendar

Other things to see around Big Sur area

Visiting Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

A complete guide and road trip through Big Sur

Visiting San Carlos Borromea de Carmelo Mission

Visit to the purple sand beach at Pfeiffer Beach

Check out this inspiring video on a road trip through Big Sur and McWay Falls

Have you been visited McWay waterfall at Big Sur?

A visit to McWay falls is a must at Big Sur. Please share your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below with your recommendations.

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