Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking


  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking


Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur, CA, 93920
Monterey/Santa Cruz
Info: 831-667-2315
A half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset
On leash
Dogs are only allowed where vehicles can travel, and must be on a six-foot leash.
Last Visited:
August 2023
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.

Trails and Pathways

McWay Falls Overlook Trail
Trailhead Location:
East end of the lower parking lot
Trail Length:
Under one mile total, .5 mile
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Typical Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: Note that the McWay Falls Overlook Trail is only partially open due to trail erosion that has caused dangerous conditions.
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.
More Info: Varied surfaces, including hard, smooth asphalt and fine gravel; some boardwalk as you pass the falls.

Accessibility Features

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, hard;

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 Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance

Good to 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.

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