Walk to this pretty waterfall, stand at viewpoints with superb coastal views and spot varied wildlife in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
McWay Falls is a picturesque waterfall that cascades directly from a cliff onto the sandy shore of McWay Beach. It stands about 80 feet (24 meters) tall in the heart of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. McWay Falls originally flowed straight into the Pacific Ocean but a landslide in 1983 dropped rocks into the water and thus created the beach. The falls’ water supply comes from McWay Creek, which runs down from the framing mountains.
Enjoy views of the waterfall and dramatic coastline from the lookout points scattered along a series of walking trails. Follow the Waterfall Overlook Trail around the cliffs above McWay Cove to a waterfall-facing viewpoint. Watch as the water spills out of a rock face and splashes onto the isolated and inaccessible beach.
Continue to the end of the trail. From here view the remains of a one-time residence now called Waterfall House. Find interpretive panels with information and historical facts about the house. One panel has photos of the waterfalls’ appearance prior to the landslide.
Sit on one of the benches and gaze out over the Pacific Ocean’s deep blue water. Between December and April, it’s often possible to see migrating gray whales. Spot sea otters, seals and birds such as oystercatchers and pelicans.
Return to the start of the trail, where it connects with inland hiking paths. Take the 5-mile-long (8-kilometer) Ewoldsen Trail through a redwood forest to a scenic picnic area. Walk the short Canyon Trails to Canyon Falls. Visit the Penton Wheel House, a power plant that once supplied energy to the old houses and blacksmith workshop in the area.
Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls is just a 25-minute drive from Big Sur Village. Parking is available at the trailheads with a per-car admission fee. The park and trails are open from sunrise to sunset. You can also park for free on Highway One, although spaces are limited, and access the trails without charge.