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McWay Falls at dusk, just after sunset
Location: Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Monterey County
Stream: McWay Canyon Creek
Alternate Names:

Height: 84 ft.
Access:   car   nodog   wheelchair  
Distance: 0.5 miles (RT)
Elevation: 200 ft.
Season: year-round
Form:   plunge
Lat/Long:36.15852, -121.67017
Directions:Along Hwy #1 at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 13 miles south of Big Sur (37 miles south of Carmel). Follow the Waterfall Overlook Trail. There is a $10 parking fee.   McWay Falls pictures for sale; Click to view gallery

McWay Falls is an incredibly scenic waterfall. McWay Creek drops 84 ft. off a cliff onto the beach nestled in a pretty little cove. The overlook view of the cove where the waterfall drops, is stunning to say the least. Unfortunately, you cannot get down onto the scenic beach (legally), as the cliffs are too crumbly and dangerous to descend (and if you try it, be prepared to receive a very hefty fine). I think, though, if it were possible to get down to the beach, this waterfall would lose something of its grandeur and mystique. The view is stunning, and the waterfall is alluring and out of reach. It adds to the beauty in my opinion.

The great thing about McWay Falls is that it flows year-round. The waterfall is fed from underground springs on McWay Creek, and the waterfall thus has constant flow throughout the year (though of course, the flow is stronger in the spring).

The path continues past the waterfall a short distance to some ruins of an old stone "waterfall house", owned by Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown in the 1940s. Not much is left of the house, but it is an interesting site. The park was named after Browns friend, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, who was a pioneer and cattle ranch owner in the Big Sur area. There is also an awesome view of the Big Sur coastline in the other direction. The entire Big Sur coastline is outstanding. The best photo opportunities of McWay Falls and the coastline are at sunset. I highly recommend being at McWay Falls at sunset, though it is a popular place for other photographers and sunset gawkers.

Get Google Maps directions to trailhead

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Other waterfalls nearby:

Upper McWay Falls 0.40 miles
Canyon Falls 0.46 miles
Pick Creek Falls 3.99 miles
Pfeiffer Falls 8.98 miles
Pine Falls 9.93 miles

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