McWay Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Big Sur Hike beach waterfall trail

The overlook trail for McWay Falls is a must-stop for anyone taking the scenic drive up Highway One along the Big Sur Coast. The waterfall is stunning, dropping some 80 feet onto a pristine beach in an enchanting cove.

A short gradual trail rounds the cove to a point across from McWay Falls. No one is allowed down on the beach where the waterfall lands, (it is a $400 fee if you are caught down there) so the entire cove remains natural and beautiful. At the end of the 0.6-mile round trip trail is a stone foundation of a house built on the point north of the falls. What a view the residents must have had.

McWay Falls
McWay Waterfall

There are two ways to access the McWay Falls Overlook Trail. Option one is to simply park along Highway One for free and start down the trail. You may also pull into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and pay a fee to hike a bit further. This is a good option if you plan to spend more time in the park and hike the Ewoldsen Trail that heads inland up McWay Creek. To get to overlook trail from the park parking lot, pass through a tunnel beneath Highway One to join the trail on the west side of the road.

McWay Falls
McWay Waterfall

There is also short path venturing south of the falls. If you are interested in hiking a bit father you will be rewarded with nice views down the coast. Two miles to the north, is the 1.5-mile Partington Cove Trail, which visits a small beach and a tunnel-accessed cove. No fee or permit is requires to visit McWay Falls, so get out and enjoy.

To get to the trailhead: From Ragged Point, drive 37.2 miles north on Highway One to the well marked Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (60 miles north of Cambria). The park is 8.1 miles south of Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur. Park beneath the sycamores alongside Highway One and locate the trailhead on the west side of the road.

Trailhead address: 65100 Cabrillo Highway (Highway One), Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA 93920
Trailhead coordinates: 36.158819, -121.67054

Use the map below to create your own directions:

View McWay Falls GPS in a larger map
Or view Central Coast Hikes in a larger map

McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls  McWay Falls

These photos were taken in May of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Partridge Cove Big Sur HikePartington Cove
This 1.5 mile hike visits a cove and a secluded beach along the scenic Big Sur coast. The cove is accessed through a tunnel.
Pacific Valley Big Sur hikePacific Valley Bluff Trail
This short out and back hike extends from Highway One to an ocean bluff with fantastic views of the Big Sur Coast.
Jade Cove Big Sur HikeJade Cove and Plaskett Rock Point
This 1.5-mile hike along an ocean bluff visits a prominent peninsula and a small cove.
Salmon Creek Falls Big Sur HikeSalmon Creek Falls
This 0.6-mile hike visits a fine 120-foot waterfall near the start of Salmon Creek Trail.
Buckeye Trail hikeBuckeye Trail
This hike of 6.5 miles or more reaches incredibly ocean vistas and trail camps in the Silver Peak Wilderness. Connect Cruickshank Trail and Buckeye Trail for an excellent shuttle hike of 8.25 miles or more.
Cruickshank Trail hikeCruickshank Trail
This hike into Silver Peak Wilderness starts with bold ocean views and crosses redwood groves to reach Upper Cruickshank Camp at a junction with Buckeye Trail, 5 miles round trip from Highway One.
McWay Falls Big Sur HikeMore Central Coast Hikes
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
Similar Trails
Tangerine Falls HikeTangerine Falls in the Los Padres National Forest
This 2.5-mile hike visits a beautiful waterfall on the edge of Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara.
Rose Valley Falls HikeRose Valley Falls in the Los Padres National Forest
This 1-mile round trip trail leads to the lower tier of a lovely two-tier 300-foot waterfall.
Nojoqui FallsNojoqui Falls
This short 0.65-mile hike visits an 80-foot tall fern-lined waterfall.
Sturtevant Falls HikeSturtevant Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains
This 3.25-mile hike visits a 60-foot waterfall and a lush cottage-lined canyon.
Fish Canyon Falls HikeFish Canyon Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains
This 4-mile hike starts at a rock quarry with restricted access and ends up at a multi-tiered 80-foot waterfall.
Escondido Falls HikeEscondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains
This 3.8-mile out and back hike visits a 200 foot waterfall that is split into two tiers. The upper tier is 150 feet tall and stunning after a rainstorm.
Tokopah Falls HikeTokopah Falls in Sequoia National Park
This gradual 3.4-mile hike visits the base of the tallest waterfall in Sequoia National Park.
Lower Yosemite Fall TrailLower Yosemite Fall in Yosemite National Park
This electrifying 1.2-mile hike delivers visitors to the base of the tallest waterfall in North America.
Darwin Falls HikeDarwin Falls in Death Valley
This 2-mile hike visits a refreshing year-round waterfall on the western edge of Death Valley.
Park Map

McWay Falls Map and Directions
A map of the overlook trail courtesy of California State Parks

6 Comments on McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

  1. Charles says:

    Mcway Falls is wonderful! I visited Julia Pfieffer State Park with my wife, and spend time there. We walked along the walkway, and we’re lucky enough to saw sunset from there. Seeing waterfall, sea, waves, rocks, trees, flowers, wow they’re come together in one place. It’s one of beautiful places in the world. I want to explore the place again.

  2. enzo bonacina says:

    My wife and i will go to California the next mounth of July.We’ll travel the Hwy 1 from S. Francisco to Los Angeles. We want visit Mcway Falls. Could you send us the address where we can stop our car?
    There are other interesting places to see?
    I’m sorry for my English is not good. Thank you very much,

    Enzo Bonacina.

  3. sarah says:

    Are there campgrounds close to McWay Falls?

    • hikespeak says:

      Hi – There are two “Environmental Campsites” in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (more info) located near McWay Falls, but they seem to be constantly booked. You will have better luck looking for a camp site in Limekiln State Park or in the surrounding national forest.

  4. […] John and Julia Burns, thank you for keeping this little piece of heaven intact. Above is the iconic McWay Cove and the McWay Falls. There used to be a house around here that was torn down when the owners died as they have […]

Ask a question or share your experience

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *