McWay Falls: Travel Guide

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

Big Sur, CA

Big Sur, put simply, is a rugged coastal area in Central California known for amazing hiking trails and scenic coastline views. Julia Pfeiffer Burns is a State Park within Big Sur known for one of the more popular Big Sur destinations, McWay Falls.

In my opinion, if you momentarily forget you're in California, McWay Falls looks like a tropical paradise because of the untouched sand, the frothy turquoise blue ocean water, and the waterfall pouring straight into it. The only thing missing is palm trees.

McWay Cove, McWay Beach, and McWay Falls

McWay Cove, McWay Beach, and McWay Falls

Why visit McWay Falls? Because it is a delight to see in person. There is no hiking involved and the ocean is a perfect backdrop for photos that will be worth framing later. If you love the ocean and the California Coastline, a drive on Highway 1 to McWay Falls is perfect for you.

Planning and Preparing to Visit McWay Falls

McWay Falls is one of many sights to see in Big Sur and Monterey County. In the same day, you could also make plans to drive up Pacific Coast Highway (PCH/Highway 1) and stop by other popular destinations, such as Point Lobos and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On your way north you will also pass by the famous Bixby Creek Bridge.

View from what remains of the McWay Waterfall House

View from what remains of the McWay Waterfall House

You could also go hiking after you see McWay Falls. There's many popular trails in the mountains of Big Sur, such as Skye's 100° Hot Springs, a 20 mile hike!

There are a lot of lodging options in Big Sur but they fill up quickly. Camping, Airbnb's, and hotels are popular here - Big Sur Lodging Information

Finally, don't forget to check the weather before your trip!

Question from our users: Is Big Sur open? Is Big Sur still closed?

Answer: Click here to check the Department of Transportation's current conditions page

How to get to Mcway Falls (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park)


To find this awesome beach, head north or south on Highway 1 until you see signs for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This area is a large state park so on your map app, make sure to plug in McWay Beach or McWay Falls instead of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, otherwise you may drive past McWay Falls. The drive along Highway 1 to Julia Pfeiffer is very nice, roll your windows down and enjoy the ride!

Coastline view at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Coastline view at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Once you get to Julia Pfeiffer, park and walk to McWay Beach, which is across  highway 1. There is a left trail and a right trail once you cross the highway, be sure to walk both trails as they both have different views. Go on the left trail first and then come back towards the right trail. The right trail has the view that this state park is known for, with the perfect beach, cute waterfall, and turquoise water all within one photo shot.

McWay Falls Trail and VIew

McWay Falls Trail and VIew

Tips for Visiting Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

  • Stop by Nepenthe Restaurant for killer views and food
  • Big Sur is a rural coastal area known for it's particularly robust and expansively beautiful coastline views, and also for destinations such as Skye's 100° Hot Springs, Bixby Creek Bridge, and Sand Dollar Beach. Route out an itinerary that allows you time to visit multiple attractions in the area!
  • Bring binoculars to spot otters, whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Website

Back to Reality

After enjoying a relaxing day in Big Sur it's nice to think about how many resources are working hard to preserve these precious ecosystems for us. Many people are working to halt development in the area and protect the environment. I gladly support their efforts, as the Big Sur coastline is something I want my future generations to witness.

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