McWay Falls

Hello everyone! This is a friendly reminder that any of these fun places we may visit, we are a guest at. Please treat both businesses and trails with the utmost respect. We here at Hidden California follow the 'Leave no Trace' mantra, meaning whatever you bring with you comes back with you. If you see trash on a trail, please do your part to help remove it. Remember, we are not picking up trash from another person but instead cleaning up for Mother Nature. Happy adventures!

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65100 Cabrillo Hwy
Big Sur, CA 93920

36.157861, -121.672249


Hike: .6 miles roundtrip   Level: Easy

Dog-Friendly: No    Kid-Friendly: Yes


**Check out our list of all hidden gems in Big Sur!**

McWay Falls

About McWay Falls

McWay Falls is one of the most beautiful and photographed waterfalls at least in the U.S. The panoramic views give you a great idea of how gorgeous Big Sur truly is.  This 80 ft. waterfall is supposedly one of only 8 waterfalls in the US that flows directly into the ocean, but I truly doubt this fact.  There is another more secretive waterfall in Big Sur that we found that also flows into the ocean.  I’m sure there are many more.

McWay Falls, California

Whale Watching

In December and January the bench at the end of Overlook trail is an excellent place to watch for gray whales migrating southward to their breeding and calving grounds off the Baja California coast. Many whales pass close to shore at this point, and occasionally one will come into the mouth of the cove. In March and April, they can be seen returning north to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific.

Sea otters can sometimes be seen in the cove, and harbor seals and California sea lions are occasional visitors. Many sea and shore birds – Sleek black cormorants, seagulls, brown pelicans, and black oystercatchers also make an appearance.

Coastline, McWay Falls, California

Underwater Area

Between Partington Point and McWay Creek is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Area, which was established in 1970 and is now a scuba diving area. The rocky shoreline is the access to the underwater park. Special-use permits allow experienced scuba divers to explore the reserve.

While you’re in the area, make sure to hike to the Limekilns nearby!

McWay Falls House

The terrace is all that remains of Waterfall House, the residence of Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown. When the Browns began to acquire their Big Sur acreage in 1924, Mrs. Brown became acquainted with Julia Pfeiffer Burns, the daughter of a Big Sur pioneer family. In 1962, Mrs. Brown gave the ranch to the state for use as a state park dedicated to the memory of Julia Pfeiffer Burns.

McWay Falls

Personal Experience

This was a pretty easy hike I’d say to a view of the McWay Falls. As far as I know, you are not allowed to hike down to the falls. The view is amazing and great for photos. There are a lot of people on this trail though so if you’re like me and enjoy a little breathing space and quiet while hiking look elsewhere. At the same time, I did go during Labor Day weekend so I’m sure it’s far busier than usual. Out of all the trails I explored during my trip in Big Sur, this one easily had the most foot traffic.

McWay Falls

coast near big sur

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