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This state park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a well respected pioneer woman in the Big Sur country. The park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. It features redwood, tan oak, madrone, chaparral, and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean from the Overlook Trail. A panoramic view of the ocean and miles of rugged coastline is available from the higher elevations along the trails east of Highway 1.
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.
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.
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.
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.