The highlight of the state park is McWay falls. To enter and park there is a self pay honor system of $10.00. As I heard many people say while walking around this is a huge waste of money because there is parking all along the road for free and it is closer to the falls.
There is camping in the area and several trails to hike other than the one to the falls that offer very nice views of the coastline. The falls are beautiful with a steady stream of water that falls onto the beach right where the water breaks. It is a small cove and very picturesque. A must see if you are driving route 1.
Waterfall House was constructed by Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown, friends of Julia Pfeiffer Burns. They began acquiring land in Big Sur in 1924 and owned most of the land in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, when Mrs. Brown gave it to the state for a park dedicated in her name. Unfortunately, the Waterfall House, which was built in the mid-1930s, was given with the explicit instructions that it be turned into a museum or torn down. As you can tell by visiting the site, the was torn down (in 1965).
This was actually the second house on the site overlooking the falls; the first was built of redwood in the 1920s. The second house, whose foundation is still visible, must have been quite the structure. It had huge plate glass windows giving spectacular views of the coast in both directions. Inside was a black marble staircase leading to the second floor. Outside the house were terraced gardens and a caretaker's cabin connected to the house by a rail car powered by the pelton wheel electric generator in the valley below.
The foundations are now overgrown, crumbling, and off limits, but can be easily viewed from
McWay falls is merely a small stream dropping just 80 feet. What makes it stunning is the drop is from the rocky coastline into a blueish-green, secluded cove. It lies in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and is one of the most easily accessible sites on Highway 1 in Big Sur. You can park the car in the parking area for a nearly heart-breaking $8 or just pull off along the side of the highway for free. The trail is perhaps 1/2 mile in total distance and far less then that just to get a view of the falls.
Another easy short hike. You will get a spectacular glimpse of the Big Sur coastline and McWay waterfall. If you are lucky, you may spot a whale or two. Note: the waterfall dries up in August. There are also picnic areas at the entrance of the park.
Natural wonder !!!!. A 80 foot waterfall dropping into the ocean. Approximately 11 miles south of Pfieffer beach on Hwy1. $5 parking fee. A short 1/2 mile hike leads to this splendid site. Tempting to hike down to the beach, but there is no access. This is a vista point only.
About 54 miles north of San Simeon is the Julia Pfeiffer State Park ( not to be confused with the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park about 10 miles further). Here a short pleasant walk takes you through a tunnel under the highway to the McWay waterfall spilling out of the cliffs and onto the beach below. It seems that the fall did in fact meet the sea until a recent landslide altered its trajectory but it is impressive nevertheless.
McWay Falls is a short hike from the parking lot of Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park. The trail leads from the parking lot under 101 to the waterfall, which drops straight into the ocean. Don't miss it if you visit Big Sur- it's a must.
We stopped at Julia Pfieffer State Park for just a brief .5 mile walk to the scenic overlook called McWay falls. The view was truly incredible- you walk along a path through nature and then go through a tunnel and when you come out on the other side, find yourself faced with a truly incredible view: a waterfall pouring out into turqouise water with frothy white waves and rocks. Flowers dotted the cliffs that dropped dramatically towards the coast and you find yourself in a peaceful world. While taking in this stunning vista, another traveller, yelled dolphins and pointed down towards the water. We all rushed to the wooden railing and looked down to see 4 dolphins swimming in tandem through the waves. It was beautiful. You have to go. Make it a pit stop, make it a day and explore the park fully. I am sure there is a lot more to offer.