Make Way for McWay

Big Sur’s had some hard luck with fire damage and mudslides in the past few years, but that…

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Big Sur’s had some hard luck with fire damage and mudslides in the past few years, but that hasn’t put a stop to its wild natural beauty: epic Pacific views, iconic redwoods, and one of only two beach waterfalls that runs year round: McWay Falls. (The other is Marin’s Alamere Falls.)

Cascading down 80 feet of granite onto the beach, McWay is easy to reach on a 1.2-mile (round-trip) stroll through redwood-fragrant air and past the ruins of a once glorious mansion. McWay is located within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where currently only trails from the west side of Highway 1 are open. You’ll walk the Waterfall Overlook Trail. From the parking area, descend on a dirt trail and across a wooden bridge through a tunnel passing under famous Highway 1.

The tunnel comes out to a big view of the Pacific and a turquoise cove. Follow the trail—currently sprouting wildflowers—until the rocky perch at the end, the vantage for getting a clear view of McWay cascading to the sand and sea. There’s no way down to the beach so you’ll have to marvel from afar at this oasis where freshwater meets the ocean. But the panorama of the Pacific is so good here you may get an added bonus or two: Keep an eye out for migrating whales at sea and the famed California condors, sometimes spotted among the eucalyptus. Big Sur’s going with the flow.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located at mile marker 35.8 on Hwy. 1. The park is currently only accessible from the north. Parking $10. No dogs.

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