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McWay Waterfall Trail in Big Sur


Last weekend, we took our time driving up the coast to Santa Cruz. While, on our road trip, we ended up making multiple stops throughout Big Sur. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the area, and all the lush hiking trails around every corner. When we discovered how beautiful the area was, we google mapped some places to stop, and the McWay Waterfall Trail was one of our favorite stops in the area.



The trail is easy to find because there will be hundreds of cars parked along the side of highway 1. When you first enter the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, your will see a giant cobblestone sign, and this is where you will want to park. You can pay a fee to park in the State Park parking lot, but we had not trouble finding a parking spot on the side of the road (even on a holiday weekend).

There will be a sign directing you to the opening of the trail that will take you along the side of a mountain. There will be a small bridge along the trail, and this is where you will witness the most majestic waterfall. This waterfall is one of the few waterfalls in the world that flows directly into the Pacific Ocean.


After enjoying watching the waterfall, continue along the path to a quaint viewing area. There are benches for your family, to sit and talk about the beautiful place you are visiting. There are also signs educating children on the history of this trail, and the remains of the house that was once owned by Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown.


The remains of Saddlerock Ranch


The home was first built-in 1940, and the home was once decorated with art by Degas, Dufy and Gauguin. The family left the ranch for Florida in 1956, never to return. Helen gave Saddle Rock Ranch to the people of California as a State Park in 1961. She specified that the park be named in memory of her friend, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, “a true pioneer.” The State was unable to use the house for a “public purpose,”, and it was demolished in 1966 to comply with the requirements of Mrs. Browns gift deed. (Information provided by the State Park)



When planning a trip to visit Big Sur with your family, make sure and plan a visit to the McWay Waterfall Trail. It is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area while also educating your children on the history of the State Park.

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