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Visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

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The highlight of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is undoubtedly beautiful McWay Falls, one of only two coastal waterfalls in California, where McWay Creek falls 80 feet over a granite cliff onto a sandy beach, or at high tide directly into the Pacific Ocean. But the 3,762 acre park also contains several more miles of high, rocky coastline, the grassy bluffs either side of Highway 1, an undersea area popular for scuba diving, and a section of the inland hills rising almost to 3,000 feet, mostly covered by mixed woodland of chaparral, oak and redwood. Like Andrew Molera, 15 miles north, the park commemorates an early twentieth century pioneer of this remote region. Julia Pfeiffer was born in 1868 and moved to the Big Sur coast with her parents one year later, when the family built a cattle ranch and farmed vegetables. Julia married quite late in life (1915) to John Burns, and afterwards settled near present-day Burns Creek, a few miles south of McWay Creek. She still was a rancher but also operated a guest house a little way further north along the coast, a site now occupied by the Esalen Institute, and became well known to tourists and the other local residents. Julia died in 1928, having in her later years become close friends with one of the main landowners in the region, Helen Hooper Brown (wife of congressman Lathrop Brown). So impressed was Helen with Julia's life and achievements that she donated all her land to the state of California on condition that it would be named after the pioneer woman.

Trails and Camping

The other path heads up the creek into the forest, and soon branches; the Canyon Trail follows a wooded ravine, reaching another waterfall and some old-growth redwood trees, while the longer Ewoldsen Trail ascends into the hills, also passing some redwoods though for most of the time traversing open slopes with views of the ocean. The carpark is also one of the places to leave vehicles if camping at the park, though the site is for walk-in guests only - the 'environmental' campground is hidden in a cypress grove on the far side of the road, close to the edge of the cliffs. Capacity is meant to be just 2 groups of up to 8 people each, and the place has limited facilities but is popular because of the peaceful location. Walking 20 feet through the bushes reaches several sheltered overlooks directly on the edge of the cliffs, and 200 feet above the ocean, so perfect places for watching the sun set over the Pacific. The site is also accessed by a shorter trail starting 0.2 miles further south on Highway 1, at the same layby used for overflow parking.

 

Success stories

Gabby Cabeo

Dec 25 at 11:19 am
Forced myself to roadtrip CA's entire coastline to cross off a lot of my bucket list