McWay Falls and Cove, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
It’s very close to the road, but you won’t see it from there and can pass right by unless you know where to stop. I know this from personal experience.
There are two options for parking – you can pull into the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (east side of road) and pay $10 at the day use lot. This way includes a short walk through an under-road tunnel to the viewing trail for the falls.
Or, you can park alongside the road. There is a fair amount of space either north or south of the park entrance. Then again, it could be full up if it’s a busy weekend.
McWay Falls and Cove Quick Information:
- GPS coordinates: 36.15885 North / 121.67062 West
- 36.5 miles south of the Carmel River Bridge
- 52.5 miles north of San Simeon
- Near mile marker MON 35.9
- Part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (link opens in new window)
- Park Office Telephone:(831) 667-2315
Facts About McWay Falls
- McWay Creek – 2.5 miles long; spring-fed
- Source of creek at 3500 ft. elevation
- End of creek – 0 ft.
- Height of waterfall – 80 ft.
- Accessible Parking: Yes
Parking lot nearest the entrance is steep; level places are available in the lower lot, which is also where the trail starts.
- Accessible Restroom: Yes
The restrooms are near the upper parking lot and up a steep hill from the lower parking lot. The ramp up to the restroom is also steep, with a cross-slope. Most wheelchair users will need assistance to get to the restroom entrance.
- Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes
One table in the lower parking lot
You may notice from the photos here or anywhere else that almost all of them are from the same vantage point and there are no photos looking up at the falls.
The reason for this is that access to the cove itself is prohibited. Better one view than no view at all.
The trail leads to a terrace which was the foundation of a house owned by the family that donated the land to the state. That would have been some house to stay in with such a wonderful view.
Occasionally, sea otters and elephant seals can be seen in the cove.
Gray whales can be spotted migrating past this point in December and January and reportedly even sometimes can be seen at the mouth of the cove.
Though small, McWay Falls is extraordinarily beautiful because of its unique setting; like a tiny gem artfully placed in a surrounding that only heightens its brilliance.