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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
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  • Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.8
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Named after one of Big Sur's most beloved pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a favorite among both locals and tourists. A feast for the eyes, the park features seven marked trails that take travelers to tucked away coves, up to waterfalls, along miles-long creeks, through redwood-clad forests and more. Not to mention, it is one of the few areas in Big Sur where scuba diving is allowed. 

The shortest and most traveled path is Waterfall Overlook Trail. Less than a mile long, the trail takes visitors to one of the most popular attractions in Big Sur: McWay Falls. The site is lauded for its beauty, and is a culmination of all geological features typical to Big Sur: The secluded beach is flanked by jagged bluffs covered in shrubs, wildflowers and cypress trees. The falls, flowing from atop one of the cove's granite cliffs, tumble 80 feet down into the cove and get swept up by the ocean. The cove is also a prime place to spot migrating gray whales that pass through Big Sur from December to February, as well as March to May. In the past, some have even come into the mouth of the cove.

Another popular pathway is the 5-mile-long Ewoldsen Trail, which snakes along McWay Creek and ventures into multiple redwood groves. Other notable trails include the Canyon Trail and Lookout Trail, both attached to Ewoldsen (and worth the extra effort) as well as the Partington Cove Trail. 

Recent travelers said if you can only visit one place in Big Sur, it should be Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Visitors to McWay said the beauty of the cove was indescribable and that pictures don't do the attraction justice. Others who ventured beyond the falls strongly encouraged travelers to do the same, with many recommending the Ewoldsen Trail for its towering redwoods. Partington Cove was another favorite among travelers because it wasn't as crowded as McWay Falls and is a prime place to spot gray whales, as well as endangered California condors.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located off of Highway 1, about 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and 14 miles north of Limekiln State Park. The park opens a half-hour before sunrise and closes a half-hour after sunset. It costs $10 to park your car near McWay Falls, but visitors suggest parking along Highway 1 and walking into the attraction to avoid the fee. Partington Cove is about 2 miles north of McWay Falls and is more difficult to reach, as it is completely unmarked with the exception of a gate. Keep in mind that access to the beach at McWay Falls is forbidden. For more information, visit the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park website.

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#1 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Named after one of Big Sur's most beloved pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a favorite among both locals and tourists. A feast for the eyes, the park ...

Read more » lucky-photographer / Getty Images

#2 Andrew Molera State Park

This 4,800-acre park is the largest state park on the Big Sur coast and offers multiple activities and attractions, not to mention several hiking trails. Named after the man who brought ...

Read more » Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

#3 Pfeiffer Beach

If you're on a tight itinerary and don't have time to traverse any state park trails, head to Pfeiffer Beach. Located about 7 miles south of Andrew Molera ...

Read more » Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

#4 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and covers 1,600 ...

Read more » Gary Denham / Flickr

#5 Garrapata State Park

Situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountains and the rugged Pacific coastline, this 3,000-acre state park is overflowing with trails highlighting the park's diverse landscape. From ...

Read more » Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

#6 Sand Dollar Beach

A great option for those who don't want to work up a sweat on the trails but want to experience Big Sur's beauty from outside the car is ...

Read more » Skyhobo / Getty Images

#7 Limekiln State Park

Located about 7 miles north of Sand Dollar Beach, Limekiln State Park is one of the smallest state parks in Big Sur, but it packs some serious history. The 716-acre ...

Read more » Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur

McWay Falls is the star attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 80-foot waterfall used to fall directly into the ocean until a landslide created the beach it now graces.  lucky-photographer / Getty Images

Get your fill of coastal views at Andrew Molera State Park. The 8-mile-long Andrew Molera Loop takes visitors  on the edge of the coast with smaller trails leading down to secluded beaches. Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

It's not uncommon to see hordes of photographers at Pfeiffer State Beach, especially at sunset. The keyhole arch rock is considered to be one of the most photographed natural attractions in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls. Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the only state park in the region that doesn't offer coastal trails or coastal access. But that doesn't mean it's lacking in attractions. The Buzzard's Roost Trail, pictured above, snakes through the Big Sur Valley, as well as redwood groves.  Gary Denham / Flickr

Of all the state parks in Big Sur, Garrapata is the hardest to find. There is no sign indicating its presence, only turnout points on the highway leading to certain trails. On the upside, it is by far the least crowded. Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

Sand Dollar Beach is heaven for treasure hunters. On the southern end of the beach, visitors can find serpentine or jade if they look hard enough. Skyhobo / Getty Images

Limekiln Park got its name from a limestone business that used to operate out of the park's forest. Venture down the Limekiln Trail and you'll see four old limekilns that once provided materials for making cement.   Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

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