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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Exquisite stretch of the central California coast

Photo by SteveD, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by SteveD, Flickr Creative Commons

Park Information

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Brochure
HIGHLIGHTS: Thirty-seven miles south of Carmel, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park showcases an exquisite 2-mile stretch of the central California coast.

ACTIVITIES: Hiking, picnicking, camping, wildlife watching. With a permit, scuba divers can explore the park’s 1,680 acres of canyons, caves, tunnels and natural bridges.

VISITOR CENTER: No visitor center. But 10.5 miles to the north, Big Sur Station has a Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park trail guide and map, as well as information about other interesting stops along this spectacular stretch of coast.

CAMPGROUNDS: The park has two campsites perched on a wooded, fenced promontory about one-third mile from the parking lot. Each site, which can accommodate up to eight people, has a picnic table and fire pit, but no drinking water, showers or RV access. For reservations, call (800) 444-7275 or go to the park website (external link).

TRAILS: 12 miles of trails. There’s only one way to get to the Pacific Ocean. About 2 miles north of the park entrance (at mile marker 38), you can walk a half-mile down a fire road to the rocky beach at Partington Cove. There’s an old-growth redwood grove there that Save the Redwoods League helped add to the park in 1981.

MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: If you have time for nothing else, make the quarter-mile stroll to McWay Falls. From the parking lot, follow an easy trail under the highway. Turn right at the trail intersection. You’ll soon see a waterfall that looks like something out of a tropical paradise, and-if you’re lucky-possibly a sea otter, harbor seal or California sea lion. If you’re visiting December through March, keep an eye out for the migrating gray whales that occasionally explore the cove.

HIDDEN GEM: The Ewoldsen Trail (external link) is a 5-mile loop that offers spectacular redwood and coast views.

FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: 0.5-mile-long Waterfall Overlook Trail leads to coastal views and McWay Falls.

HORSES: Not permitted.

DOGS: In parking lot only.

ENTRANCE FEE: $10 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to bike into the park.

MORE INFORMATION: Go to the park website (external link), call (831) 667-2315, or write Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur, CA 93920.

Trip Ideas from Our Staff and Friends

EAT: Christine Aralia, Land Project Manager, suggests the Big Sur Bakery (external link) for to-go treats and Nepenthe (external link) for drinks and dinner!

Regan Ranoa, Outreach Manager, suggests a stop in at Fernwood Tavern (external link) for live music and a good beer.

STOP: Stop and stay in a yurt (external link)!

For an amazing experience, Regan recommends making a reservation at Esalen (external link) for their hot springs. The cliff-side, outdoor springs are only open to the public from 1am-3am.

FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: The 80-foot McWay waterfall!

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Extend Your Visit

The Esalen Institute (Top Attraction)
55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920-9546
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
190 reviews
Post Ranch Inn (Top Hotel)
47900 Highway 1 PO Box 219, Big Sur, CA 93920-9576
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1156 reviews
Nepenthe (Top Restaurant)
48510 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920-9549
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2809 reviews