Take in Iconic McWay Falls

San Francisco McWay Falls Trail

  • Activities:

    Photography

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Scenic
Waterfall

This waterfall is one of the most recognizable images of Big Sur. It's a short (just over a half mile roundtrip) walk to get views of this 80 foot waterfall. Get your camera ready!

McWay Falls is one of the most iconic waterfalls in BIg Sur and can be seen from Highway 1. The trail to the falls is located in Julia Pfeiffer. For all of you history buffs, Mcway Falls is named after Christopher McWay, an early settler and farmer from New York who ventured west in the late 1800s.

To get there, from the parking lot, walk back towards Highway 1 and look for the sign to the Waterfall Trail. If you're parked in the additional parking lot, walk back toward the lot entrance. You'll head down some steps, follow a wide path and then pass through a tunnel under the highway. Along the path, there are several points to take in the falls. Depending on the time of year and day you go, they may be packed with photographers, so be patient.

Pack List

  • Camera
Read More

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

I guess I found it less exciting because the beach isn't accessible and the view from the trail looks exactly like photos that I'd seen online. Still, beautiful and a remarkable spot on Highway 1. Worth stopping and spending some time at.

11 months ago
11 months ago

A stop here is required if you're driving down highway 1. The falls are a little difficult to photograph as there is no beach access and it appears super tiny from the view point. Save $10 by parking on the side of the road outside the state park -- there is a trail leading right down from the road (same distance of not shorter than the park entrance!)

11 months ago
11 months ago

I'm sure everyone has seen the photos of this place (although Stephen's photos are amazing) but it's worth every minute. Parking can be tough and it may be crowded at certain times, but stop, go, walk and be amazed.

12 months ago
12 months ago

People ask me all the time if I took the picture on my screen saver and where it is- well that's it! Totally worth the stop on the trip to Big Sur- you can't go down to the beach, but it's a great place to get out of the car and stretch your legs and check out the scenic view while snapping some rad photos of below!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

There's a reason why so many people go here... BECAUSE IT ROCKS! Gorgeous views. A must stop if you are on Hwy 1

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Just go. It's worth the drive and windy roads. The adventure getting there is great. The falls and the cove are even better.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Such a beautiful location, even if it's packed with other people. Tip: You can park along the side of the highway and access the trail instead of paying for parking inside the state park!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Makes for a nice photo in my cubicle haha. But seriously beautiful. Also found out there is a campsite right on the edge. Definitely going to try and book that next time.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This was a truly beautiful spot to stop and take in the nature. An easy walk brings you out to the coast line where you're overlooking a tropical-like beach with this beautiful waterfall. You can take amazing pictures of the falls and the waves crashing onto the beach. Family friendly. Maybe 1/2 a mile one way.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Always such an easy and beautiful stop along Big Sur.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

But I wouldn't say it's worth a couple hundred mile drive just to see it. Instead, I'd suggest discovering more of Big Sur itself, Salmon Creek Falls is a nice dangerous hike when it rains, and the pictures you'll get are absolutely incredible. Also check out Ragged Point (make sure you hike down to the beach) and actual BIG SUR (the town).

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

The view here is stunning, but compositions are somewhat limited. Be careful of the eroding hillside and don't be one of those people hoping the fence. The water wasn't this blue when I visited but it was pretty stormy.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Right off the roadside - beautiful stop!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

If you're planning your first trip to Big Sur or have never seen McWay Falls, it's a must do. Access to the overlook is really easy -- there's a parking lot, but also roadside parking on the west side of Highway 1 followed by a short walk. If you can swing it, plan your visit for sunset.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

I drove up the PCH from LA to SF in 2 days, and I am glad I was able to stop here! The hike is ~.6 miles, which means that although a lot of people frequent this trail, many are in and out of this trail within 15 minutes. No excuse NOT to stop here if you are already on the PCH!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Beautiful! The beach is not accessible by people, so the cove where the waterfall is has been kept pristine.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Scenic and very accesible

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Pulled over into the small parking lot adjacent to the bridge entrance after I had finished hiking along Big Sur. The sun was quickly setting and a swarm of people had their tripods set up, ready to take the perfect shot. (As was I... with my phone.) It was beautiful. Definitely stop by here if you're passing through.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

A Must Stop on the Big Sur Tour

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Took some great pictures there!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

BEAUTIFUL

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Wouldn't really call it a hike, more of a stroll, but the waterfall and the surrounding cove is gorgeous! No beach access.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Right off the roadside.

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

Hi. Is there a trail that we could use to access the beach at the bottom of the falls? Thank u!

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

Stephen Bellrichard

Outdoors > Indoors. Enjoys photography, skiing, and exploring of all kinds.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike to Black Mountain and Stevens Creek Canyon

San Francisco / Monte Bello Open Space Preserve Parking Lot

This hike can be done during any season, but for the creek to be running and for more comfortable temperatures, it is best to go on a cool winter or spring day.

36 Saves

Hike the Steep Ravine and Bootjack Trails Loop

San Francisco / Bootjack Campground

This hike is best done in the winter and spring in order for the creeks and waterfalls to be flowing. Park at the Bootjack Campground in Mount Tamalpais State Park.

38 Saves

Hike the Arastradero Preserve Loop

San Francisco / Arastradero Preserve

Getting There: From Hwy 280, take the Page Mill Road exit and head West on Page Mill Road, away from Downtown Palo Alto (if you're taking 101, exit on Oregon Expressway).

31 Saves