Scenic USA - California

McWay Falls Overlook

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McWay Falls Overlook - Big Sur, California

Photo by Ken Reece
Ken Reece Photography

   Californiaís Big Sur Region extends nearly 100 miles southward from Carmel, dominated by the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains. This area, well known for its grand scenery, was sparsely populated until U.S. Highway 1 arrived in 1937. It took another ten years before the area was connected to a power grid. One resident, Christopher McWay, took full advantage of this quiet sanctuary and Big Sur vistas on his Saddle-rock Ranch. Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown, a former New York Congressman and his wife, purchased the Saddle-rock Ranch and built their home at today's Waterfall Overlook. Friend of neighboring Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Mrs. Brown eventually donated her 1800 acre ranchland to the state as a park, ensuring a lasting tribute to Juliaís memory.
   Here at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park the parkland stretches from the shoreline to 3000 foot ridges in the Coastal Mountains. Just above the beach, the Big Surís dramatic cliffs drop hundreds of feet to the sea. McWay Falls, the only waterfall to drop directly into the Pacific Ocean, plunges 100 feet into McWay Cove below. While the beach is totally inaccessible, a short trail leads out to McWay Falls Overlook, providing visitors with this remarkable view. Park-goers are repeatedly warned that the area is extremely hazardous, and to stay on the trail. Any attempt to get down to the beach is a citable and arrestable offense.

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