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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

A view of the park beach
Location Monterey County, California, USA
Nearest city Monterey
Coordinates 36°10′15″N 121°40′23″W / 36.17083°N 121.67306°W / 36.17083; -121.67306Coordinates: 36°10′15″N 121°40′23″W / 36.17083°N 121.67306°W / 36.17083; -121.67306
Area 3,762.16 acres (15.2249 km2)
Established 1962
Governing body California State Parks

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a state-protected park in Big Sur, located in Monterey County, California. The park is administered and maintained by California State Parks. It is located 37 miles (60 km) south of Carmel and covers over 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land. A main feature of the park is McWay Falls, which drops over a cliff 80 feet (24.4 m) into the Pacific Ocean. The park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a respected resident and rancher in the Big Sur region in the early 20th century, who lived in the area for much of her life until her death in 1928.


Location and history

The park is located on land that was originally called the Saddle Rock Ranch, because of the rock formation that resembles a saddle in McWay Cove. Christopher McWay and his wife Rachel originally settled the area in the late 19th century. The land passed through several owners until former U.S. House Representative Lathrop Brown and his wife Helen acquired it in 1924. The Browns constructed an elaborate stone house in McWay Cove, one of the first electrified dwellings in Big Sur, powered by the McWay stream. They befriended Julia Pfeiffer-Burns, a local resident, and dedicated the property to her memory in their 1961 bequest to the State of California. The house was torn down as the Browns requested in their will, but some of the walls and fragments of stone staircases remain. [1]

McWay Falls and Saddle Rock


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has two environmental hike-in camping areas, named by Sunset Magazine as one of the "four best places to pitch a tent on the Pacific Coast"[2] Both sites have exceptional views of the Pacific Coast. The Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Area is a popular location for scuba diving.

These campsites are usually under-utilized due to the fact that most public notices state that Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is "For day use only". This is true for the parts of the park east of Highway 1, but does not acknowledge the two campsites above McWay Falls.

Campsite 2 and Mano Seca Bench

In 2007 the Mano Seca group installed a bench at Campsite #2 that can be used to sit and peruse the Pacific below. Make sure that you also take the path through the junipers west of the bench to sit on the rocks above the coast below. Evening here can be sublime.

The Big Sur fire of the summer of 2008 burned the upper parts of the park, but fortunately were stopped at Highway 1 and did not affect the camping sites.

In early 2009, the many non-native acacia trees around the campsites were removed in order to restore vegetation native to the Big Sur Coast. Indigenous plants and trees were then planted, but understandably will take time to grow fully.


  1. ^ Henson, Paul and Usner, Donald. The Natural History of Big Sur 1993, University of California Press; Berkeley, California; pp. 328-29
  2. ^ Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

See also

External links

Further reading

Verduin, Pamela and Ulrich, Larry. Big Sur to Big Basin: California's Dramatic Central Coast 1998. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811819664



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