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Hiking the Ewoldsen Trail in Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has everything that Big Sur is known for — dramatic old growth coastal redwoods that tower above you; streams dancing through steep gorges lined with colorful wildflowers; stunning views of the rugged coastline; and photogenic waterfalls.

Trail Details
Distance: 5.9 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1,430 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: Year-round
The 5.9 mile Ewoldsen Trail delivers the goods. We tackled this scenic loop in the afternoon, after the morning haze had burned off, and it was a perfect grand tour of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Getting to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located 37 miles south of Carmel and 11 miles south of Big Sur State Park on Highway 1. The Ewoldsen Trail begins at the far end of the upper parking lot. There is a sign clearly marking the Ewoldsen Trail.

Hiking the Ewoldsen Trail

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a popular stop in Big Sur, but mainly for the iconic McWay Falls. The parking lot gets busy, as do the picnic areas, but the crowds quickly dissipate as you hike up the mountain.

The trailhead begins with a clearly marked sign on the north side of McWay Creek, and you immediately head into the cool shade of the forest.

Redwood Giants Shade the Trail

McWay Creek babbles and dances as you pass through the lush canyon — lined with giant redwoods. You soon cross to the south side of the creek and climb a bit higher. Listen carefully for Canyon Falls — a 30 foot cascade lined in moss.

Photo credit: Wayne Hsieh

Sunbeams streaming through the redwoods on the Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur

At  reach the bridge crossing the creek and begin climbing up the side of the canyon. The trail bears northwest, rounding a ridge at about 1.3 miles and continuing down to rejoin McWay Creek. Here you’ll reach the bottom of the Ewoldsen loop.

Typical Bridge on the Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur

We chose to hike the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, when meant continuing up along the creek for another mile before climbing once again. As you crest the ridge, the views open up.

Rounding the Top of the Ewoldsen Trail Loop

The trail follows the countour of the mountain down to another valley, then up the other side. At 4.0 miles, you catch glimpses over the ocean down to McWay Rocks off the coast. You may see evidence from the landslide here that closed down PCH — a solemn reminder of the instability of this ever-changing coastline.

Warning signs on the Ewoldsen Trail

Amazing views of McWay Rocks and the Big Sur coastline from the Ewoldsen Trail

From here, the trail is mainly downhill back to close the loop at the creek, and follow the trail back to the trailhead.

Heading down the Ewoldsen Trail

Along the way, be watchful for butterflies, birds, and the beautiful iris blooming along the trail.

Iris Blooming on the Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur

If  you’re visiting Big Sur, or event recommend including this loop. It’s not too long, and includes some great cascades, towering redwood trees, lush canyons and sweeping coastal views.

Afterwards, be sure to take stroll over to the overlook above McWay Falls.

Ewoldsen Trail Map

Download file: ewoldsen-trail.gpx

Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.

Ewoldsen Trail Tips

  • The eastern side of the Ewoldsen Loop is current closed for maintenance (as of 8/30/15). See the state park website for latest updates.
  • The weather in Big Sur can be unpredictable. Bring layers and be prepared for damp or wet weather.

More Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Resources

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”93920″]

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