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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From here, the trail is mainly downhill back to close the loop at the creek, and follow the trail back to the trailhead.
Along the way, be watchful for butterflies, birds, and the beautiful iris blooming along the trail.
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
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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
- Official Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Brochure (PDF)
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (official website)
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is open 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset
Trail to Peak says
Looks like a great hike! I need to make it back up to Big Sur to give this one a shot!
Liked this. I was there earlier this year and it was beautiful. Also the one about the JMT. I’m planning it for September but It I’m from the UK and that makes it a bit more complicated.
Jeff Hester says
Awesome post! As a transplant from the Pacific Northwest, I’m constantly looking for some good hikes to do around California.