Canyon Falls

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park / Big Sur / Monterey County, California, USA

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 1.5
Canyon Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Canyon Falls was the unfortunate overshadowed neighbor to the gorgeous McWay Falls as they share the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. That said, its "unfortunate" location may also be fortunate if one was looking for a relatively peaceful and relaxing waterfall hike away from the commotion further downstream towards McWay Cove. I guess the main reason for the lack of fanfare of Canyon Falls was perhaps its rather tiny size, which was probably on the order of 30ft. Nonetheless, it gave Julie and I the opportunity to experience some of the La Ventana Wilderness in the mountains watching over the Big Sur coast. Besides, our most recent visit here in 2015 was in the midst of a multi-year drought, and we were pleasantly surprised at how consistently well McWay Creek was flowing.

The key to visiting this waterfall was to walk in the opposite direction of McWay Falls from the car park area (yep, you're going away from the ocean instead of towards it; see directions below). Beyond the car park, the well-defined trail meandered past a small picnic area with a handful of picnic tables before following McWay Creek amidst a shady coastal forest. At about 10-15 minutes into the trail, I started to get confused about where I was supposed to be walking, especially after I crossed McWay Creek. I think the source of my confusion was that the trail had been re-routed after a fire that had hit the area that also prevented us from visiting here back in 2010. Nevertheless, I managed to find the trail on the opposite side of the creek (I never recalled having to do this crossing in the past) staying on the Canyon Trail and not the Ewoldsen Trail, and after a few minutes more, I finally managed to make it to Canyon Falls (roughly a little over a half-mile from the main car park; or one mile return).

I wasn't sure if the trail kept going beyond the waterfall as it wasn't obvious to me where it continued, but it did get me right up to the small three-tiered cascade. It seemed like the uppermost tiers of this cascade could best seen from further downstream away from the falls as they started to become hidden from view the closer to the falls I had gotten. In any case, I saw perhaps less than a dozen other people while hiking this trail (contrasting with the hundreds of people sharing the McWay Falls side). So that kind of gives you an indication of how peaceful this nature walk was.

As for photographing the falls, it seemed like the best lighting would occur on a cloudy day. Our 2015 visit was under clear blue skies late in the afternoon so the sporadic shadows from the forest kind of made taking satisfactory pictures rather difficult. Still, the beautiful nature amongst more groves of coastal redwood trees was really what this hike was all about (as opposed to the falls), and that provided a nice contrast to the dramatic coastal scenery that awaited on the ocean side of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Not far from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a stretch of lovely coastline including this distant but pretty sea archNot far from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a stretch of lovely coastline including this distant but pretty sea arch
Looking in the other direction towards Bixby BridgeLooking in the other direction towards Bixby Bridge
Roughly 11 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was the beautiful Pfeiffer Beach, which featured purple sand, a few sea arches, and a nearly unspoiled stretch of sandy beachRoughly 11 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was the beautiful Pfeiffer Beach, which featured purple sand, a few sea arches, and a nearly unspoiled stretch of sandy beach
In case you've stumbled on this page and wondered why McWay Falls overshadows Canyon Falls, perhaps this photo of McWay Cove might give you an emphatic explanationIn case you've stumbled on this page and wondered why McWay Falls overshadows Canyon Falls, perhaps this photo of McWay Cove might give you an emphatic explanation
This is the payment kiosk at the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkThis is the payment kiosk at the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Heading towards the inland part of the car park at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkHeading towards the inland part of the car park at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Walking past the sign marking the official start of the Canyon TrailWalking past the sign marking the official start of the Canyon Trail

The Canyon Trail was wide and well-developed at the beginning of the hikeThe Canyon Trail was wide and well-developed at the beginning of the hike

There were some picnic tables along the beginning of the Canyon TrailThere were some picnic tables along the beginning of the Canyon Trail

Probably at about 5-10 minutes into the hike, I started to get confused about the trail shortly after this unbridged crossing of McWay CreekProbably at about 5-10 minutes into the hike, I started to get confused about the trail shortly after this unbridged crossing of McWay Creek

I knew that I had regained the Canyon Trail once I saw this signI knew that I had regained the Canyon Trail once I saw this sign

This closure sign clued me in as to why I was so confused about the Canyon Trail by the creek crossing.  It was because the trail was re-routed since the fire around 2009!This closure sign clued me in as to why I was so confused about the Canyon Trail by the creek crossing. It was because the trail was re-routed since the fire around 2009!

Continuing on the Canyon Trail after the unbridged creek crossingContinuing on the Canyon Trail after the unbridged creek crossing

A couple of kids approaching Canyon Falls provided a sense of scale as to how small this waterfall wasA couple of kids approaching Canyon Falls provided a sense of scale as to how small this waterfall was

This was as close to Canyon Falls' base as I went. Note the difficult lighting conditions wreaking havoc on my photos in the late afternoonThis was as close to Canyon Falls' base as I went. Note the difficult lighting conditions wreaking havoc on my photos in the late afternoon

Here's a direct look at Canyon Falls from just near its baseHere's a direct look at the waterfall from just near its base

As I was hiking back towards the car park, I chanced upon this scene, which was about as naturesque and peaceful as they comeAs I was hiking back towards the car park, I chanced upon this scene, which was about as naturesque and peaceful as they come

Back at the confusing part of the trail near the creek crossing. The thin ropes I guess were supposed to act as a guide somehowBack at the confusing part of the trail near the creek crossing. The thin ropes I guess were supposed to act as a guide somehow

Canyon Falls as seen back in 2003The falls as seen back in 2003

Another look at Canyon Falls in 2003Another look at Canyon Falls in 2003

Canyon Falls closure in 2010Trail closure due to fire damage resulting in hazardous conditions in 2010


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Upstream to downstream sweep from right in front of the falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

This waterfall shares the same car park as that of McWay Falls. See that page for directions.

Contextually, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park sat 42 miles south of Monterey and 94 miles north of San Luis Obispo (itself being about 3.5 hours drive from Los Angeles).




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP 
The Canyon Trail was closed last summer when we visited, but there were still some small waterfalls upstream from McWay Falls that I could get to.

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