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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What Other Visitors Have Said
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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.