Pfeiffer Falls

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

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 2
Pfeiffer Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Pfeiffer Falls is a small multi-stranded 60ft waterfall typically within the shadowy forest confines within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

We noticed that this was one of the more popular waterfalls on the Big Sur coast, and it was for good reason as we not only got a pretty nice waterfall, but we also got a nice view of the valley from an overlook all - all within a reasonable amount of time in a fairly short day hike while getting some decent exercise to boot. We also noticed a hidden upper tier of the falls so perhaps the total drop of this falls was a lot more than the reported 60ft main drop.

The first time we did this hike in 2001, we actually did it in a loop that took in the Valley View Overlook (of Big Sur Valley) as the waterfall itself totalling about 3 miles. However, on our most recent trip in 2010, fire damage from 2009 wiped out the shorter less-than-one-mile round trip trail from the lodging area to the falls and back.

So we had no choice but to take the longer more hilly Valley View Overlook trail, which was about 1.6 miles round trip if we only did the waterfall (not counting the spur trail to the Valley View Overlook itself). Fire damage had also affected the viewing area immediately at the falls itself as the adjacent hillsides had been de-stabilized and there was no longer the wooden viewing platforms that were here when we last came here in 2001.

Yet despite the fire damage, there were still quite a bit of infrastructure, facilities, and amenities not to mention staff (from fee collectors to rescue workers to trail maintenance folks) so perhaps the day use fee ($10 when we went in 2010, which was up from $7 when we went back in 2001) was being put to good use.

The hike to the falls and back was mostly uphill and narrow in some stretches. There was a significant amount of poison oak along the trail so that was always on our minds (both times we did this) as we tried our best to stay on the trail and limit the amount of rubbing against the plant's toxic oils. Although we could've extended the amount of hiking to take in more of the La Ventana wilderness, we pretty much stuck to the trails involving only this waterfall and the Valley View Overlook. So we can't say more about where the other trails went and how they were like.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Closeup look at Pfeiffer FallsCloseup look at Pfeiffer Falls
Close to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the Bixby BridgeClose to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the Bixby Bridge
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was towards the northern end of Big Sur. Just a short distance further to the north was Carmel, which was famous for Pebble Beach and the 17-mile drivePfeiffer Big Sur State Park was towards the northern end of Big Sur. Just a short distance further to the north was Carmel, which was famous for Pebble Beach and the 17-mile drive
Going up the Valley View Overlook trail towards Pfeiffer FallsGoing up the Valley View Overlook trail towards the falls

The trail was mostly uphill on the way to Pfeiffer FallsThe trail was mostly uphill on the way to the falls

Had to be careful not to rub against poison oakHad to be careful not to rub against poison oak

Fire damage affected our second visit to Pfeiffer FallsFire damage affected our second visit to the falls

We didn't notice this upper falls beforeWe didn't notice this upper falls before...

The Valley View OverlookThe Valley View Overlook

Also close by Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is this pretty cool sea archAlso close by Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is this pretty cool sea arch

How the falls looked in 2001How Pfeiffer Falls looked in 2001


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up angled sweep of Pfeiffer Falls from right at the base


Bottom up sweep from the footbridge near the falls showing lower cascades as well as part of the trail to its base


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is roughly 12 miles north of Deetjen's Big Sur Inn (roughly 6 hours drive north of Los Angeles) and 26 miles south of Carmel on Hwy 1. The park is well-signed with lots of activity so you can't miss its entrance.

Once inside, we used to be able to proceed straight ahead at the four-way intersection just beyond the collection booth and park somewhere in the vicinity of the Big Sur Lodge. But on our latest trip (with all the fire damage), we had to make a left at that four-way intersection, then drive up the hill a short distance before turning right. From there, the road winds its way a short distance further uphill before you should start to see a car park.

It's this car park that is closest to the Valley View Overlook trail, which begins near some signage about redwood trees just behind the hairpin turn.




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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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