About Pfeiffer Falls
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.
Not only did we get a pretty nice waterfall, but we also got a nice view of the valley from an overlook, and it was all within a short day hike.
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 three-mile loop that took in the Valley View Overlook (of Big Sur Valley) as well as the waterfall itself.
However, on a separate visit 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.
Given the rather turbulent recent history with drought and fires, I’m sure this situation will remain in flux.
Pfeiffer Falls Trail Description
So on our most recent visit, we had no choice but to take the longer more hilly Valley View Overlook trail.
This made the hike 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 Pfeiffer Falls itself as the adjacent hillsides had been de-stabilized.
As a result, the wooden viewing platforms that were here when we last came here in 2001 were no longer there in 2010.
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.
Anyways, the hike to the Pfeiffer 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 hike.
Indeed, 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.
Pfeiffer Falls resides in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur in Monterey County, California. It is administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. For more information, questions, and current conditions, you can check out their website or Facebook page.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is roughly 12 miles north of Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn 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 we finally started to see the trailhead parking.
It was this lot that was closest to the Valley View Overlook trail, which began near some signage about redwood trees just behind the hairpin turn.
For context, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park was roughly 6 hours drive north of Los Angeles.
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