Experience state parks year round.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Bring your binoculars for spectacular whale watching as Blue and Humpback whales frolic past the Big Sur coastline, thrilling onlookers as they feed along a deep submarine canyon.

Photo Credit: Julianne Bradford

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Getting There

The park is 37 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, and 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur. It is open 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

Things to Do

The best things to do in May are:

  • Go whale watching! In December and January the bench at the end of Overlook trail is an excellent place to watch for gray whales migrating southward to their breeding and calving grounds off the Baja California coast. Many whales pass close to shore at this point, and occasionally one will come into the mouth of the cove. In March and April, they can be seen returning north to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific.
  • Scuba dive in the underwater area. Between Partington Point and McWay Creek is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Area, which was established in 1970 and is now a scuba diving area. The rocky shoreline is the access to the underwater park. Special-use permits allow experienced scuba divers to explore the reserve.

Trip Tips/Things to See

You'll definitely want to look for:

  • The McWay Waterfall House. The terrace is all that remains of Waterfall House, the residence of Lathrop and Helen Hooper Brown. When the Browns began to acquire their Big Sur acreage in 1924, Mrs. Brown became acquainted with Julia Pfeiffer Burns, the daughter of a Big Sur pioneer family. In 1962, Mrs. Brown gave the ranch to the state for use as a state park dedicated to the memory of Julia Pfeiffer Burns.
  • The Point Sur Lighthouse. Due north of the park on Highway 1 is a stunning rock-top lighthouse built in 1889. Also a state historic park, tours here are fantastic and breathtaking. Check online for tour hours.
  • Condors! Look overhead anytime on a clear day and you might see an endangered California condor. With their 10-foot wingspan and distinctive white patches under jet black wings on the adults, you can’t miss them. Once down to a population in the dozens in the Los Padres National Forest to the south, they’ve made a strong comeback locally with a helping hand.

Nearby parks include

Nearby state parks include:

  • Point Sur State Historic Park
  • Andrew Molero State Park
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
  • John Little State Natural Reserve
  • Limekiln State Park

More Resources

Department of Parks and Recreation: Official Park Webpage

Cooperating Association: Sierra State Parks Foundation

More Fun Ideas at: Weekend Sherpa



California State Parks Foundation

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