McWay Falls, California

McWay Falls in November 2010

I have this fascination with waterfalls that fall into lakes and oceans. There’s something so scenic about water falling into water. In California, there are a number of waterfalls that fall into the Pacific Ocean. Alamere Falls is one, and it is very beautiful, but because it requires a rather long hike, you’re likely to be one of just a few people visiting the falls. On the other hand, McWay Falls doesn’t require much of a hike, and is therefore far more popular. And understandably so, the California coastline is stunningly beautiful.

McWay Falls is approximately 80′ tall, but it is a rather narrow waterfall. This can tend to make the waterfall look small, and this is partly because you’re not exactly close to the waterfall. At the viewpoint, you’re standing above the waterfall maybe a few hundred feet away. So while it’s a beautiful view, it may not be one of the most intimate waterfalls I’ve seen. I actually found Canyon Falls, McWay Fall’s smaller upstream relative, to be more intimate, as I think I was the only one visiting the falls, and you’re only feet away. And there are other waterfalls in the area you should check out. I haven’t visited many of those waterfalls.

Directions:

  1. From Monterey, drive south on CA-1 for approximately 40 miles. The parking area for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park should be on the left, if I remember correctly.
  2. After paying the state park entrance fee, follow the trail to McWay Falls. The signs make it very clear what to do. If you head in the opposite direction, you’ll find Canyon Falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

A small drop above McWay Falls (as you’re hiking to the falls)

Where in the World is McWay Falls?

Canyon Falls, California

Canyon Falls in early November 2010

McWay Falls is clearly the main attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the Pacific coastline of California. It’s very clearly marked and can be seen from the trail leading to a viewpoint.

But there’s another waterfall hiding in the park. Canyon Falls is overlooked. McWay Falls is beautiful, but I felt detached from it. You’re standing at a considerable distance from the falls. On the other hand, Canyon Falls is much more intimate. You can walk right up to the falls, and while it might not be as scenic, it is still beautiful.

Hiking to the falls is relatively easy. The Canyon Trail leads directly to the falls. The other trail that you might get lost on was closed when I visited, so I didn’t have to worry about that. The only tricky part is crossing McWay Creek. Now it’s not even that deep, but it’s just wide enough that you could easily get wet. If you’ve got the right shoes, then that shouldn’t be a problem. Just be aware that it is slippery crossing the makeshift log “bridge” (and I mean bridge very, very loosely).

Directions:

  1. From Monterey, head south on CA-1 to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
  2. Turn left into the entrance for the park. There is a state park day fee per vehicle.
  3. Instead of heading toward McWay Falls, head in the opposite direction toward the picnic tables and the Canyon Trail.
  4. You’ll cross McWay Creek on the way to the falls. When I visited, there were borders directing us to the falls (though there are no signs indicating it’s there). I’m not sure if those makeshift fences are always there.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 0.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Canyon Falls?

Canyon Falls, Michigan

Canyon Falls is not a tall waterfall, nor is it even one of the widest waterfalls in Michigan. Many are considerably wider. The thing I was amazed by, though, was the sheer volume of water flowing over the falls. Now this definitely has to do with the timing. I visited in mid-May, just as most of the snow had melted. This may be one of the best times to visit Canyon Falls, though from the pictures I’ve seen, it usually has a lot of water, though maybe not this much.

With Canyon Falls, you get other interesting features. There are at least two other waterfalls along the river in about a half a mile. The other two waterfalls, Middle Canyon Falls and Lower Canyon Falls, are not nearly as large or as interesting, but still nice to see nonetheless. The hike to see other falls takes you though the canyon, which is not that deep. As you’re walking along in this area, pay attention for at least one smaller, likely seasonal waterfall that flows into the larger Sturgeon River.

Directions:

  1. If you’re heading north on US-41 toward L’Anse and Baraga, the roadside park leading to Canyon Falls and the others will be on your left.
  2. Pull into the roadside area and park.
  3. The trail to the falls is very clearly labeled.
  4. As you walk along the trail, you’ll first pass some smaller drops, and then you’ll come to Canyon Falls.

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Canyon Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Canyon Falls?

Middle Canyon Falls, Michigan

There’s not an official name for this watefall, but this waterfall is found between Canyon Falls and Lower Canyon Falls, so I’ve decided to call it Middle Canyon Falls. This waterfall is probably not noticed by many people. I’m thinking most people end up visiting just Canyon Falls, with a few people exploring beyond to find Lower Canyon Falls. On the way to Lower Canyon Falls, you can listen for this smaller waterfall, though it can be easy to miss. I found that it was easier to look for the falls on the return hike when you’re looking more directly at the river. It is also easier to find the best viewpoint for pictures on the way back.

Directions:

  1. If you’re heading north on US-41 toward L’Anse and Baraga, the roadside park leading to Canyon Falls and the others will be on your left.
  2. Pull into the roadside area and park.
  3. The trail to the falls is very clearly labeled.
  4. As you walk along the trail, you’ll first pass some smaller drops, and then you’ll come to Canyon Falls.
  5. It might not appear like you can continue on, but continue on the trail to Middle and Lower Canyon Falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 8′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Middle Canyon Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Middle Canyon Falls?

Lower Canyon Falls, Michigan

Lower Canyon Falls is on the Sturgeon River, which I believe has numerous waterfalls spread out over a distance. Right off the highway at a roadside park, you can find this set of waterfalls, Canyon Falls, Lower Canyon Falls, and Middle Canyon Falls in between.

Compared to Canyon Falls, Lower Canyon Falls just isn’t as exciting. That might be because it’s hard to see the whole waterfall. If one could see the whole waterfall, part of which is hidden by rocks, you might find a complex waterfall. From certain angles, I could tell that there might be some very interesting drops. I don’t know if there’s a way to walk to these falls on the opposite side of the river. You’d have to check for private property, but if there is a way, you might want to check it out.

Directions:

  1. If you’re heading north on US-41 toward L’Anse and Baraga, the roadside park leading to Canyon Falls and the others will be on your left.
  2. Pull into the roadside area and park.
  3. The trail to the falls is very clearly labeled.
  4. As you walk along the trail, you’ll first pass some smaller drops, and then you’ll come to Canyon Falls.
  5. It might not appear like you can continue on, but continue on the trail to Lower Canyon Falls.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Lower Canyon Falls in May 2009

Where in the World is Lower Canyon Falls?