Getting there: 37 miles south of Carmel, on Highway 1 in Big Sur
Hours: Open daily a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset
Cost: $8 for day parking, $15-20 for camping
More information: 667-2315 or www.parks.ca.gov. To reserve campsites call 1-800-444-7275 or go online at www.reserveamerica.com
This jewel of the state park system stretches from 3,000-foot mountain ridges to underwater canyons, taking in majestic redwoods, dense chaparral and rocky seaside cliffs along the way. Oh, and, did we mention the 80-foot-long McWay Falls, tumbling down from granite cliffs into the cove below?
The friendship between a coastal pioneer and the wife of a congressman brought the gem to the public. Julia Pfeiffer grew up in a patch of this Big Sur country, roaming the terrain and developing a legendary knowledge of the land. She married John Burns in 1915 and the couple managed a cattle ranch. They also struck up a friendship with some newer settlers from New York, former Congressman Lathrap Brown and his wife, Helen.
Helen Brown in 1962 donated her Saddle Rock Ranch to be used as a state park, named in memory of her friend Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a true pioneer.
The stunning beauty of the park gives it natural appeal, but its accessibility is also a draw. It's an easy walk, and also wheelchair accessible,
For the more able or intrepid visitor, there are more challenging hikes, a couple of rustic campsites and even a 1,680-acre underwater portion of the park, open to experienced divers.