Waterfall Project: Part II

This page includes the next set of waterfalls.

FKS = First Known Sighting; * = origin of name by author 

  1. Mocho Falls (total 40 ft est.): Mocho Falls has two distinct steps, but what is most fascinating about this rarely seen falls is a twisty chasm of elegantly sculpted and polished rock separating the two steps. The depth of the chasm and its twisty nature is such that it is virtually impossible to see both steps of the falls at the same time. The lower step is an estimated 20 ft and drops into a spectacular circular amphitheater with a deep and large pool. The upper step is around 10 ft est. and within the narrow rock chute there are additional small steps.  
  2. Firehose Falls (15 ft est.): Located on Jackson Creek near its confluence with the Little Sur River, Firehose Falls spits off a ledge like a fire hose into a pretty pool surrounded by ferns and moss. See video footage of Firehose Falls in the Little Sur Circular Pools video above.
  3. Higgins Creek Falls aka Buddha Bowl (9 ft): What makes this falls special is the spectacular rock bowl and deep pool in which the small falls plunges.
  4. Luna Falls * (60+ ft): A picturesque falls in a lush setting. 

  5. Sandstone Pool *: Spectacular sandstone cliffs and formations surround this pool. 
  6. Escondido Pool: On the Arroyo Seco below Escondido Camp, this long and deep pool includes sculptured rock walls that make for excellent diving boards.
  7. McWay Falls (75 ft): McWay Falls is an iconic spot and probably the most photographed natural feature in Big Sur. This is a must stop for tourists driving Highway 1 and there is often a line of cars parked along the road. Sometimes the area feels like the international terminal at SFO. The falls overlook is accessed by a paved path that is under a quarter mile. The many visitors to McWay Falls range from selfie enthusiasts to professional photographers. Thank goodness access to McWay Falls beach is forbidden and even for the non-law abiding crowd it’s not an easy proposition to get down to the beach (people have been rescued trying). Thus, even if the overlook is a zoo, you can forget about the crowds when you look out onto the picturesque scene of the falls tumbling into the pristine turquoise waters and an untrammeled beach.    
  8. Upper McWay Falls (35 ft): Heading up McWay Canyon from the iconic McWay Falls one passes through redwoods and several smaller cascades before arriving at another pretty falls which flows over an overhang into a small nook. Photo album.  

  9. Upper Devils Falls * (25 ft): More of a horizontal slide, this falls picturesque falls includes a hanging fern garden and Santa Lucia Firs nearby.
  10. Lower Discovery Falls * (40 ft):  This two tiered falls plunges through old growth redwoods and guards access to the larger Discovery Falls above.
  11. Pico Blanco Camp Falls (15 ft est.): Pico Blanco Camp Falls is a lovely spot along the South Fork Little Sur River set amid old growth redwoods with a carpet of redwood sorrel. The falls is not large, but includes a blue pool beneath it and a lush surrounding of moss and ferns.  Downstream of the falls is a spectacular narrows along the South Fork Little Sur River. 
  12. Lower Pine Falls (est. 100 ft aggregate): Located less than a quarter of a mile downstream of Pine Falls, it appears few people know about Lower Pine Falls but it’s an impressive sight and very different in character from Pine Falls making it worthy of a visit. There is no large pool at Lower Pine Falls. Instead, the falls is a series of large cascades over smooth bedrock scrubbed clean of moss. This smooth bedrock is rather hazardous for climbing, but a hand line has been placed in the most precarious spot to assist. It’s a rather chaotic scene as the falls tumbles down the numerous steps strewn with large boulders and sculptured bedrock. The highest segment of the falls is the most impressive and concentrated while lower down the water course splits. This would be an amazing falls to see in higher flow.  
  13. Hidden Falls * (50 ft aggregate)(FKS): This picturesque two-step falls is extremely remote and includes two pretty plunge pools.

  14. Aperture Falls * (50 ft aggregate) (FKS): A three-tiered waterfall in a lush setting of ferns and moss. The lower tier is picturesque cascade, the middle tier is a small drop, and the upper tier is the most impressive as it slices through a narrow gap in the cliffs and plunges around 25 ft.

  15. Imaginary Falls * (35 ft) (FKS): Tucked into an extremely lush nook, one can easily pass near this falls and not notice it. When in flow, the falls takes on a very pretty shape interacting with the vegetation and cliffs.

  16. Stone Falls (80 ft aggregate): A nice series of small falls located beneath Stone Ridge. There’s quite a bit of debris due to low flow most of the time. 
  17. Spectre Falls * (several steps 300 ft aggregate)(FKS): Spectre Falls is a particularly wild section of creek with oven a dozen steps totaling 300 vertical feet. The tallest segments are around 60 ft. The drainage includes heavy mineral accumulation as even redwoods next to the stream have mineral crust plastered to their bark from the waterfall spray. The mineral accumulation has resulted in some pretty shallow pools. 

  18. Little Ventana Falls * (~30 ft): Located at 3,400 ft at the headwaters of Ventana Creek, this falls is one of the highest altitude falls in Big Sur and forms a bedrock headwall in the Drain that requires rock scrambling to surmount.
  19. Villa Cascades * (50 ft aggregate): A series of small falls and cascades interspersed with relatively deep pools in a pretty redwood and Santa Lucia Fir forest.
  20. Kirk Falls * (60+ ft)(FKS): What makes this falls special is the sculpted rock bowl into which the falls plunge complete with a polished face and arm. The main drop of Kirk Falls is around 60 ft but additional falls are downstream including a 30 ft falls requiring a work around. Upstream of the falls are also additional segments, but they are largely inaccessible in an exceptionally rugged slot canyon. 

  21. Zen Cascades * (40 ft aggregate): A series of small but high volume waterfalls ranging from 10-15 ft, each with plunge pools, located in a remote and rugged section of the Tassajara Creek canyon. 

  22. Lion Gorge and Circular Pool (15 ft): Deep and rugged gorge in the lower part of Lion Creek culminates in a circular pool with a 15 ft falls. Additional pools and cascades upstream of the falls. 
  23. Sculptured Falls * (20 ft) (FKS): This remote falls is located near the mouth of a twisty canyon that leads to Inspiration Falls (see above). A half dozen small falls and pools are located on either side of this falls.

  24. Ghostly Falls (100 ft aggreagte): Ghostly Falls is composed of a series of cascades and falls totaling over 100 ft in the aggregate. The bottom segment is the most vertical and includes a small plunge pool. The falls is located just upstream of where the Nacimiento-Ferguson road crosses a tributary of Mill Creek. 

  25. Scout Falls (40 ft): Located right next to the Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp and falling nearly into the Little Sur River, this is a pretty falls but somewhat domesticated with all the infrastructure nearby.

  26. Tassajara Falls (140 ft): A very tall and thin waterfall with two segments near the Tassajara Zen Center. The lower segment is by far the tallest with a long free fall section and then a slide over the smooth rock face. The impressive rock cirque is arguably the best part of this falls since it likelly only has substantial flow either during or immediately after heavy rain.  
  27. Tassajara Cutoff Falls (110 ft): Another pencil thin falls near the Tassajara Zen Center that flows over a tall white rock face. The Tassajara Cutoff Usetrail provides the best viewpoint. This falls will only have substantial flow greater than pictured either during or immediately after heavy rain events and goes completely dry in the summer and fall months.  
  28. Tassajara Narrows (10 ft): Tassajara Creek grows into a river after heavy rain and its immense power has carved a gorgeous canyon with a cascade into a deep pool with polished white rocks. A great swimming hole in the summer months often used by visitors to the Tassajara Mountain Zen Center about a mile away. 
  29. Island Falls (80 ft): A wispy falls falling off the flanks of Island Peak into the Big Sur River about 0.5 mile downstream of Barlow Camp. While the falls would be more impressive in higher flow, it may be virtually inaccessible since the falls is in a rugged section of the Big Sur River where it would not be a good spot to be in high flow. 
  30. Manuel Peak Falls (90 ft): After heavy rains a couple very ephemeral falls emerge from the slopes of Mount Manuel and tumble off cliffs down to the Big Sur River. Both tall and skinny falls are visible from the Pine Ridge Trail. “Manuel Peak” Falls is the first falls measured at 90 ft with a clear birds eye view from the trail across the gorge. “Mount Manuel” Falls is the second falls with substantially more flow and height with several steps totaling 240 ft. However, the brush growth along the trail near “Mount Manuel” falls provides limited viewing options. At present time you can still see the entire falls through breaks in the brush. It should be emphasized that these falls are only in commission with enough flow to be visible from the other side of the canyon for a few days after heavy rain.
  31. Mount Manuel Falls (240 ft): See description above. 
  32. Soberanes Falls (40 ft total): Soberanes Falls is one of the prettier coastal falls in Big Sur as it flows over a vertical slab of bedrock in a small cove at the mouth of Soberanes Creek in Garrapata State Park. The main drop to the cove is around 25 feet with a few more cascades and small pools above the tallest segment. A nice bridge immediately above the falls was recently installed along with an official path.
  33. Limekiln Falls (90 ft): Limekiln Falls is located near the bottom of the Middle Fork Limekiln Creek which drains the region between Twin Peak and Cone Peak. It seems like everything in this region is grand and Limekiln Falls is no different. Unless flow is particularly high, the falls is split into two prongs. The cataract is easily accessed from the main area of Limekiln State Park and includes passage through a lush redwood forest complete with a dense carpet of sorrel.  
  34. Mutt & Jeff Falls (Jeff 35 ft; Mutt 110 ft): Named by Dr. Jack Glendening after a comic strip named Mutt and Jeff created in 1907 lasting through 1983 with a tall and thin Mutt character and his short friend Jeff. In this case, the short Jeff Falls is the real attraction as it’s along the main stem of Santa Lucia Creek. After recent heavy rain Jeff Falls roars over a 35 cliff into a large, deep pool. Tall and thin Mutt Falls is located next to Jeff Falls on a small tributary with a series of steps totaling over 100 ft but never has high volume and is likely a trickle for a large potion of the year. The two falls can be viewed in tandem. See video footage of Jeff Falls in the Last Chance Falls video above. 
  35. Upper Zigzag Falls (6 ft est.): A small falls flowing into pretty sculpted and cavernous pool. 
  36. Mystic Falls * (60+ ft): A tall falls in a nice setting of old growth redwoods and hanging ferns. This falls maintains some flow year around but the drainage does not support high volume.
  37. Upper Luna Falls * (100 ft over multiple steps)(FKS): Located in a remote and rugged canyon, the main falls comes in around 45 ft but there are multiple cascades and smaller falls with associated small pools in the vicinity. The various pools, cascades and small falls in a lush setting add up to a pretty package. See video under Luna Falls. 
  38. Partington Canyon Falls (20 ft over two steps): Just upstream of where the Tanbark Trail switchbacks out of the Partington Creek canyon lies a nice two step falls in a lush setting. See video footage below in the Tanbark Cascades entry (which are located upstream of Partington Canyon Falls).  
  39. Camp Falls (45 ft est.): Near the confluence of Camp Creek and Zigzag Creek is a pretty falls that slides down a rock face. 
  40. Upper Camp Falls (25 ft est.): The culmination of a series of small falls upstream of the Marble Peak Trail.
  41. Tanbark Cascades * (series of 10-20 ft falls): A series of cascades and small falls in the tributary of Partington Creek as it rounds a rocky corner. The Tanbark Trail switchbacks well above the cascades to avoid the cliffs. The creek walk access is fairly arduous due to copious debris, deadfall and riparian growth in the canyon.

  42. Ventana Cone Falls * (35 ft)(FKS):  This two-step falls is in an extremely remote corner of the Ventana on an unnamed tributary of the Carmel River that drains the north side of the region between Ventana cone and the Ventana Spires.
  43. Redwood Gulch Falls (~20 ft): Located just off highway 1 in the southernmost redwood grove is a pretty cascading falls. 
  44. Manning Narrows (50 ft aggregate): On the way to Manning Falls (see above) is a lovely narrows section with a half dozen picturesque small falls and pools on polished bedrock in an extremely lush setting. 
  45. Lion Rock Falls (20 ft): Short but pretty. 
  46. Highbridge Falls (40 ft): Sometimes the best part of a falls is what’s next to it. Despite not having any metrics that would suggest an impressive falls Highbridge has some special qualities. The small stream that feeds this falls is likely spring fed and includes heavy mineral sedimentation. Most of the water flows into the main watercourse but a small amount flows to the side creating a drip that has deposited a thick mineral accumulation on the rock wall next to the falls. On this crusty mineral surface grows a lush array of ferns and moss. As is usually the case with mineral sedimentation, the resulting mineral “apron” is overhanging, in this case resulting in a miniature cave with mineral stalactites. This falls is best viewed in “high” flow (which is still not much volume) and also in the spring when the ferns and moss are at their peak.

  47. Prewitt Falls * (60+ ft)(FKS): This falls was found in late fall during drought so flow was very low, but it promises to be impressive after winter rain as it plunges over a 60+ ft wall of moss and ferns. The impressive setting of this falls is highlighted by a steep cirque and redwoods. 
  48. Boronda Falls * (50 ft)(FKS): This falls is located in a 600 ft hole beside Boronda Ridge. Access is very steep with some rock scrambling near the bottom. This drainage sustained heavy damage in the Basin fire in 2007 and it hasn’t quite recovered yet with many snags still standing and riparian growth chocking the watercourse reducing the attractiveness of the setting. The main drop is at least 50 feet tall and additional segments below are largely concealed with riparian growth and deadfall. While I suspect a spring feeds this falls most of the year, this falls would be particularly impressive after heavy rain. 
  49. Pfieffer Falls (60 ft): The touristy Pfieffer Falls is among the top four most visited waterfalls in Big Sur (along with McWay, Salmon, Limekiln) but it’s probably the least impressive of the bunch. Unlike many other Big Sur waterfalls, the lush riparian vegation alongside and beneath the falls has been wiped out by heavy human visitation. The falls is also less than vertical – almost a slab waterfall. Finally, the falls is generally low flow since Pfieffer-Redwood Creek is a relatively small drainage. That said, the falls is measured at 60 ft so I’m sure it would be more impressive after rainy periods. In addition, immediately above Pfieffer Falls is a photogenic stair-step cascade; prettier than the main drop in my opinion.
  50. Wild Pfieffer Falls * (35 ft)(FKS): In my quest to catalog the known and unknown waterfalls of Big Sur I noticed a rugged canyon upstream of Pfieffer Falls and judged this to be a likely spot for additional waterfalls. I found that a pretty waterfall does indeed exist in this canyon, a secret to virtually all of the tourists who visit Pfieffer Falls below, and untamed by footprints, fences and selfies. Thus, I named the cataract “Wild Pfieffer Falls.” Unlike Pfieffer Falls, Wild Pfieffer has plentiful vegetation at its base and alongside the watercourse. While the main drop of Wild Pfieffer is only ~35 ft tall, it’s a pretty falls in a nice setting with the canyon walls surrounding the falls. It’s certainly worthy of a visit in the future when flow is higher and there are potentially additional falls upstream.

  51. Pothole Slide Falls (35 ft): Located next to the Lost Valley Trail as it descends into Lost Valley, Pothole slide falls is a series of two slides down a smooth rock face with a pool in between, the “pothole.” The falls is more horizontal than vertical and the drainage upstream is small so this falls is best viewed after recent rain. 
  52. McWay Canyon Falls (20 ft est.): The other falls above McWay Falls is McWay Canyon Falls which is located on a tributary of McWay Canyon Creek with commensurately less volume.  However, the falls is in a pretty setting with five finger ferns and the sprawling root system of a large redwood right next to it.    
  53. Sierra Falls (100+ ft): A tall two-step falls off the ocean bluffs that falls virtually onto the sand. The lower segment is far and away the taller of the two. The falls is fairly ephemeral and only produces substantial flows after heavy rain.

  54. Ventura Falls (100+ ft): Around the corner from Sierra Falls is an even taller, but more ephemeral falls. I look forward to returning when the falls is in peak flow after heavy rains.
  55. Fuller’s Falls (60 ft+): Hear the sound of waves crashing ashore and water falling from above simultaneously. A unnamed stream from a small drainage flows over all ocean bluffs and nearly onto the beach. The falls is surrounded by cliffs adorned with pampas grass.  

  56. Riparian Falls (60+ ft): A two-tiered falls near the outlet of the stream into the ocean has thick riparian vegetation characteristic of near-coast falls.
  57. Grimes Gorge (50 ft): A series of cascades totaling 50 ft in a picturesque narrow gorge at the mouth of Grimes Canyon and the incredibly rugged Grimes Point.   
  58. Graves Falls (20 ft): A 20 ft falls at the mouth of Graves Creek with additional small falls upstream.
  59. Granite Creek Falls (15 ft): At the outlet of Granite Creek beneath Granite Creek Bridge. The falls is small but it drops into a rugged photogenic cove. 
  60. Mocho Creek Falls (18 ft): Located just upstream of Mocho Creek’s confluence with the South Fork Little Sur River, Mocho Creek Falls is a pretty falls in a cliffy nook with a garden of hanging ferns beside it. 
  61. Launtz Falls * (100+ ft over multiple steps): Launtz Falls is at the base of  a small tributary descending from Launtz Ridge that flows into the Little Sur River. The bottom of the falls is visible from the usepath to Fox Usecamp and you can get a sense there is much more above, but it is not clearly visible unless you cross the Little Sur River and ascend the ultra steep slopes on the other side. Upon climbing the slopes a tall falls presents itself flowing over a lush cliff face.  See video footage of Firehose Falls in the Little Sur Circular Pools video above.   
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