When Escondido Falls is flowing strong, it is flat out one of the finest waterfalls around Los Angeles.
This 3.8-mile round trip hike begins with 0.75 miles uphill along Winding Way, a paved road that passes extravagant Malibu residences. Do not let the blacktop deter you. The waterfall is well worth the unconventional start. After gaining 200 feet, the road heads downhill and you will arrive at a wooded park that is open for everyone to enjoy, Escondido Canyon Park.
Take the dirt path to the left next to a sign that reads “Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall.” The trail descends through a field of fennel and mustard toward a thicket where a small creek flows. Cross it, and make a left turn headed upstream into Escondido Canyon. The trail widens and remains fairly level as it passes through forest and fields. In the spring, an abundance of wildflowers bloom along the trail. There are a few creek crossings along the way. When the water is high, they require a bit of fun rock hopping, but otherwise, they are easy to cross.
Lower Escondido Falls
After a mile on the trail, gradually ascending 150 feet from the road, you will arrive at Lower Escondido Falls. This fifty-foot cascade transport hikers instantly to the tropics. A mild sulfuric smell is the only detractor from this serene setting. Have a seat next to the fern-line falls. For many hikers, this is a fitting destination that can be reached with ease. For those yearning for more and willing to work for it, Upper Escondido Falls is three times as tall and ten times as beautiful.
A route to the right of the lower falls provides a way up the steep limestone wall. The path can be tricky, and coming down is a slippery endeavor. Wear proper footwear and dig in for adventure en route to the upper falls. Use the roots for support and make your way upward. There may be a stretch of rope to help with one portion of this steep section of the hike, which gains 150 feet in a tenth of a mile. Catch your breath as the path turns to the left and crosses the creek beneath a cascade above Lower Escondido Falls. Stay on the left bank of the creek from here, passing over roots and boulders to reach the impressive upper falls. Upper Escondido Falls is a true treasure. The water pours over a wall of lush green moss and falls some 150 feet before landing in a calm pool. If there is a good flow over the waterfall, it is one of the best around.
Upper Escondido Falls
You might see a few hikers climbing up to a small landing behind the falls. If you are prepared to get wet, this precarious venture adds even more fun to the hike. The view from behind the falls is a treat and so is the fresh mint that grows there. Your safety is your responsibility. Attempt at your own risk.
Hikers behind Upper Escondido Falls
Before returning back down the trail, relax beneath the falls, which feels worlds away from the city life below. Anyone who lives in LA and enjoys waterfalls should visit this two-tier 200-foot beauty. The early part of the year is the best time to visit, when the falls are at their fullest. To Upper Escondido Falls and back is 3.8 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain. Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to Winding Way in Malibu. Winding Way is a minor street between Kanan Dune Road and Malibu Canyon Road (by Pepperdine University). There is a free parking lot for the trail is at the bottom of Winding Way and additional parking along PCH.
Trailhead address: 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Trailhead coordinates: 34.026568, -118.780067 (34° 01′ 35.64″N 118° 46′ 48.24″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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