Escondido Falls hiking trail Malibu directions photos pictures and map Escondido Canyon Waterfall

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.

Escondido Falls
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.

Escondido Waterfall Malibu
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.

Escondido Falls Malibu
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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Photos

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These photos were taken in May of 2007, March of 2008, April of 2009, and April of 2012. Click to enlarge.
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22 Comments on Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains

  1. David says:

    Nice pics – I’ll have to check out the upper tier up close sometime!

  2. Veronica Gomez Ruiz says:

    i loved it!

  3. Highly overrated. Crowded, noisy, whimpy, no ocean views except from the pavement. So many more beautiful hikes in Malibu.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Tema,

      I would love to know what trails you’d recommend in the area. My sister and brother-in-law are coming for a visit the first week of July and I’d like to take them on a nice, two-hour round trip hike with some elevation gain. What do you think of the section of the Backbone Trail up around Saddle Peak Lodge, for example?

  4. antonio bugatti says:

    worth the trip, very nice hike. Unfortunately due to private ranches and private villas no parking is allowed nowhere all along the uphill road. BTW, the next waterfall, the path is steep missing space and slippery, they added a rope for support, but good hiking shoes are a must. If you like to experience nature a bit wilder, cross to the other side of the first falls and take the path on the right down the creek where it requires some hopping and jumping challenges.

  5. [...] hike at Runyon Canyon (…along with 200 or so of our closest LA friends) and a perfect day at Escondido Falls in Malibu (pics!). When we’re unable to explore we drag ourselves to the beach and run there [...]

  6. Went on this hike 20 years ago, and went again recently thanks to Hikespeak. Not challenging enough for me. A good family stroll to the first falls. Very crowded, and the falls are a bit underwhelming. Went to second set of falls too… at least that’s a little more challenging and a little more impressive.

  7. omar A says:

    I’ve been going to this waterfall for the past few weeks (with diff friends) its nice and peaceful. I usually go early morning and we are usually the only ppl around. We have gone up to the second tier and decided to climb all the way to the top. It challenging but worth it. We even decided to find the source of the water. It was a long walk through grass, water and trees; up, down and even crawling. We eventually found a small hole in the wall (cave like) with a small waterfall above it. You can go under and sit inside. Really nice. If you keep walking N. after enjoying the little cave, you will find a small pond/pool. Its very refreshing. It can fit at least 6 ppl and its waist high. The water is really cold but feels good in the hot weather. Eventually while continuing our hike further into the canyon, we hit a fence that says “no trespassing”. We did not trespass. It was a fun journey indeed. It was def worth exploring till the end. Total time 4.5 hrs (round trip with minimal rest time) Have fun and enjoy. Be safe and be prepared!!!

  8. KC Cool says:

    I got a small group of ppl I’m training & I’m planning an un4getable experience 4 them so I’m taking them to here & hope they love it as I will…

  9. [...] trails, over 10 miles to choose from a fun trip to one of Malibu’s most epic waterfalls: Escondido Falls hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, ~4 miles lots of interesting destinations and sights along the [...]

  10. [...] you’re interested in doing the Escondido Falls hike, you can find a great guide and map here. I also recommend the book 101 Hikes In Southern California – I discovered a lot of great [...]

  11. [...] Sunday, we went for what we thought would be an easy 4 mile out-and-back hike in Malibu to Escondido Falls. What started out as a pretty crowded, mild walk through the woods ended up being a pretty roughed [...]

  12. [...] 1) Escondido Canyon Park-  Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall- My favorite of the hiking trails because I just can’t resist a good waterfall. There is just something about finding a waterfall in Los Angeles that just seems odd and all so happy and right at the same time. Located in the hills of Malibu this hike starts off unconventionally but makes up for it and more. Be sure to go in the Winter to see the falls in their full glory. [...]

  13. [...] online about the hike. I found a general overview on Yelp, and found a more detailed hike itinerary here. To summarize, the reviewers of the hike state that the hike is easy to begin, but it takes much [...]

  14. ash says:

    I hiked this trail a few years ago, and it’s really nice. However, this trail is DEFINITELY not bikeable. I don’t know why they say this is a good bike trail; there is one point where you have to grab hold of a rope and ascend a 60 degree incline for like 50 feet. There were parts that were almost impossible to scale just on two feet. I can’t imagine how someone would carry there bike up those parts.

    That said, you might be able to lock your bike to a tree somewhere and ascend the remainder of the trail by foot.

  15. [...] (better known as the hike to the Hollywood sign), Crystal Cove State Park, Runyon Canyon, & Escondido Falls.  Happy [...]

  16. [...] If you’re staying at UCLA for the summer, check out some of these LA hiking trails: Griffith Park (25 minute drive from UCLA) Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains (45 minute drive from UCLA) [...]

  17. [...] Escondido Falls: I’ve always heard that this is one of the best hiking trails in Malibu that offers waterfalls along the way to dip in and out of. The best part about this hidden hiking trail? It’s free! [...]

  18. Atomles says:

    I had the chance to see this waterfall with actual water, and i mean STRONG FLOWING WATER and it was such an AMAZING PIECE. Even without water, this trail can offer a great amount of hike. MUST GO!

  19. luz says:

    someone told me that the waterfall is dry at this time of the year, can someone please confirm. I don’t want to do the drive for nothing.

  20. thanialemus says:

    will I be able to take a swim? or is that not allowed?

  21. sydneeelizabeth says:

    Are the falls dry this time of year and how crowded is it this time of the year. I want to come with like 6-7 people and it’s always a good time when other people aren’t around.

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