Escondido Falls hiking trail Malibu Waterfall Hike directions map Escondido Canyon Waterfall

When Escondido Falls is flowing strong, it is flat out one of the finest waterfalls around Los Angeles. The waterfall has an easy-to-reach lower tier that is 50 feet tall and a hard-to-reach upper tier that’s 150 feet tall and stunning in optimum conditions.

The 3.8-mile round trip hike to Escondido Falls begins just off Pacific Coast Highway and goes uphill for 0.75 miles along Winding Way, a paved road that passes extravagant Malibu residences. Do not let the blacktop deter you. The waterfall is well worth the hike’s unconventional start. After gaining almost 200 feet, the road heads downhill and arrives at Escondido Canyon Park, a wooded park that is open for everyone to enjoy.

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 to head upstream into Escondido Canyon.

The trail widens and remains fairly level as it passes through forest and fields. In the spring, wildflowers bloom in abundance along the trail. A few creek crossings interrupt your progress. When the water is high, they require a bit of fun rock hopping, but otherwise, they are easy to cross.

Lower Escondido Falls
Lower Escondido Falls

Over the course of one mile, the trail gradually ascends over 150 feet from a low spot below Winding Way to arrive at Lower Escondido Falls. This fifty-foot cascade transports hikers instantly to the tropics. A mild sulfuric smell is the only detractor from this soothing setting. Have a seat next to the fern-lined falls.

For many hikers, Lower Escondido Falls 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 to get up, and coming down is a slippery endeavor. Wear proper footwear and dig in for an adventure up to the upper falls.

Use the roots for support and make your way upward. A stretch of rope may be available to help with one portion of this steep section of the hike, which gains close to 200 feet of elevation over 0.15 miles to reach the base of Upper Escondido Falls.

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 find 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 Escondido Falls has a good flow of water, 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.

If you like Escondido Falls, check out other waterfalls around Los Angeles and explore additional trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. The hike to Upper Escondido Falls and back is 3.8 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation change. 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, 4.5 miles west of Malibu Canyon Road (by Pepperdine University) and 1.4 miles east of Kanan Dune Road on the north side of PCH. Turn up Winding Way and into a free parking lot for the trail on the left at the bottom of Winding Way. Overflow parking is along PCH.

Trailhead address: 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0261, -118.78 (34° 01′ 33.95″N 118° 46′ 48″W)

Trail Map
View Santa Monica Mountains in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Los Angeles trails and campgrounds.

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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39 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?

    • Lori Gray says:

      I really agree with you Tema – too many other great trails around

  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. […] 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. […]

  10. 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.

  11. […] 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! […]

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. thanialemus says:

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

  15. 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.

  16. jon says:

    Great review. I live on Escondido Creek above the falls. Right now the creek is bone dry except for a few springs. Do not attempt to access the falls from the top, and walk down. The creek is overgrown and filled with poison oak. Have seen many dejected
    hikers return to their cars.

  17. Joseph Atash says:

    There was no water at the waterfall. It’s all dried up. Also, there was too many people. But it WAS Saturday afternoon so IDK.

  18. Joleen says:

    Hi, I’m planning to hike here sunday morning and was wondering if the trail is stroller friendly? thanks!

  19. Swayz says:

    This hike is over rated. Crowded to start. Littered with trash. Horse poop all over the trail. No water coming from the fall. Stench sent from stagnant water pool below the falls. And the upper next two falls are on private property, not park land. Mainly there were just way to many people for me to enjoy it. So many voices not enough sounds of nature. Why is this hike so sought out for? I don’t get it. I’ve been on way better hikes in Malibu. At least I can check this one off the list.

  20. […] we drove to Malibu and went hiking at Escondito Falls. There are supposed to be waterfalls but with the recent drought California is going through, they […]

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Not sure why this is so popular and crowded. There are no views and these pictures of the water fall must have been taken on the last day of rain on an El Nino year. Way too many people, dogs and their waste, the water fall is a damp stinky rock. Parking on PCH is scary. In fact, there was a hit and run last week when a 21 year old woman died. Solstice Canyon is far better and built to accommodate crowds.

  22. Simon says:

    What are the hours for the Escondido Falls trail? Thx! :D

  23. Elizabeth says:

    There is no water on the falls and hasn’t been for years. Pictures are totally false. Dangerous and very little parking, have to walk through neighborhood, no views from trail. So many better hikes in Malibu.

  24. Jeffrey Burman says:

    I hiked in with a friend on May 3 2015. There was water running in the creek, but very little at the so-called falls. The photographs are grossly misleading.

  25. […] 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 […]

  26. Fever Dragon says:

    There are definitely waterfalls just not during 2015/2014 due to the drought. I’ve had some of the best times of my life here swinging on a rope above the water back n forth to the water falling to the trees on the opposite side. TIP: You need to go after it’s been raining for a while to get waterfalls with water in them. It was popular cause of what I wrote above. Fun hike w/ 3 waterfalls & a swing above the pond/waterfall at the top. Just go after the rain season since we’re in a drought

  27. Jocxie says:

    how’s the waterfalls recently?? :)

  28. Geneline says:

    Are the waterfalls still flowing or are they dried out in the summer?

  29. Andrea says:

    Just hiked this with a couple girlfriends yesterday. I knew after the recent rain it would be extra beautiful and it did not disappoint. The waterfalls were flowing strong! We went on Sat late afternoon and it wasn’t crowded at all. For all the people saying it was crowded/stinky/littered I think you are going at the wrong time of year. The main attraction here is the FALLS! I wasn’t looking for a super challenging hike, I came specifically to witness the falls. Like another commenter said…there’s something so odd feeling about there being waterfalls in our bustling city..it just makes it feel so magical and special! You’ll jump across creeks and climb rocks making you feel like a little kid again :) Definitely make the hike to the second fall!! We took some time to rest and take photos and we were back to the car in 2.5 hours. My out of town girlfriend just loved this hike too. Don’t listen to all the negative comments here..definitely go at least once and decide for yourself. I think you will really enjoy it!!

  30. Harry says:

    Went on 2/18/17. It has been raining plenty recently, w a record storm the last couple days. The 5 creek crossings were knee high w very fast water. The lower falls were a raging torrent of brown water. There was a strong wind coming off the base of the falls due to the flow of water. Lots of muddy sections of the trail, but since we were walking through swollen creeks, all the mud washed off our shoes. Will see if I can post pictures on this or another website.

  31. zendragon says:

    We did this hike first thing in the morning. Which was perfect. We try the upper part of the falls but you have to be trained and patient for it. We got up to the rope and it was too dangerous with loose dirt and the incline is 45°. We kept falling on our butts, so if you get to the upper part be careful.

  32. […] Escondido Falls, Malibu: This is definitely my favorite hike in Malibu. It is a 3.8 mile loop to the upper waterfall. There are actually two waterfalls and it is a bit challenging, but I like it that way! Click this link for more info: https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/escondido-falls-santa-monica-mountains/ […]

  33. Amy E. says:

    After so many years of drought, finally we had some rain last season and the waterfall became a popular hike for a short few weeks. The brown water smelled like sewage and due to lack of maintenance of the trail, it was hard to avoid the dirty water while hiking there. I literally discarded my sneaker when I got home, I wasn’t going to wash that sewage off. So many more nice and clean hikes around Santa Monica mountains, this one gets an c- from me.

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