Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: Malibu. From Santa Monica, take Pacific Coast Highway west for 18 miles. Take a right on East Winding Way (the last major street before East Winding Way is Latigo Canyon Road.) Park in the lot immediately on your left. From Thousand Oaks, take the 101 freeway to Kanan Road, and head south for 12 miles to Pacific Coast Highway (Kanan becomes Kanan Dume along the way). Turn left on Pacific Coast Highway and go 1.4 miles to East Winding Way. Turn left and park in the lot.
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: December – July
- USGS topo map: Point Dume
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: here
- Rating: 7
Like the Private Joker character in the film “Full Metal Jacket”, the hike to Escondido Falls seems to be suggesting something about the duality of man. This is really two short hikes for the price of one: a steep climb up a paved road with great ocean views, and a secluded walk through a serene canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. Oh yeah, there’s a waterfall, too. The flow is usually strong only after recent rains, but the scenic variety of this trip makes it enjoyable almost any time of year.
From the parking area, head up Winding Way, passing by some opulent homes. The initial ascent is steep, but less than a mile in, the road dips and meets up with the single-track trail that leads to the waterfall. Here, you descend into the quiet of the Santa Monica Mountains. After crossing the stream, the trail heads left again (there are several small intersections, but they all basically lead toward the left, or northwest, so it’s pretty hard to get lost.)
The single-track leads along the creek, crossing it several times, and after half a mile, the waterfall’s upper tier comes into view. Finally, you arrive at the base of the 50-foot lower tier, set in the back of a small grotto.