- 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: 3.6 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: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
Seasonal Escondido Falls sits in the back of a secluded canyon, not far from the Malibu coastline. Though the waterfall is best immediately after a rain, the hike, which features panoramic ocean views and attractive woodlands, is enjoyable almost any time, except perhaps during hot summer days when the exposed climb on pavement can be trying. The scenic variety, moderate grade and distance and proximity to Pacific Coast Highway make the hike one of Malibu’s most popular. Unfortunately because of this Escondido Canyon suffers from trash and graffiti.
From the parking lot, follow the trail on the side of Winding Way. You climb steadily for 2/3 of a mile, enjoying nearly unobstructed ocean vistas. At the top of the incline, the mountains come into view. You descend briefly, reaching the end of the road and the beginning of the trail. The descent continues into the pleasantly shaded bottom of Escondido Canyon.
After crossing the stream bed, stay left at a junction and follow the trail into the woods. Though it doesn’t encroach the trail, poison oak is prevalent in the canyon. At 1.2 miles, you reach a split; the two trails soon merge again. Continue north, staying left as another spur merges and soon the upper level of the waterfall comes into view. At 1.8 miles, you reach the grotto. Even if the water is just a trickle, it’s a more than pleasant spot for a picnic or to simply sit and enjoy nature.
While the upper level of the waterfall can be reached by those with the necessary technical expertise and climbing gear, it’s only recommended for those with experience. Attempts to climb it by those who do not know what they are doing have been known to not end well.